Early voting earned positive reviews during its inaugural run in Massachusetts, but lawmakers have so far been hesitant about implementing the voter convenience for this year’s primary elections — historically low-turnout affairs in which some incumbents face challengers. “If we are going for good government, good democracy, why are we so hesitant to pass legislation that’s going to do just that?” Cheryl Crawford, executive director of MassVote, told the News Service on Tuesday. “A lot of our elections are won in the primaries.” In interviews, those familiar with the reform say it expanded voting opportunities in the 2016 general election but needs to be adequately funded to ensure that cities and towns of all sizes are able to accommodate voters over what are effectively multiple election days.
About 30 percent of registered voters used the early voting option in the November 2016 general election, according to Common Cause Massachusetts, which concluded the reform reduced wait times and led to “many positive reports” from citizens and administrators.
Because it’s never been tried before in Massachusetts, the influence of early voting on primary elections — both on turnout and outcome — is unclear.
The Senate on April 26 voted 35-3 to adopt a measure calling for five days of early voting before the Sept. 4 primary elections, but the House did not go along with the idea during secret talks, and it was quietly dropped from a supplemental budget bill that has since been signed into law.