OpEd: Senator Rausch Explains Voting by Mail
Free, fair, open, and safely accessible elections are a central pillar of our democracy. In the midst of a global pandemic of epic proportions that renders traditional in-person voting a public safety concern, it is critically important that we protect both our communities’ health and our constitutional right to vote. That’s why I spent months on Beacon Hill advocating for robust mail-in voting this year. I’m glad we passed a law allowing every registered Massachusetts voter to cast their ballot by mail or safely vote in person, whether during early voting or on Election Day. As one of the foremost champions of election access in the Legislature, I hope this information will help empower every voter to cast their ballots in the September 1st primary and the November 3rd general election. Comprehensive resources and links for online tools are available on my website: www.beccarauschma.com/2020-elections.
Register to vote: You must be registered to vote in order to request a mail-in-ballot. I urge you to register as soon as possible. Registering to vote and checking your registration status can be done online. (Information can be found at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleifv/howreg.htm )
Eligibility to vote by mail: If you’re a registered voter, you can vote by mail in 2020! That’s it. No additional qualifications required.
Get a vote by mail ballot application: Every registered voter should have already received a vote-by-mail application in the mail. If you haven’t received your application and wish to vote by mail, download the application or call 1-800-462-VOTE to request one be sent to your home. You can also write to your local election official requesting a mail-in-ballot if you include your full name, address, and signature.
Submit your application: I recommend sending in your application as soon as possible. Submit your application by mail, email, or drop-off. If you mail it, do it now in order to leave plenty of time for the application to arrive by the deadline (10 days before the election). No need to worry about postage; it’s prepaid on the application sent to you. If you submit the application ballot via email, make sure the application still has your signature on it. No matter how you submit your application, you only have to do it once: if you check the “All 2020 Elections” box on the application, a ballot will be mailed to you for both the primary and general election.
Check that your application was received: You can track the status of your mail-in voting application online. If your status is listed as “pending” then your application was received and your ballot should be on its way. Call your local clerk with any concerns.
Get your mail-in ballot: If you’ve successfully applied to vote by mail, your ballot will be mailed to you. Primary ballots have already begun to arrive, so keep an eye on your mailbox.
Complete and submit your ballot: First things first: read the instructions! If you’re voting by mail but get an instruction sheet for absentee voting, ignore the part that says you should check to be sure you’re eligible; the eligibility requirements for voting absentee do not apply to voting by mail in 2020. Fill in the ovals on your ballot with a black pen or pencil. Remember to check the back side of your ballot and vote there too. Put your completed ballot inside the yellow ballot envelope. Seal the ballot envelope and complete the top portion of the exterior. Do not forget to sign it. Then, put the signed and sealed ballot envelope inside the white mailing envelope and seal that one. Like the application, the ballot mailing envelope will be pre-addressed and postage prepaid. For the primary, your ballot must be received by your local clerk by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, September 1, regardless of whether you mail it or drop it off. If you’re mailing it, do so as soon as you can to ensure your ballot arrives on time and will be counted. The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing delays, sometimes up to or exceeding 10 days. Again, you can track your ballot online at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/wheredoivotema/track/trackmyballot.aspx .
What about my “I voted” sticker?! Unfortunately, if you vote by mail, you’re probably not getting an “I voted” sticker this year. It’s disappointing, I know. It’s definitely one of my (and my four-year-old’s) favorite parts.
I want to change my mind: If you requested and received a mail-in ballot but decide not to use it, you can still vote in person. However, if you already cast your mail-in ballot, either by mailing it back or dropping it off, you may not vote in person.
In-person early voting: Along with voting by mail, voters this year also have expanded options for early in-person voting: one week of early voting for the primary, and two weeks for the general. Early voting schedules and locations will be posted online at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleev/evidx.htm by Friday, October 9th for the general. You can also check with your local clerk for in-person early voting information. Wear a mask when you go to cast your vote.
In-person voting on Election Day: Polls will be open from 7a.m. - 8 p.m. on Election Day for both the primary and general election. Check your town or city clerk’s website for more information on your polling place. Wear a mask when you go to cast your vote.
I am so proud that Massachusetts voters have broader voting options and increased safety precautions for this year’s elections. I encourage everyone to vote by mail for both the September 1st primary and the November 3rd general election; if you choose to vote in person, please be diligent with your COVID-19 precautions -- wear a mask, keep your distance, and use hand sanitizer. Please visit www.beccarauschma.com/2020-elections for a detailed FAQ and email me directly at [email protected] with any specific questions or concerns. Happy voting, everyone!