The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country is obviously a serious threat to our health and wellbeing. And none of us truly knows what “back to normal” is going to look like.
That said, there are clear priorities for moving forward that have emerged, and MASSPIRG, along with our sister PIRG organizations around the country, has launched several campaigns to address them, in partnership with public health and medical professionals, elected officials and civic leaders.
Together we are:
Working to protect democracy:
If ever we needed to feel that, as citizens, we have control over our democracy, it’s now. So we are working in coalition with other civic organizations to ensure greater access to voting. The continued spread of the coronavirus poses a real threat to our elections, not just through the primary and special election seasons, but all the way into November’s national elections.
Currently, Massachusetts isn’t set up to successfully run an election that includes large public gatherings, such as polling places, which present a public health risk during this pandemic. While some short-term solutions were passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in March, with provisions through June 30, we need to permanently establish election day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and other universal vote-by-mail measures, which ensure safety and access to voting. Sens. Becca Rausch (Needham) and Cynthia Creem (Newton) have already filed legislation including some of these provisions.
It’s clear we are facing a massive public health challenge, yet even under this kind of duress there are special interests lurking and trying to take advantage of these stressful circumstances, together we can raise our voices, work with our leaders, and forge the path to a healthier tomorrow.
Massachusetts attorney general joins push for automatic vote-by-mail option due to pandemic
Attorney General Maura Healey joined a growing chorus on Thursday in the push for an automatic vote-by-mail system in the upcoming elections, citing the risk in-person voting might pose during a global pandemic.
"As we look ahead, we must address the inequities that this crisis has exposed," Healey tweeted. "That means mailing every voter a ballot for the 2020 elections."
A bill was filed earlier this month in the state Senate calling for voting by mail in the September primary and November general elections. It’s currently awaiting action in the Elections Committee.
Sen. Becca Rausch (D-Norfolk, Bristol, Middlesex) told Boston 25 News that her 2020 Vote-By-Mail Act is an attempt to rise to the needs of the moment.
"Even if we’re on the downside of the slope of the pandemic [in time for the September primary], people will still be rightfully concerned and fearful to go to the polls," Rausch said. "Free, fair and safely accessible elections are a cornerstone and a bedrock of our democracy. We cannot let, we must not let COVID-19 strip that away from us."
The House And Senate - There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
To the exclusion of just about everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic was front and center on Beacon Hill for the third week in a row. Most legislators and staff are staying away from Beacon Hill and are working from home to comply with social distancing guidelines. The House and Senate held only informal sessions at which there can be no roll calls and it only takes one member to stop the proceedings if he or she disagrees with anything. The Democrats and Republicans worked together, as they did last week, and continued to cooperate and approved bills relating to COVID-19. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on several pieces of legislation relating to the COVID-19.
It’s also an election year so it’s time to take a look at how much money the incumbent senators have raised, spent and have on hand during the first three months of 2020. This week’s report also includes the fundraising numbers for the state’s 38 senators from the latest filing period of January 1 to March 31. The numbers are from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. To get more information on any senator’s fundraising and expenditures, go to and click on “Browse registered filers and reports” and then type the name of your senator in the box that says “Filter by name” in the upper left-hand corner of the page.
Vote By Mail (HD 5026 And SD 2912) - Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Adrian Madaro have filed bills to permit voting by mail for all state primaries and general elections. Under the bill, which would be effective beginning with the 2020 election, the secretary of state would send every registered voter affiliated with a party a ballot by mail with a prepaid return envelope 18 days before the Sept. 1 primary election and the Nov. 3 general election. Voters who are unenrolled or independent would have to request a specific party ballot online or by mail at least 35 days before the Sept. 1 primary.
The instructions on how to complete and send in a ballot would be printed in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Haitian. The bill still requires that voters have the opportunity to vote in person in their city or town. The measure provides that if the state of emergency declared because of COVID-19 is still in effect, the state must provide personal protective equipment for all poll workers. Another provision makes the November Election Day a legal state holiday except for public employees whose jobs relate to the operation and administration of elections.
“We’re facing a global pandemic that makes traditional in-person voting seriously concerning if not downright dangerous, so we must proactively pursue alternative voting methods,” Sen. Rausch said. “Mail voting already works in Massachusetts; we process thousands of mail-in absentee ballots every election with no issue,” Rep. Madaro said.
Opponents say that voting by mail opens the door to fraud and abuse. President Donald Trump is one of the most vocal opponents of voting by mail. “It shouldn’t be mail-in voting,” Mr. Trump said recently. “It should be you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself. You don’t send it in the mail where people can pick up—all sorts of bad things can happen … by the time it gets in and is tabulated.”
It was a defining moment of the COVID-19 epidemic: on April 7, Wisconsin residents went to the polls in face masks after their state Supreme Court refused to delay an election. One person carried a makeshift cardboard sign which read, simply, “THIS IS RIDICULOUS.”
Now, as Milwaukee’s health commissioner says at least seven individuals may have been infected during that day’s proceedings, there’s growing push to prevent similar scenes in Massachusetts this fall.
“The goal here is very simple: to afford every voter the opportunity to vote by mail, should they choose not to vote in person at a polling place,” said secretary of state Bill Galvin.
Some on Beacon Hill want to go bigger, however. The 2020 Vote By Mail Act filed by state Senator Becca Rausch (D-Needham) and state Representative Adrian Madaro (D-Boston) would send primary ballots to Massachusetts voters before September’s election, with unenrolled voters free to choose a Democratic ballot or a Republican one. Prior to the November general election, every voter would receive a ballot, period.
“It’s automatic to the absolute greatest extent possible in the Commonwealth,” Rausch said. “Prepaid envelopes. Instructions in multiple languages.”
Rausch’s bill would also provide protective equipment for poll workers; upgrade the state’s voting technology; and make election day a holiday.
“It’s going to be expensive, and we all know that revenue is in a difficult moment right now,” Rausch said. “That having been said, this is an investment that is worthwhile.”
State Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, teamed up with Rep. Adrian Madaro, D-Boston, to file a bill to implement comprehensive voting by mail for all statewide elections in 2020.
The recent Wisconsin election and experiences in other states make clear that Massachusetts must act now to safeguard the right to vote during the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis, the legislators argue.
The 2020 Vote by Mail Act (SD. 2912/HD. 5026) would expand existing early voting procedures in Massachusetts by mailing ballots to registered voters for both the Sept. 1 primary election and the Nov. 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 would be able to request a primary ballot for any political party.
The legislation also maintains in-person voting options and 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.
The vote by mail provisions of the bill would sunset at the close of 2020 and would not apply to future elections outside of this year.
Kennedy, Rausch push vote-by-mail program, but GOP leader blasts idea
U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III is pushing state lawmakers to adopt a vote-by-mail program for the fall elections in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but the head of the state’s Republican party is blasting the idea.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, and state Rep. Adrian Madaro, D-Boston, have filed a bill to implement comprehensive voting by mail for all statewide elections in 2020.
Kennedy, who represents the 4th Congressional District, which includes Attleboro and much of the surrounding area, said residents should have the chance to stay home and vote by mail because the virus could still be lurking in the fall.
Rausch, who represents about half of Attleboro and several Sun Chronicle area towns, told North TV that the recent Wisconsin election and experiences in other states make clear that Massachusetts must act now to safeguard the right to vote during the unprecedented coronavirus public health crisis.
The 2020 Vote by Mail Act would expand existing early voting procedures in Massachusetts by mailing ballots to registered voters for both the Sept. 1 primary election and the Nov. 3 general election.
Every registered voter would receive a ballot for the general election. For the primary, every voter registered with a political party would automatically receive their party’s primary ballot; unenrolled voters would be able to request a primary ballot for any political party.
Statement: Needham Senator files vote by mail legislation for 2020 elections
Senator Becca Rausch (D-Needham) and Representative Adrian Madaro (D-Boston) filed SD. 2912/HD. 5026, An Act establishing vote by mail in 2020, a bill to implement comprehensive voting by mail for all statewide elections in 2020. The recent Wisconsin election and experiences in other states make clear that Massachusetts must act now to safeguard the right to vote during the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis.
The 2020 Vote by Mail Act would expand 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. The legislation also maintains in-person voting options and 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. The vote by mail provisions of the bill will sunset at the close of 2020 and will not apply to future elections outside of this year.
Senator Rausch said, “Free, open, and accessible elections are a central pillar of our democracy. We’re facing a global pandemic that makes traditional in-person voting seriously concerning if not downright dangerous, so we must proactively pursue alternative voting methods. We do this by expanding a process we already know to be viable in our Commonwealth. Under the 2020 Vote by Mail Act, every registered Massachusetts voter will receive a ballot that they can cast safely and securely, without jeopardizing their health or anyone else’s, knowing that their ballot will be counted.
COVID-19 must not strip us of our right and ability to vote; we must protect our elections, especially in times of crisis. We cannot afford to wait and see how the rest of this pandemic period unfolds.”
Elected officials may be mindful of the coronavirus pandemic, but the horse race always continues in an emergency, one way or the other.
Stephanie Murray at Politico reported on newly-released campaign finance reports from the beginning of the year through March 31, and says Rep. Joe Kennedy III holds a financial advantage over Sen. Ed Markey in their primary contest.
But Election Day is always on everyone’s collective mind. On Thursday, US Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Jim McGovern, Katherine Clark, and Kennedy urged the Legislature to pass a vote-by-mail bill for the 2020 election, and for $4 billion in federal funding to increase voting by mail and election security nationwide.
State Sen. Becca Rausch and state Rep. Adrian Madaro have filed a bill that would send every registered voter a ballot by mail with a prepaid return envelope for both the primary and the general election.
With continuing uncertainty about how long the coronavirus pandemic will keep Bay State residents battened down, two lawmakers are looking ahead to the fall elections and proposing a solution. The legislation, filed by Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, and Rep. Adrian Madaro, an East Boston Democrat, would have ballots, with prepaid return envelopes, mailed to every registered voter for the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general election. For the primary, enrolled voters would receive the ballot of their party but independents would have to request a specific party ballot at least 35 days before the primary.
Under the proposal, polling places would still be open so people could vote in person if they chose to.
This vote-by-mail idea follows the lines of how absentee ballots are handled now, but it would expand the option by putting the ballots in the mailboxes of more voters.
If health concerns about the coronavirus persist into September, this legislation would provide a viable option to ensure registered voters can vote without risking their health and that of others. The idea -- which is still only in the discussion stage -- could be a problem if ballots mailed to voters' home addresses ended up in the hands of people other than the intended recipients. But the concept of voting by mail works well in other states, so Massachusetts could study the best practices elsewhere and make a system that guarantees the right to vote while preventing voter fraud as much as possible.
Massachusetts Senate approves bill to lower signature requirements as Supreme Judicial Court hears ballot access case
State senators Thursday voted to lower the signature requirements candidates need to make the ballot in certain races while a bipartisan group of office-seekers asked the Supreme Judicial Court for even greater relief as COVID-19 renders traditional canvassing efforts impossible.
The bill would lower the number of signatures required for U.S. Senate candidates from 10,000 to 5,000, and from 2,000 to 1,000 for congressional candidates. Governor’s Council and some county offices would be reduced from 1,000 to 500. It did not change the due dates for nomination papers: April 28 for district and county offices, and May 5 for federal and statewide candidates.
The state said eliminating the signature requirement could overload the ballot. Secretary of State William Galvin instead suggested the 50% reduction in the Senate proposal, to extend the deadline for county and district candidates to match federal candidates, and to allow a “limited form of electronic signatures.”
Seeking to minimize public health risks for the September and November elections, state Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, and state Rep. Adrian Madaro, D-Boston, filed a bill to mail ballots to all registered voters for both elections, while still allowing in-person voting — with personal protective equipment for poll workers.
'The Status Quo Is Not Going To Save Us': Mass. House Delegation Calls For Universal Mail-In Ballots In 2020
Five members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation called on state leaders to pass a universal vote-by-mail law in advance of fall elections during a press conference Thursday.
“We know the status quo is not going to save us,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley said. “Even before this pandemic, far too many people were disenfranchised.
“As we continue conversations about expanding access [to voting], we need to continue conversations about holding our ground now,” she added.
The group, which also included Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Katherine Clark and Rep. Lorie Trahan, called on Beacon Hill to pass legislation that would automatically send mail-in ballots to all registered voters in the state ahead of the November general election.
Pending legislation by Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Adrian Madaro filed Wednesday was not directly referenced. That bill would require the secretary of state to send primary ballots to voters enrolled in a party and allow unaffiliated voters to request a ballot for the party of their choice for the Sept. 1 Senate primary. The bill would require the state to issue a mail-in ballot to all registered voters for the Nov. 3 general election.
Coronavirus pandemic prompts Massachusetts lawmakers to file vote-by-mail bills
The latest Beacon Hill bills created in response to the coronavirus pandemic would allow early voting by mail ahead of the state primary and general elections if the state of emergency remains in effect.
Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem’s bill, S.D. 2911, would enable a voter could ask a local election official for a mail-in ballot as an early voter due to COVID-19. Under the bill, all early voting ballots would need to be received by the town clerk before polls close on Election Day.
Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Adrian Madaro filed legislation, S.D. 2912, that would send mail-in ballots to voters and personal protective equipment to poll workers if the coronavirus pandemic has not passed. The bill required that a mail-in ballot be postmarked by Election Day and get to a city or town clerk within 5 days of the election.
POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Rausch lets it ride in absentee voting debate
The reliability of public transportation in Massachusetts has been raised as an issue in debates about revenue, economic development and reducing carbon emissions, to name a few.
But on Wednesday, freshman state Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, found another way to broach the sometimes-touchy topic. She pointed to T service as she pitched her colleagues on a proposal to allow no-excuse absentee voting in Massachusetts elections.
“Many people have difficulty getting to the voting booth,” the Needham Democrat told the Election Laws Committee. “Consider, for example, the unreliability of our public transit system. If the T is late, and someone is trying to get home from work to get to the voting booth and the T can’t get them there on time, they don’t get to vote, and that seems like a terrible reason to strip someone of their right to use their voice and their vote.”
Rausch was testifying in support of state Rep. Michael Moran’s proposed constitutional amendment that would bring no-excuse absentee voting to Massachusetts, where voters are currently allowed to cast absentee ballots in only limited circumstances.
Paul Heroux: What keeps me up at night during this crisis
It’s the middle of the night, 3 something in the morning, and I feel like letting folks know what I’m thinking about in the middle of the night. What keeps this mayor up?
I worry about what’s going to happen with our first responders in the police and fire departments. Are they going to get sick? Will they have enough supplies? Will they be able to effectively do their job?
I also take comfort in the fact that we have good people working in city government. I am surrounded by a very competent group of folks in the health department and personnel office. My office staff has been amazing. We also have very good department heads throughout the rest of city government, all working together, and we are all on the same page. We have a good economic development director who is already planning for what is going to come next to help our local businesses bounce back. She’s also trying to help businesses navigate their way through the governor’s order to stop working and stay at home.
The two state senators, Paul Feeney and Becca Rausch, and two state representatives, Jim Hawkins and Betty Poirier who represent the different parts of Attleboro, have also been very responsive.
The International Center of Ethics, Justice and Public Life hosted a panel, “Voting and Democracy in 2020 and Beyond,” on Monday, March 9 in Rapaporte Treasure Hall. The panelists were Boston city councilor Lydia Edwards, Massachusetts State Sen. Becca Rausch ’01 and Ethics Center Board chair John Shattuck. Scheduled panelist and mayor of Framingham Yvonne Spicer was unable to attend due to complications relating to COVID-19. Former Rep. Jay Kaufman ’68, MA ’73 (D-MA) moderated the event.
Rausch highlighted key points of voting rights infringement. Unfortunately, one prevalent method of voter suppression is clerical error, she said. If the registration information of a voter is inputted incorrectly, that voter is not allowed to vote because there is no capability to register or reregister a voter on the day of the given election. Rausch noted that there is active legislation in Massachusetts to allow same-day voter registration.