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Secretary of State Galvin to file legislation to make broad-based voting by mail permanent

Secretary of State William Galvin.
Secretary of State William Galvin.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File 2020

Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin will file a bill with the Legislature to permanently implement broad-based voting by mail and same-day voter registration in the Commonwealth, his office said Tuesday.

In a statement, Galvin’s office said his bill, coming on the heels of record-setting turnout during the 2020 election, would let registered voters apply to vote by mail in any primary or general election. That process was allowed for the 2020 state primaries and November election, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But current state law, Galvin’s office said, normally limits voting by mail in most elections to absentee ballots, which require the voter to have a specific reason for applying.

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In addition, Galvin’s bill would allow same-day registration, a change from current law, which requires residents to be registered at least 20 days before an election to vote.

Galvin plans to file his bill this month, according to the statement.

“What we saw last year was that voting by mail was enormously popular,” Galvin said in the statement. “While voting by mail may not always be used to the same extent as the pandemic finally ends, my office has heard from many voters who have made it clear that they want this option to remain available for all future elections.”

Galvin added that technological advancements have made it easier to embrace a broader vote-by-mail and same-day-registration system.

“As I have said for several years, I believe that with the appropriate technological safeguards in place, we can implement same-day voter registration in a convenient and secure manner, as several of our neighboring states have done,” Galvin said in the statement.

His office said the bill includes provisions to guarantee weekend voting in statewide elections and primaries, with early voting periods spanning 14 days for general elections and seven days for primaries. The bill would also allow municipalities to offer early voting for local elections, something not permitted for regular municipal elections.

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And that’s not all.

Galvin’s bill would make permanent several temporary provisions from 2020 to allow for flexibility in hiring and assigning poll workers and ballot processing.

“In crafting this proposal, it was important to make sure we worked closely with local election officials to be sure that we knew what worked in 2020 and what didn’t work as well,” Galvin said in the release. “These changes will allow local election officials the flexibility they need to get their polling places adequately staffed and organized and to get ballots counted in a way that is both timely and secure.”

Massachusetts saw eye-popping turnout in the Nov. 3 general election, with 76 percent of registered voters participating and nearly two-thirds of their ballots sent by mail or cast early, as the coronavirus pandemic forced many to reconsider voting habits.

More than 3.6 million ballots were cast in Massachusetts, where there are more than 4.8 million registered voters, officials have said previously.

Nearly 42 percent of those who voted mailed their ballots, and more than 23 percent went to early voting centers.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.