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LWVMA Urges House to Strengthen Bill Dealing with Vote by Mail

The Joint Committee on Election Laws has reported a bill dealing with the fall elections, H.4762, out of committee.  It is now before the House Ways & Means Committee and is expected to come up for a vote in the House on Wednesday.

LWVMA and our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition consider the bill a significant step in the right direction, but we urge the legislature to add four provisions that will do even more to safeguard the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general elections from the impact of COVID-19.

The bill calls for the Secretary of the Commonwealth to mail an application for absentee ballots to all registered voters by July 15.  Voters can use that application to request ballots for both the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general elections.  This compromise replaces the provision we were supporting to mail the actual ballots to all voters before the Nov. 3 election without an application.

The bill calls for an online portal to apply for absentee ballots.  It removes the requirement for checkout tables at the polls to reduce the number of poll workers needed and removes restrictions on who can be a poll worker.  It provides one week of early voting before the primary, including weekend hours.  Early voting is already a requirement for the November election.

We urge the legislature to strengthen the bill by adopting four critical provisions, all of which were in the coalition’s original bill:

  • Allow local election officials to process mail ballots before election day in a central location
  • Count all ballots mailed by election day (for the general election only)
  • Provide return postage for ballots (and applications if possible)
  • Provide more time for voter registration before the elections

The League also asks for a provision that return of absentee ballot applications as undeliverable is not a basis to challenge voters or remove them from the voter rolls.

The Election Modernization Coalition is comprised of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, and the Massachusetts Voter Table.

Read the coalition statement here.

Read the text of H.4762 here.

Read an editorial in the Boston Globe about mail-in voting here.