Massachusetts to Mull Permanent Mail-in Voting System, Galvin Says | oung-Jin Kim and Jim Haddadin/NBC Boston

Massachusetts will explore the possibility of making mail-in voting a permanent option, Secretary of State William Galvin said Wednesday, after what he called “successful” elections in the state this week. “We’ve now proven it works, and voters know how to use it well, so I certainly think we want that going forward,” Galvin told reporters Wednesday. Galvin said he would form a working group including local clerks to mull the possibility, including whether the option would be available for municipal elections as well. The working group will also consider various smaller changes based on this week’s elections including about how drop boxes are operated. “All in all, I think it was a very successful day,” Galvin said about the elections, adding the state was still counting some ballots, including overseas military ballots, before official results are made public.

Full Article: Massachusetts to Mull Permanent Mail-in Voting System, Galvin Says – NBC Boston

Massachusetts: Federal immigration officials wrongly tell new US citizens they missed chance to vote | Collin Binkley/Associated Press

Federal immigration officials acknowledged Thursday that they erroneously told some new U.S. citizens in Massachusetts that they could not vote in next week’s election because they had missed the state’s voter registration deadline. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the citizenship process, said officials at some recent naturalization ceremonies mistakenly told new citizens they were ineligible to vote because the Oct. 24 registration deadline had passed. State law, however, allows new citizens to register until 4 p.m. the day before an election if they became citizens after the deadline. Agency spokesman Daniel Hetlage said in a written statement that the error was based on information from a state website. The agency has contacted all new citizens who may have received incorrect information, he said. “The state has since updated its webpage and we at USCIS are not aware of this happening anywhere else,” Hetlage said. In a statement to GBH News, which first reported the story, the immigration agency said it was contacting 409 new citizens who had received incorrect information at 36 ceremonies Monday and Tuesday. Debra O’Malley, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts secretary of state, said the elections website did not previously include details on registration for new citizens. The issue has rarely arisen, she said, but department officials have consistently told USCIS about the extension for newly naturalized citizens.

Full Article: Feds wrongly tell new US citizens they missed chance to vote

Massachusetts: Galvin moving forward with sending vote-by-mail applications after funding dispute is resolved | Chris Van Buskirk/The Boston Globe

The state’s top elections official is moving forward with sending out vote-by-mail ballot applications after the governor’s office agreed to advance funds included in a COVID-19 supplemental budget that is nearing final approval in the Legislature. Both branches still need to take their final votes on the bill before sending the appropriations bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, but a spokesperson for Secretary of State William Galvin’s office confirmed to the News Service Tuesday that the administration provided funds and the secretary’s office spent them. The provision of the funds appears to have ended a week-long dispute over whether the secretary’s office could use federal funds through the CARES Act to cover postage costs associated with the massive mailing. “The mailing is in process now,” the spokesperson said when asked about when the applications would go out. Election reform advocates filed a lawsuit Monday in an attempt to force the secretary of state to comply with a July 15 deadline to send applications for mail-in primary ballots outlined in a new state law. Galvin previously said he could not send out the applications until the Legislature provided funding for postage and advocates pointed to nearly $8.2 million in CARES Act funding set aside for COVID-19 election-related costs.

Massachusetts: Mail-in Voting Law Slams Into Dispute Over Postage Costs | Chris Van Buskirk/WGBH

Disagreements over funding to mail ballot applications for the upcoming election cycle spilled into the public eye Tuesday after the state’s top election official and election reform advocates differed on the permissible use of federal money. Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation into law Monday that directs Secretary of State William Galvin to send mail-in voting applications by July 15 in order to give voters time to request a ballot for the Sept. 1 primary elections, fill it out, and mail it back in. Crafted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates and state officials have pointed to the new law as a way to help voters participate in the upcoming election cycle without putting themselves at risk for COVID-19. “We had hoped to do it by that date. The legislation calls for it. But the Legislature has not sent the money. We can’t pay for the postage. We can’t pay for the printing until we have the postal permit. We can’t buy the permit until we get the money,” Galvin told reporters Tuesday outside the State House. The point of contention centers on whether guidance from the Election Assistance Commission allows for states to use federal funds through the CARES Act to mail applications to voters for early or absentee ballots. There were nearly 4.6 million registered voters in Massachusetts as of February.

Massachusetts: Voters will get applications to vote by mail now that voting reform bill is law | Steph Solis/MassLive

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill that will allow residents to submit mail-in ballots to cast their votes in the state primary and general election because of the coronavirus pandemic. The $8 million voting reform bill allows people to vote by mail in a general election without needing to designate any reason the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general elections, a first for Massachusetts. But the expanded vote-by-mail provisions aren’t permanent: the measures expire Dec. 31. The voting law also allows early in-person voting for the state primary for the first time. Early voting for the state primary will take place between Aug. 22 and Aug. 28. For the general election, early voting runs from Oct. 17 and 30, making polling places available for two weekends. Secretary of State William Galvin’s office must must mail out applications to households by July 15 so voters can decide if they want to vote by mail for the primary. He must also mail out vote-by-mail applications for the general election by Sept. 14. The secretary’s office would have to conduct a public awareness campaign.

Massachusetts: Vote-by-mail bill heads to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk | Steph Solis/MassLive

An $8 million voting reform bill that would allow residents to vote by mail in this year’s state primary and general elections because of the coronavirus pandemic is heading to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. Senators approved the legislation Thursday after it came out of a conference committee, where lawmakers reconciled the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill. “For the first time ever in Massachusetts, voters can vote by mail and vote early in both the 2020 primary and general elections. In-person voting on election day remains an option and is made safer in this legislation,” Senate Election Laws Committee Chair Barry Finegold, an Andover Democrat, said in a statement Thursday night. “The bill equips clerks with the tools they need to count ballots expeditiously and adapt to these election advancements.” The House approved the final iteration of the bill on Tuesday. Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, a Boston Democrat who leads the House Ways & Means committee, said the legislation “will ensure that the voters of the Commonwealth have safe and easy access to the ballot box throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Massachusetts: Deal reached on voting by mail | Matt Murphy and Chris Van Buskirk/The Boston Globe

The House and Senate are poised this week to approve compromise early voting and vote-by-mail legislation that should pave the way for a major expansion of options ahead of the 2020 election to encourage participation during the COVID-19 pandemic. All six lawmakers appointed to find a compromise on the bill signed onto a report Monday. Representative John Lawn, the lead House negotiator on the bill, said he anticipates a vote of the full House on the final bill Tuesday while the Senate plans to take it up Thursday, according to a spokesperson for the Senate president’s office. The House and Senate versions of the bill instruct the secretary of state’s office to mail every voter an application to request a mail-in ballot for the primaries on Sept. 1 and the general election on Nov. 3. The goal, lawmakers have said, is to continue in-person voting but to allow voters to cast their votes early if they wish or to avoid the polls altogether if they feel unsafe because of virus transmission risks. The bill also for the first time in Massachusetts creates an early voting window before the statewide primary, and expands early voting before the general election. The state’s in-person early voting period for the general election runs Oct. 17-30 and Aug. 22-28 for the primaries. The mail-in early voting period will begin as soon as local clerks receive all the necessary materials.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers closer to bringing early, mail-in voting options to 2020 elections | Steph Solis/MassLive

Massachusetts residents should expect to be able to vote by mail in a general election for the first time in state history, lawmakers say as they move closer toward getting voting legislation to the governor’s desk. The $8 million voting reform would send applications to residents statewide to enable them to vote by mail in the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general election — a first in Massachusetts. It would also allow early voting ahead of the primary. Lawmakers said Monday they reconciled differences between the House and Senate bills teed up the bill, H. 4829, for final votes Tuesday and Thursday for the House and Senate, respectively. If approved, the bill lands on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. “The goal was to provide options, make it easier for people to vote this fall despite COVID-19, and give clerks the tools they need to process the ballots expeditiously,” Sen. Barry Finegold, an Andover Democrat and chair of the Senate Election Laws Committee. “We’ve accomplished that in this bill.” Massachusetts voters have mailed in ballots in recent local elections to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but this bill would make state history in making the option widely available to residents for a primary and general election. It also requires safety standards for polling places to let voters cast their ballots in person.

Massachusetts: Plan to expand mail-in voting faces pushback | Christian M. Wade/Gloucester Times

Voters will be able to request mail-in ballots ahead of the upcoming elections under a proposal working its way through Beacon Hill, but voting rights groups say the changes won’t go far enough. The proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, would allow registered voters to request absentee ballots for the Sept. 1 state primary and Nov. 3 presidential election. The measure has already cleared a key legislative committee but has yet to be approved by the full House and Senate. The ballots will be mailed to voters’ homes and would have to be returned to local election clerks at least one week before the election to be counted. The changes also allow in-person early voting ahead of the fall primary and general elections. The state has already allowed early voting twice ahead of general elections in 2016 and 2018, but not for a state primary. Cities and towns would have to make early voting available for a set number of hours each day, from Aug. 22-28 for the primary and Oct. 17-30 for the presidential election.

Massachusetts: State lawmakers propose to expand mail-in voting option amid pandemic | Matt Murphy/Worcester Telegram

Every registered voter in Massachusetts would receive an application by mid-July to request a ballot to vote by mail in the 2020 elections under a plan released Friday by House and Senate Democrats intended to create more options for voters to safely participate in the electoral process during the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal for expanded voting-by-mail would be coupled with in-person early voting before both the primary and general elections in September and November, and traditional voting at a local polling station during both elections. With the bill, Massachusetts state lawmakers are inserting themselves directly into a fiery national debate over the integrity of mail-in voting, with President Donald Trump at the center of the conflagration. Trump has suggested that mailboxes would be robbed and ballots would be forged or fraudulently signed as states moved to vote-by-mail, despite five states already using this system without trouble before the pandemic. The co-chairs of the Election Laws Committee Rep. John Lawn of Watertown and Sen. Barry Finegold of Andover released a bill on Friday night, giving members of their committee 48 hours to review and vote on whether to recommend the bill to the full House and Senate.

Massachusetts: Vote-By-Mail Forces Grow Anxious About Timeline, Renew Push For Action On Beacon Hill | Chris Lisinski/WBUR

Legislation outlining vote-by-mail procedures for the September and November elections in Massachusetts “absolutely cannot wait another month,” electoral reform advocates said Wednesday as they renewed their push for action on Beacon Hill. Under normal circumstances, local departments need several months to prepare fully for major statewide elections, particularly in a presidential year. But with the COVID-19 pandemic upending most aspects of public life — and with voters broadly supporting mail-in ballots — reform advocates argued it is critical for lawmakers to quickly find consensus on the myriad proposals before them. The Sept. 1 primary is less than four months away, and Secretary of State William Galvin wants to begin printing ballots as soon as two weeks from Tuesday. “Election officials need to prepare for the fall, and they need to do it as soon as possible,” said Common Cause Massachusetts Executive Director Pam Wilmot during a virtual press conference alongside about a dozen groups. “We’ll see what the Legislature decides, but time is absolutely of the essence and it needs to go now.”

Massachusetts: Officials want more voting options during coronavirus pandemic, but can’t agree on execution | Chris Lisinski/State House News Service

Speaker after speaker told lawmakers Thursday that more opportunities to vote by mail and more early voting will help the statewide elections in September and November proceed with minimal risks of COVID-19 transmission. But on the specific details of how to do that — whether to mail ballots to every voter or only those who request one, how long in-person early voting periods should last, and how polling places should be spread out to maintain social distancing — there was frequent disagreement. The Legislature’s Election Laws Committee did not take immediate action Thursday after hearing testimony from a range of stakeholders. When it does, its members will need to balance competing preferences from the state’s top elections official, municipal leaders, and their own colleagues, all with the clock ticking and Secretary of State William Galvin hoping to begin printing ballots as soon as June 2.

Massachusetts: Secretary of State plan would allow any voter to request mail-in ballot | Matt Stout/The Boston Globe

Any Massachusetts voter could vote by mail ahead of the September state primary or the November general election under a proposal the secretary of state’s office says will ease access to the ballot amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The plan, released Wednesday by Secretary of State William F. Galvin, would need to be filed and approved by the Legislature, and adds to a variety of proposals lawmakers have already floated to expand voting options amid fears COVID-19 could upend elections this fall. Galvin, the state’s chief elections officer, is seeking to allow any voter this year to vote early by mail, without an excuse, should they request a ballot. His seven-page bill, a draft of which his office released Wednesday, would also establish a 7-day early voting period ahead of the Sept. 1 primary — there currently isn’t one — and expand the required window before the Nov. 3 election from a 10-day period to 18 days. The plan would also allow voters to return ballots to an “official drop box” or ask a family member to deliver the ballot by hand, something that isn’t currently allowed. Voters could also submit their request for a mail-in ballot electronically.

Massachusetts: MassVOTE gives guidance on how Massachusetts can implement voting by mail during the COVID-19 crisis | Jackson Cote/MassLive

Due to the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on ballot-casting last month, one nonprofit is providing guidance on how to vote by mail ahead of this fall’s general election. MassVOTE published a policy brief this week analyzing four issues surrounding voting by mail – including accessibility, cost, infrastructure and security – and highlighted best practices states being used by states across the country. The nonprofit group has sent the eight-page brief to the commonwealth’s 200 state legislators and more than 5,000 of their supporters, according to a statement from the organization. “Our main goal with this policy brief is to not only educate folks, but to dispel many myths around vote-by-mail,” Alex Psilakis, MassVOTE policy and communications manager, said in the statement. “Everyone, from legislators to voters, has heard a lot about vote-by-mail over the past few weeks. Yet what they have actually heard – and what vote-by-mail can actually look like – varies dramatically.” Beacon Hill lawmakers introduced a bill earlier this month that would allow early voting by mail before the September state primary and the November general election if the current state of emergency is still in effect. Ballots would need to be received by one’s town clerk before polls close on Election Day.

Massachusetts: Election officials reported ‘outside activity’ to Homeland Security | WCBV

Ahead of Super Tuesday, Massachusetts’ top election official revealed he has referred at least one suspicious internet traffic incident to federal authorities. As Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Galvin oversees all elections, including the presidential primary, in which early voting is happening this week. Massachusetts uses paper ballots, but Galvin’s office maintains an extensive website full of related information. For example, voters can check their registration or look up their assigned polling place. Volunteers at the polling places use tablets to check voters in and verify party affiliation for the primary. Galvin stopped short of specifying whether the activity he reported was related to those resources, or something else, but did offer some insight into the steps his office takes to prevent intrusions.

Massachusetts: Judge rejects challenge to winner-take-all election system | Associated Press

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the winner-take-all system Massachusetts uses to assign its Electoral College presidential votes, rejecting the argument that it violates the principle of “one person, one vote.” The case is one of several spearheaded by the onetime lawyer for former Vice President Al Gore that is targeting the winner-take-all system used in 48 states, which critics ultimately hope to get before the U.S. Supreme Court. They argue the practice of assigning all of a state’s Electoral College votes to the winner of a state’s popular vote disenfranchises those who voted for the losing candidate and puts too much weight in the votes of those who live in a few key battleground states. But Chief U.S. District Judge Patti Saris said the system is constitutional because it doesn’t treat any set of voters differently from another.

Massachusetts: ‘This is life or death’: trans people threatened by Massachusetts vote | The Guardian

Amid continued attempts by the Trump administration to roll back transgender rights in the United States, Massachusetts voters are set to decide whether or not to eliminate a 2016 state law protecting transgender individuals from discrimination in public spaces like restaurants and shops. The 6 November ballot question will mark the first statewide referendum in the country that threatens to revoke previously guaranteed transgender rights. If the law is successfully repealed, transgender rights activists worry that it could trigger similar campaigns elsewhere in the country. “Question 3 poses significant consequences for transgender people across Massachusetts, but it also would have significant consequences for transgender people across the country,” said Sarah McBride, the national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights group.

Massachusetts: Group raises questions about absentee ballot errors | Associated Press

A voting rights group on Monday called for a “full review” after finding several errors on absentee New Hampshire. But the secretary of state’s office said the group is wrong in one instance and that other issues are being addressed as part of the usual pre-election process. A small number of ballots are sent 45 days before the election to military members and others overseas. The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights said Londonderry’s ballots listed a candidate under the wrong party, the Bedford ballot lists a candidate twice and another candidate was left off ballots for Auburn, Sandown and Chester. The group’s director, Liz Wester, called the errors “unacceptable.”

Massachusetts: Hackers in Boston gamed out an election day nightmare – and won | Fifth Domain

The hackers leaned back in their chairs and scanned through options to disrupt election day as if they were reading from a menu of chaos. Fake bomb threats. Orchestrated traffic jams. A botnet of faux Twitter accounts to spread discord. In a simulated exercise put on by the Boston-based cybersecurity firm Cybereason Sept. 20, a team of seven hackers tried to outwit a group of current and former law enforcement officials from the Massachusetts area. In the end, the hackers did not need to be selective about their options. They decided to combine all of their ideas into a concoction of havoc to pick apart the simulated voting day.

Massachusetts: After chaotic House race, some call for new voting system | Associated Press

The crowded and chaotic Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts that is now being recounted has fueled calls from election reform advocates for the state to adopt a system allowing voters to rank candidates on the ballot rather than select just a single one. Ten candidates were vying for their party’s nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas. The top two vote-getters in the Sept. 4 primary, Lori Trahan and Dan Koh, wound up separated by only a few dozen votes after the initial count. The recount sought by Koh in the 37 cities and towns of the 3rd Congressional District is slated to conclude Monday. Regardless of the outcome, the winner will have done so with just slightly more than 20 percent of the total Democratic votes cast in the race — a result that some see as troubling if not outright undemocratic.

Massachusetts: Five days, 37 cities and towns, and 89,000 ballots: The recount begins in Third District | The Boston Globe

Madeline Varitimos, the 79-year-old chairwoman of the Methuen Board of Registrars of Voters, lifted her thick magnifying glass to inspect the ballot in question. The ovals next to two congressional candidates were filled in, but one had an X through it. “Because the X was so clear and definitive,” Varitimos said, the intent was to obliterate the vote for Dan Koh of Andover and cast the ballot for Lori Trahan of Lowell. Her colleagues agreed. Such was the drama and routine at the beginning of a sprawling five-day ballot recount process in the Third Congressional District’s Democratic primary. Spanning 37 cities and towns, the recount has set out to tally by hand 89,000 ballots to determine a nominee who will move on to the Nov. 6 general election to face a Republican and an independent candidate.

Massachusetts: After issues in Lowell and Lawrence, state says it will oversee elections there through November | The Boston Globe

Citing concerns about short-staffing and the mishandling of primary ballots, Secretary of State William F. Galvin said Monday he is taking over the elections departments in the Third Congressional District’s two largest cities, as he formally ordered a recount into its hotly contested Democratic primary. The decision to “exercise direct control” in Lawrence and Lowell through the November election injected a new level of intrigue into the unpredictable Third District race, where Dan Koh, a former chief of staff to Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, petitioned for a recount after falling 122 votes short of Lori Trahan in the 10-Democrat field.

Massachusetts: State to spend millions on election security – after November | Marshfield Mariner

Massachusetts has received millions of dollars in federal funding to bolster election security, but most of it will not be spent until after the November election. Massachusetts has received millions of dollars in federal funding to bolster election security, but most of it will not be spent until after the November election. The Bay State has received $7.9 million from the federal government, which election officials plan to spend on voting equipment, voter registration systems and cybersecurity, according to documents shared with Wicked Local. About 81 percent, however, will be spent after the upcoming midterm election. State officials, nonetheless, say the federal dollars — while helpful — are not vital to running a safe and accurate election.

Massachusetts: State works to start automatic voter signup | Lowell Sun

Local city and town clerks are looking for guidance as the state develops methods and regulations to automatically register eligible voters in time for the 2020 presidential elections. “I think it’s going to unfold as we get closer,” said Fitchburg City Clerk Anna Farrell. “We want everything to be clear as we move forward.” Gov. Charlie Baker signed the law to enact automatic voter registration earlier in the month. The Registry of Motor Vehicles, MassHealth, and the Health Connector will be the agencies that automatically register residents who meet the qualifications to vote. There is an option to opt out.

Massachusetts: State works to implement new automatic voter registration law | Sentinel & Enterprise

Local city and town clerks are looking for guidance as the state develops methods and regulations to automatically register eligible voters in time for the 2020 presidential elections. “I think it’s going to unfold as we get closer,” said Fitchburg City Clerk Anna Farrell. “We want everything to be clear as we move forward.” Gov. Charlie Baker signed the law to enact automatic voter registration earlier in the month. The Registry of Motor Vehicles, MassHealth, and the Health Connector will be the agencies that automatically register residents who meet the qualifications to vote. There is an option to opt out. Automatic registration is expected to be in place before the next presidential primary, said Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Bill Galvin, whose office oversees voting and elections.

Massachusetts: Automatic Voter Registration In Massachusetts To Begin By 2020, Galvin Says | WBUR

Massachusetts on Thursday became the 14th state in the country to adopt an automatic voter registration system, according to Secretary of State William Galvin and advocates who backed the measure. Galvin announced that Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that would automatically register eligible voters when they interact with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and MassHealth, unless they opt out. Galvin said he was “excited to begin preparations today” and expected to have the necessary systems in place on Jan. 1, 2020, “just in time for the next Presidential Primaries.”

Massachusetts: Legislature sends automatic voter registration bill to Governor’s desk | MassLive

The Legislature on Monday sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that would institute automatic voter registration in Massachusetts. Under the bill, an eligible voter who applies for a license or identification card at the Registry of Motor Vehicles or completes a transaction at MassHealth or the Health Connector would be automatically registered to vote.  “We think it is one of the strongest automatic voter registration bills in the country,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “If signed by the governor, it will make voting more accurate, secure and participatory.”

Massachusetts: Automatic Voter Registration Approved by Massachusetts Legislature | Stateline

Both chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature have passed a bill that would automatically register voters when they interact with a state office. Those who visit the Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, will be automatically registered to vote and later sent a letter allowing them to choose a political party or opt out of the registration. For voters who are already registered, their information will be automatically updated if they change their address with another state office.

Massachusetts: A vote for noncitizens? Boston City Council president pushes access to rights | Boston Herald

The Boston City Council will consider ways it can let noncitizens vote in city elections tomorrow in a hearing on a controversial measure being pushed by Council President Andrea Campbell. “All members of a community should have the right to participate and be included in the governance of that community,” Campbell’s order states, noting that Boston has a foreign-born population of more than 190,000, or 28 percent. Her order also states that non-U.S. citizens paid $116 million in state and local taxes and generated over $3.4 billion in spending, according to a 2015 city report.