Twenty weeks from now, the first Massachusetts voters will be casting their ballots days before the Nov. 8 election, in the state’s inaugural early voting period. In the meantime, election overseers at the local and state level must figure out and develop a new set of practices to grapple with a new range of issues: Where and when should early voting be made available? How do you make sure people only vote once? How do you keep the process fair? What will it all cost? “We’re building the system right now as we go, but we know these are issues that are likely to emerge,” said Secretary of State William Galvin, the state’s top elections official. In late May, Galvin’s office posted online a set of regulations governing the early voting process, with a public hearing on the guidelines planned for July 27.
The regulations, Galvin said, align with the 2014 election reform law that created an early voting period in Massachusetts. Along with procedures for processing early ballots and duties of local officials, the regulations outline areas where communities have options, like how many early voting locations they set up, whether the sites are open on evenings and weekends and if police officers are stationed there.
“The way the law was drafted by the Legislature — and I don’t have a problem with this but I’m just stating the facts — there’s a great deal of autonomy for the cities and towns,” Galvin said in an interview. “They do have to have the 10-day period, but for instance the issue of multiple sites is left to their discretion.”