coronavirus

Mass. Secretary of State Has a Vote-by-Mail Plan for the General Election

But some voting rights advocates feel Bill Galvin's plan doesn't go far enough

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For all those wondering how they will vote -- safely -- during a pandemic in this big election year, Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin wants you to know he's on it.

“My proposal will be to make sure that every voter will have the option of voting either in person or by mail,” Galvin said.

His plan would remove the provision that currently allows mail-in voting only for those who are disabled or out of town. And it would expand the time period for early voting by mail in the general election beyond the current 10 days. 

“We do need time and we need planning and we need consultation. And that’s why I’m raising the issue right now to prepare,” Galvin said.

But some voting rights advocates feel his plan doesn’t go far enough.

The most effective and efficient way to vote during the pandemic is for every voting-eligible resident to receive a ballot in the mail, Pam Wilmot of Common Cause said.

To require voters to request a ballot and then make municipalities send them the ballot is not practical, given that 70-80% of voters could choose the mail-in option, according to Wilmot.

“That is a huge, huge administrative burden on local officials, many of whom are working by themselves or with one other person or part-time,” she said.

Several lawmakers have filed bills that would require every voter to receive a ballot by mail. But Galvin said that would undermine the integrity of the election and create administrative chaos, since independent voters have to choose what party they want to vote in.  

“We simply can’t mail out multiple ballots for the same election, different parties," he said. "This isn’t like Publishers Clearing House where we just send out contestants to ballots.”

Galvin hopes to release his plan to the Legislature in May.

Voting rights advocates say all this needs to be fast-tracked for a vote-by-mail system to be up and running by August.

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