House Passes Bill to Provide Voting Options Amid Pandemic


BOSTON, JUNE 4, 2020 – House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Representative Bill Driscoll Jr., Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws (D-Milton) joined their colleagues in the House to pass legislation that will allow a number of voting options, including early voting by mail, in the midst of COVID-19.

An Act Relative To Voting Options In Response To COVID-19 aims to facilitate a number of options for voters confronting health risks due to the Coronavirus. Under the provisions of the bill, voters can elect to vote-by-mail, submit an absentee ballot, vote early in-person or vote on Election Day with public health safeguards in place.

“Voting and public health don’t need to conflict. The bill passed by this week gives voters concerned about COVID-19 a number of choices on how they want to perform their civic duty of voting,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I’m proud of the work of Chairs Michlewitz and Lawn and my colleagues in the House in passing this bill.”

“As we continue to combat the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, ensuring that voters of the Commonwealth have safe and easy access to the ballot box is paramount,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “By expanding mail in ballot and early voting options, the measures the House passed will safeguard our elections and will guarantee that our democratic process will not be hampered by this public health crisis.”

"COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges to our election administration in the Commonwealth,” said Representative John Lawn, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws (D-Watertown). “We have worked closely with legislators, advocates, city and town clerks, and various stakeholders to draft bi-partisan legislation that will protect both the health and safety of our voters and the integrity of our democracy by ensuring that all voices are heard."

“This is one of the most important bills I have worked on as Vice Chair of the Election Laws committee both in terms of the pandemic safety-minded approach it takes as well as the fact that we are increasing accessibility and options to vote,” said Rep. Driscoll. “High praise is due to Chairman, John Lawn, for his expansive & inclusive work on this legislation. He reached out to and listened to many stakeholders in a condensed timeframe so that we could act as far in advance of the fall elections as possible in as comprehensive a way possible.”

The bill to expand voting options in response to COVID-19 has the following provisions:

EARLY VOTING BY MAIL APPLICATION

  • Requires the Secretary of State to mail all registered voters an application to vote early by mail in advance of the primary and general elections (by July 15 for the primary and September 14 for the general);

  • Asks voters to apply by seven days prior to the primary and general elections;

  • Allows for electronic signature and submission of applications;

EARLY VOTING BY MAIL

  • The city or town clerk will mail an early voting by mail ballot and an envelope with return postage pre-paid to voters who apply;

  • Allows voters to return their early voting by mail ballot in the mail, secure drop box, or in person;

ABSENTEE VOTING

  • Provides for absentee voting by any person taking precaution related to COVID-19;

  • Allows electronic signature and submission of absentee voting applications;

IN PERSON VOTING PUBLIC HEALTH SAFEGUARDS

  • Requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, to promulgate emergency regulations requiring public health safeguards for in-person voting, including social distancing of voters and election officers; face coverings and personal protective equipment; frequent use of sanitizers; and sanitary use of marking pens;

EARLY VOTING IN PERSON

  • Provides for 7 days of in person early voting in the primary—from Saturday, August 22 to Friday, August 28—including one weekend – and 14 days of in person early voting in the general—from Saturday, October 17 to Friday, October 30—including two weekends;

ELECTION DAY

  • Permits voters to still cast a ballot at the polls on election day;

LOCAL ELECTIONS

  • Provides for early voting by mail for any city or town elections held at the same time as the primary or general or on or before December 31, 2020.

An Act Relative To Voting Options In Response To COVID-19 now moves to the Senate.

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© 2019 William Driscoll, Jr.