2020 Vote by Mail Act
This page was about a bill Senator Rausch introduced, which served as the starting point for the current Vote by Mail law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. More information about how to vote in 2020, including how to vote by mail and how to request a mail-in ballot, below:
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Rausch and Representative Adrian Madaro (D-Boston) filed legislation to implement voting by mail for all statewide elections in 2020, S.2654, An Act establishing vote by mail in 2020, also known as The 2020 Vote by Mail Act.
Five states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah – and at least 21 other states have laws that allow local elections to be conducted by mail. This voting option is critical to keeping our communities safe during a public health crisis and safeguarding your right to vote.
Components of the 2020 Vote by Mail Act
The bill will safeguard ballot box access and protect public health
through a few key measures:
Ballot Mailing: This bill expands existing early voting procedures in Massachusetts by mailing ballots to registered voters for both the September 1 primary election and the November 3 general election. For the general, every registered voter would receive a ballot. For the primary, every voter registered with a political party would automatically receive their party’s primary ballot; unenrolled voters may request a primary ballot for any political party.
In-Person Voting: This option will still be preserved upon passage of this bill. The 2020 Vote by Mail Act requires that the state provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for poll workers if the Governor’s COVID-19 state of emergency is in effect, or as the circumstances of the pandemic may necessitate.
Funding: The costs of expanded early voting by mail will be handled by the state, in substantial part by using federal funds already on hand, appropriated to the state under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The legislature would appropriate additional funds as needed to cover implementation costs after HAVA funds have been exhausted.
Election Day Holiday: Many people already have a tough time making it to the polls on Election Day. During a pandemic it is critical to reduce large clusters of people showing up at the polls, especially before and after work hours. This measure ensures that polling locations at schools or town offices won’t have non-election related traffic on election day, keeping crowds low.
Permanent Electoral Reform: Most of this legislation only for the duration of 2020, but certain components will stay in the Massachusetts General Laws indefinitely, including election day as a statewide holiday, funding sources for elections, technological enhancements to the voting process, and allowing clerks and municipal elections departments to process early ballots before election day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I still be able to vote in person?
Will you offer protections for poll workers?
Yes. The bill provides PPE for all poll workers if the state of emergency is still in place or as may be otherwise required because of the coronavirus.
How can I return my ballot? Will I need to pay for postage?
Every ballot will come with a postage prepaid return envelope. Voters can return their ballot for free using this envelope, or vote in person on election day.
How far in advance will ballots be mailed out?
Ballots will be delivered no later than 18 days prior to the election.
When will the mail-in ballot deadline be?
For the primary election, ballots must be received before the close of polls on the election day -- this is necessary to ensure that results can be timely certified and general election ballots can be printed within legally mandated short time frames. For the general election, ballots will be counted if they are received within five days after the election, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.
Which elections will be covered by this bill?
The expanded vote by mail provisions of the bill apply to the 2020 state primary, scheduled for September 1, and the 2020 state general election, scheduled for November 3. Expanded early voting by mail is also available in municipal elections scheduled before June 30, 2020, pursuant to an earlier bill already signed into law by the Governor.
Who will mail out the ballots?
The draft bill gives Secretary Galvin, the state’s chief elections official, the flexibility to determine whether ballot mailing should be centralized or handled locally. Ballots will be returned to, and counted by, the same local officials as any other election.
Who will receive a ballot by mail? Do you need to request a mail-in ballot?
All registered voters will receive a ballot by mail for the November general election -- no request needed. For the primary election, voters who are enrolled in a political party will receive that party’s primary ballot without needing to make a request. Unenrolled voters who want to vote in a party’s primary election will need to request a party ballot no less than 35 days before the primary election. Voters will be able to make that request online, using a web portal.
Why make Election Day a holiday?
Many people already have a tough time making it to the polls on Election Day. Plus, during and in the hopeful aftermath of a pandemic, we want to specifically avoid large clusters of people showing up at the polls. Most people who vote on Election Day do so before or after work. Making Election Day a holiday allows people to easily vote throughout the day, reducing the number of people in a polling place at any given time. In addition, this ensures that polling locations at schools or town offices won’t have non-election related traffic on election day.
Will anyone be allowed to help the elderly (specifically nursing home residents) or persons with disabilities vote?
Yes. Anyone who is unable to complete their ballot due to a physical disability or language barrier may be assisted by a designated person.