Friday, October 25, 2013

Early Voting In Massachusetts

     The Massachusetts Legislature met on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 in a combined session of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in a Constitutional Convention. They met to vote on a proposed change to the Massachusetts State Constitution that would allow early voting in the State of Massachusetts. The Convention lasted 2 minutes and the legislators advanced the amendment with a voice vote and no discussion. They will convene again to vote on this bill on March 12, 2014.  
     Massachusetts currently allows absentee voting. It was provided for in the State Constitution and amended and superseded by Amendments, Arts. LXXVI and CV. The rules for absentee voting are laid out in the General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 54 sections 86-103A.  Massachusetts allows absentee ballots to be cast only in 3 different circumstances:
           • be absent from their city or town on election day 
           • have a physical disability that prevents their ability to vote at a polling place
           • can not vote at the polls due to religious beliefs
Additionally, the voter has to make arrangements with the local election official to have the ballot mailed to them. The ballot can be mailed back or delivered in person and must be received by the close of the polls on Election Day. The Secretary of State’s office has a website that explains the rules on absentee voting.
     Early voting allows voters to cast a vote at a polling place. The bill as it currently is written would allow early voting up to 14 days before an election in any municipality or district that accepts the provisions of the bill. The municipality can designate the place of the early voting which must be handicapped accessible. They can also designate the days on which the early voting will take place. The voter does not need to make arrangements with the election official or provide a reason to participate in the early voting process. Currently 32 states and the District of Columbia have some form of early voting.
     The vote of the Legislature is one step in amending the Constitution. In order to amend the State Constitution, the amendment has to be voted on by two successive Legislatures with 25% of the Legislators voting for the change. Then it is put on the statewide election ballot and the voters have to vote for the amendment.  The early voting amendment has passed one Legislative session. It needs to pass another session and then be voted on by the voters.