The transition from the end of August into the fall is almost inevitably hectic — the first days of school, a wave of housing moves on Sept. 1, returns from Labor Day getaways, and this year, the Sept. 4 primary.
“I think most voters don’t realize how quick the deadlines are approaching,” said Mary Ann Ashton, president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “It’s going to catch some people unaware.”
State residents have two days left to register to vote in the primary before Wednesday’s deadline. According to state law, voters must register or make any changes to their registration at least 20 days before an election.
To take any last-minute filings, city and town offices are required to stay open until at least 8 p.m., Wednesday, said Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State William F. Galvin.
Online registration will be open until midnight, she said.
While “pockets” of the state have shown strong interest in certain elections, such as a crowded race in the Third Congressional District, interest overall has been low, Ashton said.
But the timing of this year’s primary has also prompted additional inquiries about absentee ballots from voters who plan to travel over the Labor Day weekend, election officials said.
Typically, voters have until noon on the day before an election to apply for an absentee ballot. But since the Monday before this year’s primary is Labor Day, that deadline is pushed back to 5 p.m. on the preceding business day, Friday, Aug. 31.
Absentee ballots can either be mailed or delivered in person to a local election office but must be received, not postmarked, by the time polls close on Sept. 4.
Check your postage, election officials advise. Slapping a regular stamp on the ballot envelope may not be enough, said O’Malley. Statewide instructions for postage can’t be given on the ballots, she said, since requirements vary.
“It depends on the length of the ballot and weight,” O’Malley said. “Some ballots will require a second card; others won’t.”
In case absentee voters haven’t provided sufficient postage, Galvin’s office requests that post offices still mail the ballot and bill the secretary’s office for the postage, O’Malley said.
“We never want a ballot to be lost for that reason,” she said.
Postage for Boston’s absentee ballots should be between 68 and 71 cents for this primary, according to the city’s elections office.
For Massachusetts voters who plan to move between Wednesday’s deadline and Election Day — an estimated two-thirds of leases in Boston turn over between August and September — there is a six-month window in which voters can vote using their previous address as long as they are not registered anywhere else.
If the move is from one city to another, and the voter is unable to be in the previous city on Election Day, that person may vote absentee using the old address, O’Malley said.
Wednesday also marks voters’ last chance before the primaries to change their party enrollment. Voters registered with a political party can vote in their party’s primary, but independent voters can vote in the primary of their choice without registering as a member of that party.
There is no early voting period for the primary.
Last week, Massachusetts became the 14th state to adopt an automatic voter registration system. Under the law, which Governor Charlie Baker signed Thursday, eligible residents who interact with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and MassHealth will automatically be registered to vote starting in 2020. Residents who don’t want to be placed on voter rolls will have to opt out.
A state law that requires voters to register at least 20 days before an election was recently challenged in a lawsuit by Chelsea Collaborative, a social services nonprofit, and MassVOTE, a nonprofit that registers people to vote. A lower court ruled the blackout period “unconstitutional,” but a unanimous vote from the Supreme Judicial Court in July upheld the law.