For the first time inMassachusetts history, registered voters can cast a ballot before Election Day.
Beginning Monday, and in accordance with 2014 state law signed by then-governor Deval Patrick, all municipalities will open at least one early voting polling station for a two-week period that stretches until Nov. 4.
Yet no one — not even the initiative’s most ardent supporters — could have predicted the ways some voters would use the newly available tool.
Back in 2014, legislators knew that legalizing early voting could be more convenient for residents and help them dodge the notoriously long lines on Election Day.
But these days, some residents said they plan to vote early for an entirely different purpose: to close the book on an election season many have called distasteful, stressful, and historically long.
“I just want to not have to think about [the election] anymore,” said Lindsey Weeramuni, a Jamaica Plain resident. Voting early “will give me psychological permission to just disengage because I will have made my choice.”
Marc Ebuña, a Roxbury resident who also plans to vote early, expects early voting to be cathartic. He said it could help him “wash his hands” of a campaign season that has at times stretched the bounds of belief.
“It will ease my mind, and it gets my head clean of all of that stuff going on at the national level,” Ebuña said. “It’s about moving on.”
Lucky for them, the state’s early voting program is a no-excuse-necessary system. Whether it’s line avoidance, electoral exasperation, or pure curiosity, the reason voters want to cast their ballot early does not matter, said William Galvin, state secretary of the Commonwealth.
There’s only one stipulation: Once a vote is cast, there’s no turning back.
“We want to remind voters that this is it. If you heard some new argument on a ballot question, you can’t go back and change,” Galvin said. “If you want to wait to decide and wait till Nov. 8, that’s fine, too.”
On the website for Galvin’s office, voters can find information on all early voting locations throughout the state. In some places, especially in smaller communities such as Athol and East Longmeadow, early voting will occur only at the town or city hall during daytime hours. Other communities, such as Lynn, have designated certain days for extended hours.
In Boston, in an effort spearheaded by Mayor Martin J. Walsh and elections commissioner Dion Irish, early voting efforts are more expansive. Nearly every neighborhood will have an early voting polling station open at some point during the two-week period. Boston City Hall will be open every weekday for voters, from Oct. 24 to Nov. 4.
Every household in the city received a multilanguage public service announcement about early voting in the mail — the first part of an aggressive marketing campaign that includes a social media component and signs at bus stops.
Irish said the city is hoping that 20 percent of all registered Boston voters cast their ballot before Election Day.
“We’re focusing on harnessing as much data as possible,” Irish said in an interview.
“It is sort of an experiment, because we haven’t done this before. We’re looking to know what works and what didn’t.”
Galvin, who heads the statewide election efforts, said he appreciated Boston’s aggressive approach. In smaller communities, Galvin said, there was initially some resistance to expanding voting hours, because it comes with increased costs.
Irish said Boston avoided those problems because of widespread support from city officials. Walsh and the City Council provided $670,000 in the fiscal year’s city budget to fund early voting efforts.
According to the mayor’s office, Walsh plans to vote himself on the first day he can — Monday.
“In Boston, we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure that voters have as many opportunities to participate in this election as possible,” said Walsh in a statement provided to the Globe.
At the state level, Galvin’s office provided grants to communities to spur early voting, and the Legislature restored $1.2 million in early voting funding after overriding a veto from Governor Charlie Baker.
With the voting period approaching, Galvin said he is confident localities are now adequately funded and prepared. Unlike Irish, he did not commit to a numerical target of early voters, but said he expected it to be successful.
“I think it will help with the lines situation,” Galvin said. “But we don’t have any experience with this . . . it’s just an opportunity for those who have fully decided what they wanted to do.”
That includes Dack Conroy, an Allston musician who is ready to put this election season to bed. The entire electoral process, Conroy said, has been “dragged through the mud — and then worse.”
Early voting gives him an early out.
“I have been watching helplessly without anything to do for the last 16 months and want to do something as soon as possible,” Conroy said.
“I know it’s not going to actually end this ugly [mess], but it’s going to at least make me feel like I’ve done what I can.”