In the Towns of Needham, Dover, and Medfield, across the Commonwealth, and throughout the country, people facing the brutal reality of racism are asking ourselves what we can do in this moment and in the days and months ahead. How can we demonstrate that we reject racism in its overt and covert forms- how can we show respect and make a meaningful difference? Each of us must use the tools we have. All of us together, in words and actions, large and small, can address racism and change the systems and structures that have supported it. Family members, friends, and neighbors are engaging in protests. Community leaders as well as my colleagues in the House of Representatives’ Black and Latino Caucus have mobilized and are providing concrete actions, which I support. As your State Representative, one of the several tools that I can utilize is to craft public policy.
Using that tool, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives today to pass legislation that guarantees your right to vote in person or by mail after completing an application mailed to your home in both the primary and general elections this Fall: An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19. For more details please contact my office at Denise.Garlick@MaHouse.gov
For years we have fought to improve voting rights in our Commonwealth, including the implementation of early voting in 2014 and automatic voter registration in 2018. Today’s bill has never been more important.
While it is just the beginning of what we must do to address historic structural injustices, Massachusetts can be an example for the rest of the country. Voter suppression is one of the gravest threats to our democracy. Increasing access to the ballot box is one of the strongest ways we can combat the voter suppression that is directly related to the racism that plagues our country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many injustices, but we cannot allow it to sicken our democracy and deny the voters of our Commonwealth the most important tool we all possess- the VOTE. Promoting participation in the democratic process is a way for all people to make a meaningful difference. Today’s legislation is the surest way to ensure decent and empathetic leaders that reflect our values and our goals will be reflected in the individuals we elect to positions in our towns, state and at the federal level in the Congress and White House. This bill ensures your ability to vote safely and with confidence knowing that your voice is heard and that you can make a difference.
Key provisions of An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19 include:
Vote by Mail
- Sending an application to vote by mail to every registered voter for both the September 1 primary election and the November 3 general election.
- Ensuring all applications and ballots sent by mail include prepaid return postage.
- Allowing voters to apply to vote by mail through an online portal.
- Allowing voters to request disability-related accommodations when completing an early mail-in voting ballot.
- Allowing in-person early voting for the September 1 primary election and the November 3 general election.
- Allowing voters who have been instructed to self-quarantine by a medical professional, less than 7 days prior to the election to be eligible for early voting by mail.
Safe In-Person Voting
- 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.
Equitable and Accessible Voting
- Preventing changes to polling locations less than 15 days before the election and requires voters to be notified if a polling location does change.
- Requiring the municipal legislative body to evaluate and report on whether changing a polling place would have a disparate impact on access to the polling place on the basis of race, national origin, disability, income, or age. This report would be made public.
- Allows eligible voters to register to vote up until 10 days before the election, down from the current deadline of 20 days prior to an election. This would apply to all elections taking place on or before December 31, 2020.