Mass. Lawmakers Considering Main-In, Early Voting Bill Amid COVID-19 Crisis

BOSTON (State House News Service) — Legislation that would require state officials to mail every registered voter an application for a mail-in ballot cleared a key committee with no lawmakers in opposition and three declining to take a position.

The Election Laws Committee voted 14-0 to endorse a bill (H 4762) expanding vote-by-mail and early voting options, steps aimed at ensuring participation in the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general elections while minimizing COVID-19 risks.

All 11 representatives on the committee, including Republicans Nicolas Boldyga and Marc Lombardo, supported the proposal, according to results provided by co-chair Rep. John Lawn's office.

Three senators -- co-chair Barry Finegold, Brendan Crighton and Edward Kennedy -- voted to favorably report the bill through the legislative process. Democratic Sens. Jamie Eldridge and Sonia Chang-Diaz, among the Legislature's most progressive members, and Republican Sen. Ryan Fattman neither supported nor opposed it.

Democratic leaders unveiled the proposal Friday, combining elements of election reform bills filed in response to the pandemic. The legislation still needs to emerge in both the House and Senate for approval before it can go to Gov. Charlie Baker, who has questioned the urgency of the issue.

Under the bill, Secretary of State William Galvin would mail an application to each of the more than 4.5 million registered Massachusetts voters by July 15 that they could use to request ballots for the primary and general elections. The legislation also calls for seven days of in-person early voting before the primary, a first for the state, and 14 days of in-person early voting before the general election.

Expanding vote-by-mail has become a central issue in Massachusetts and nationwide amid the pandemic as public health experts warn about risks of a second surge in COVID-19 cases this fall.

By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service

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