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Want to vote early? Here’s how to do it

A man voted at a Salem polling place during the 2014 September primary.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

No, you can’t vote often, but in this election you’ll have a chance to vote early.

Massachusetts voters for the first time will be able to cast their ballots before Election Day, either in person or by mail.

Starting Oct. 24, all cities and towns will hold early voting sessions, typically in the city or town clerk’s offices, during regular business hours. In addition, many municipalities are holding late, early, and weekend hours, some in different locations, to make it more convenient for voters — and, hopefully, increase the number of citizens participating in the election.

“It’s a good opportunity to give more people another option,’’ said Andrew Dowd, town clerk for Northborough and president of the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association.

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Early voting will run from Oct. 24 through Nov. 4. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. A voter who casts a ballot early not allowed to change the vote on Election Day.

Voting times and locations are set by each municipality, so voters are encouraged to check with their town or city clerk’s office for details or to visit www.massearlyvote.com.

Many municipalities — including Arlington, Beverly, Belmont, Braintree, Chelmsford, Concord, Medford, Randolph, and Scituate — will have early voting in one location only, with some evening hours and a Saturday session on Oct. 29.

“The sense I get from the towns around us, most are going to be utilizing the town hall, which is naturally where people would go for their voting,’’ said Randolph Town Clerk Brian Howard. “I think it’s going to turn out to be a positive. Any opportunity where you can provide additional methods for voters to exercise their right to vote is a positive.’’

Howard said early voting is different from absentee voting in that residents do not need a specific reason to vote early. To vote by absentee ballot, voters either will be absent from the city or town on Election Day or cannot go to the polls because of a physical disability or religious beliefs.

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He said early voting will make it easier for those who worry they might not make it home from work in time on Election Day or may have a child-care issue.

“We’re all intrigued to hear how popular it is,’’ Howard said.

Some places, such as Gloucester, Hamilton and Hanson, are not holding Saturday sessions.

And others are setting up additional voting locations outside city or town halls.

For example, Framingham will use McAuliffe Library on certain days; Lowell will employ schools, churches, and community centers; and Newton residents will be able to vote at housing complexes, community centers, and high schools.

Northborough will hold additional voting at its senior center.

Dowd said the clerks association has been working closely with the secretary of state’s office to get local election officials up to speed on a law signed in 2014 by then-governor Deval Patrick. It requires municipalities to let residents vote during a 10-day window immediately preceding Election Day during biennial statewide elections.

Cities and towns must have at least one early voting site open during business hours. They can extend the hours, including to weekends, and establish additional voting sites but are not required to do so.

Clerks say everyone is anxious to see how the new law will affect voter turnout.

Dowd said the biggest lines on Election Day form early in the morning, when commuters are trying to vote before driving to work.

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“If they can come in on a Saturday or evening hour to get it out of the way, it’s a good option,’’ he said. “I’m embracing the concept. It will be interesting to see if more people do take advantage of it.’’

Beverly City Clerk Wes Slate said he’s been told to expect between 20 and 40 percent of the voters to opt for early voting. Though no one knows for sure what will happen, he hopes voters take advantage of the new option. Not only will it help those who want to get voting out of the way early; it could translate to fewer crowds on Election Day.

“Say it’s 5,000 who vote early,’’ he said. “That’s 5,000 less that will show up on Election Day, so the lines will be shorter, the parking won’t be as tight, and we will be better able to deal with any issues that come up.’’


Jennifer Fenn Lefferts
can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.