The Massachusetts House of Representatives and state Senate on Thursday March 11, passed legislation to extend mail-in voting and early voting options for elections held through the end of June 2021. The vote-by-mail provision was previously set to expire at the end of March 2021.
“Over this past year, the COVID pandemic has caused us to take a closer look at, and improve upon, many of our society’s systems. Voting is one of those,” said Rep. Daniel J. Ryan, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws. “I applaud Chairman Michlewitz and my House and Senate colleagues for working swiftly to extend vote-by-mail and other safety precautions through this spring’s elections. I especially want to thank Speaker Mariano for his leadership on these ballot access measures and his bold commitment to work toward their permanency. I’m looking forward to a robust discussion on how to best move election legislation forward.’
Said Speaker Ron Mariano, “During this pandemic, our vote-by-mail system has proved to be an accessible and secure tool for voters to exercise their right to vote without putting their health at risk,” said Speaker of the House Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “We are glad to have passed this extension that will allow cities and towns to continue offering vote by mail and other voting options for their upcoming elections. I thank my fellow members in the House, and Senate President Spilka and our state senators for their collaboration in getting this bill to the Governor’s desk. We must continue to explore options that encourage and empower voters to be active participants in our democratic process, and I look forward to working with Chairs Aaron Michlewitz and Daniel Ryan in legislation that will make vote by mail permanent in Massachusetts.”
The bill also allows municipalities to provide residents with the option to vote early in-person in these elections. Additionally, the legislation requires local election officials to make reasonable efforts to grant accommodations for voters with disabilities who might have difficulty accessing a paper mail-in ballot and request an accommodation. Furthermore, cities and towns can postpone municipal elections and caucuses scheduled before June 30, 2021 until August 1, 2021.
The bill now advances to the Governor for consideration.