When Can You Vote by Absentee Ballot?
Massachusetts allows voting by absentee ballot only if you meet at least one of these three criteria:
- You will be absent from your city or town on election day.
- You have a physical disability that prevents your voting at the polling place.
- You cannot vote at the polls due to religious beliefs.
If you meet at least one of those criteria, you may have an absentee ballot mailed to you or you may vote at your city or town hall .
To be counted, a completed ballot must be received by the time the polls close on Election Day.
How Can You Get an Absentee Ballot?
Absentee ballots must be requested in writing by either the voter or the voter’s family member. For convenience, absentee ballot applications may be downloaded from the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website; however, any written communication evidencing a desire for an absentee ballot is acceptable. If you would like to request an absentee ballot, you may submit an application or a signed letter to your local election official. If you are requesting an absentee ballot for a family member, be sure to submit the request to the voter’s local election official. Contact information for local election officials may be found here.
When completing the application, you may indicate whether you are requesting a ballot for a specific election, or if you will be needing a ballot for all elections this year. Please note that absentee ballot applications expire at the end of each calendar year. If you are a voter with a permanent physical disability, you may file a note from your doctor to that effect with your local election official. Voters with permanent physical disabilities are sent completed applications at the beginning of each year, to be signed and returned to their local election official.
Absentee ballot applications must be received by your local election office by 12 p.m. on the day before the election, unless the day before the election is a holiday or a Sunday, in which case the application must be submitted by 5 p.m. on the last business day before the election.
Applications may be submitted in person, by mail, fax, or by e-mail; however, the local election official must be able to view the signature of the person requesting the ballot. If the application is being submitted by e-mail, a scanned copy of the request must be submitted.
Voting and Returning an Absentee Ballot
Once your election official receives your request for an absentee ballot, the ballot with voting instructions will be mailed to you. Note that, if a family member requests an absentee ballot for you, that ballot must be mailed to you, it cannot be handed to your family member.
Detailed instructions on how to fill out the absentee ballot and how to return it are included with your absentee ballot. You can either mail the ballot back to your election official or you or a family member can hand-deliver it to your town election official. Your completed ballot cannot be delivered directly to your polling place on Election Day.
Absentee ballots do not have to be witnessed or notarized.
To be counted, a completed absentee ballot must be received by your election official by the time the polls close on Election Day.
Do You Have to be a Registered Voter to Vote by Absentee Ballot?
Yes, unless you are a “specially qualified voter.” A specially qualified voter is a person:
- who is otherwise eligible to register as a voter and
- whose present domicile is outside the United States and whose last domicile in the United States was Massachusetts or whose present domicile is Massachusetts and who is:
- absent from the city or town or residence and in the active service of the armed forces or in the merchant marine of the United States or a spouse or dependent of such person;
- absent from the commonwealth; or
- confined in a correctional facility or a jail, except if by reason of felony conviction. For more information about voting from a correctional facility or jail, please see the Arlington League’s study on requesting absentee ballots from the Middlesex Jail and House of Corrections.
What are the Provisions for Absentee Voting for those in the Military or Living Overseas?
For complete information on absentee voting in Massachusetts for those in military service or living overseas, click here.