Massachusetts voters have it easy when it comes to casting ballots by mail for national and state-wide elections.
Only in municipal elections do communities have the right to “opt-out” from mail-in voting.
To make life even easier for registered voters in the Bay State, staffers in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin sent mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters in January.
Massachusetts is a “no excuse” early voting/mail-in ballot state, meaning there is no need for the voter to provide a reason for casting a ballot by mail.
There are some rules, however.
Applications requesting mail-in ballots are due five business days before each scheduled election. That means voters looking to vote by mail in the Bay State’s presidential primary on March 5 will have to have their ballot requests in the possession of election officials, usually the municipal clerk, by 5 p.m. Feb. 27.
The requests for the ballots can be made online, by mail or through an e-mail or fax. The forms are available on the secretary of state’s website. Once voters confirm their registration status, they can complete the application and request main-in ballots for next month’s presidential primary, for the state primary on Sept. 3 or the general election on Nov. 5.
A voter could request ballots for all three elections in one fell swoop. If they're requested individually, applications must be received by Aug. 27 for the state primary and by Oct. 29 for the general election.
Residents who are not registered must do so before requesting a mail-in ballot.
Galvin urges applicants to be mindful of the postal system and allow enough time between the request and the election. He suggests voters request ballots at least two weeks ahead of time to ensure they receive their ballot with enough time to return it to their local election official in time to be counted.
Ballots are delivered with a return envelope included: these can be mailed back through the U.S. Postal Service, placed in special ballot drop boxes located in communities throughout the state, hand-delivered to local election officials, or dropped off in person at early voting locations.
Poll workers cannot accept mail-in ballots at polling locations on Election Day. If procrastination delays return of the ballot, it can be handed in at the election office, usually located in town hall, or placed in a ballot drop box. It must be received by close of polls – except for presidential elections, when additional time is allowed for ballots that were postmarked by Election Day to be counted.
In this fall's presidential election, mail-in ballots will be counted if they are dropped off or left in a drop box by the close of polls Nov. 5; postmarked by Election Day and received by 5 p.m. Nov. 8; or, if returned from outside the continental U.S., postmarked by Election Day and received by 5 p.m. Nov. 15.
Problems with mail-in ballots can arise. Voters can still cast an in-person ballot if they never returned their requested mail-in ballot; if that ballot wasn’t received in time by the local election office (there’s a “track my ballot” feature on the secretary of state’s website) or if the ballot was rejected by the local election office.
Absentee ballots are available for active-duty members of the military, U.S. citizens residing oversees, incarcerated residents not convicted of felonies, and residents who are hospitalized on an emergency basis. Residents might also qualify for absentee ballots for religious reasons, if they anticipate an absence from the state on Election Day or have a disability that prevents voting at a polling place.
Requests for absentee ballots can be made here.
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