If you plan to vote in Massachusetts' Sept. 1 primary election or the Nov. 3 general election, you have many new options this year.
“No voter will have to choose between worrying about their health and voting,” Secretary of State Bill Galvin said.
With COVID-19 still a major concern, especially in the fall, Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a law that dramatically expands voting by mail and early voting in Massachusetts while beefing up safety at polling places.
“We will have in-person voting and it will be safe,” Galvin said.
The state has until July 15 to mail all 4.5 million voters an application to request a mail-in ballot for the primary, and until Sept. 14 for the general. Voters will also have the option -- for the general only -- to make the request on a new online portal.
Both the application and the ballot will include prepaid postage.
Pam Wilmot of Common Cause Massachusetts, which advocates for expanded voting access, said of the new regulations, “There’s a lot of steps both for voters and for clerks.”
But she added that, in what is expected to be an election with very high voter turnout, it is the best option. She expects to see up to 70% of Massachusetts residents voting by mail this fall.
Galvin said the Senate has initiated a $5 million appropriation for the law but said it could cost more than twice that. And he said he can’t mail the ballot applications until the legislature approves the money.
“Democracy doesn’t come cheap. But I think it’s important that it be done,” he said.
President Donald Trump and some Republicans have been very critical of voting by mail, saying that it leads to fraud -- though there has been no research that shows that to be true.
“Well, he lies about many things,” Galvin said. “This has been one of his more consistent lies.”
The expanded vote-by-mail law expires at the end of this year, but voting rights advocates believe that, if all goes smoothly, many of the new provisions -- ones they’ve been promoting for decades -- could be adopted permanently.