Despite a determination by state Auditor Suzanne M. Bump that certain early-voting costs incurred by local city and town clerks, totaling nearly $720,000, should be paid for by the state, there is little chance of that happening unless the municipalities seek relief from the courts or the Legislature. “This sounds like there will need to be a lot of work done at the state and local level to work all this out,” said Fitchburg City Clerk Anna Farrell about how municipalities, including Fitchburg’s nearly $11,500 in mandated expenses, might go about getting reimbursed for the state-mandated early voting during the 2016 election. Lowell spent more than $16,700 on early voting according to Director of Elections Eda Matchak. “We have submitted our cost to the state Auditor’s Office through the form of the municipal survey that they did following the election,” Matchak said. The determination by Bump’s Division of Local Mandates about whether the early-election expenses could be recouped was requested by the city of Woburn and the town of Oxford.
Articles about voting issues in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts: Auditor says state should pay cities and towns for early voting costs | The Sun Chronicle
State Auditor Susan Bump has determined that early voting in last year’s presidential election constituted a state mandate on cities and towns, and the state should pay for it. Bump made the determination after Wakefield and Oxford asked for it. The state Unfunded Mandate Law allows cities and towns to petition the auditor for a determination if they believe they are incurring additional costs as a result of state mandates. Bump said about one million voters, or 22 percent of the total, cast ballots during the 12 days leading up to the November election, and staying open those extra days cost cities and towns about $1.1 million. “The early voting law certainly is to be regarded a success. It did, however, mandate new procedures for clerks. Some of these should be paid for by the state, not municipalities, according to the Local Mandate Law,” she said. Most of the cost came from paying for additional hours for poll workers.
Despite a determination by state Auditor Suzanne Bump that certain early-voting costs incurred by local city and town clerks, totaling nearly $720,000, should be paid for by the state, there is little chance of that happening unless the municipalities seek relief from the courts or the Legislature. “This sounds like there will need to be a lot of work done at the state and local level to work all this out,” said Fitchburg City Clerk Anna Farrell about how municipalities, including Fitchburg’s nearly $11,500 in mandated expenses, might go about getting reimbursed for the state-mandated early voting during the 2016 election. The determination by Bump’s Division of Local Mandates about whether the early-election expenses could be recouped was requested by the city of Woburn and the town of Oxford.
Local election officials welcome the financial boost they are getting to help pay for early voting prior to the presidential election in November. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin announced Wednesday his office is offering grants ranging from $250 to $1,500, depending on the electorate size of the municipality to help defray the cost of having weekend voting hours at the end of October. The 11-day early voting period includes one weekend, Oct. 29 and 30 which is optional, but several Berkshire city/town clerks plan to let registered voters cast ballots at least one of those days. “I think the grant will incentivize clerks to have voting on Saturday and I know it means I will be open [that] Saturday,” said Lenox Town Clerk Kerry Sullivan. “We are considering Saturday,” note Pittsfield City Clerk Jody Phillips. “Obviously we will be open during normal business hours.”
Governor Charlie Baker has vetoed $1.2 million in state spending that election officials argue is critical for a new statewide early-voting program, a move advocates say could cripple efforts to expand residents’ ability to participate in the presidential race this fall. The early-voting law, set to begin with the November general election, is intended to allow Massachusetts residents to vote up to 11 business days before Election Day, joining 36 other states that already have such provisions. Barring a legislative override of gubernatorial vetoes, state election officials said they cannot fully put in place a key element of an election reform signed by then-governor Deval Patrick in 2014. “I am very disturbed. This is very irresponsible,’’ said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who oversees state elections and is a strong supporter of the early-voting system.
Cities and towns are bracing for November as they gear up to offer early voting for the first time. “Right now, our biggest thing is the money,” said Elizabeth Camara, chair of the Fall River board of election commissioners. Her board is currently working to get the necessary budget approvals to pay for the staffing required for early voting. She is still working out how much the early voting process will cost Fall River, but estimates a regular election day costs the city between $60,000 and $70,000. “It’s still hard to say because we haven’t gotten anything in place. The biggest expense is the staff,” Camara said. Small and mid-sized towns such as Fall River, Quincy, and New Bedford are grappling with a unique problem: how to make their stretched budgets go even further, to comply with a new state law that requires early voting be made available.
Bolstered by a unique political environment, the national Libertarian Party believes it could get on the ballot in all 50 states for the first time in two decades. But New England’s onerous ballot access rules stand in the way. National polls show both the Democratic and Republican nominees to be unpopular among voters — a situation that some political experts say is an opening for the Libertarians. While it’s extremely unlikely the Libertarians could win the presidential race, they could influence the final results — and make an unprecedented mark on political history. Currently Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, and his running mate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, also a Republican, are on the ballot in 33 states. Of the remaining states where they are trying to get on the ballot, five are in New England. The only state in the region where they have made the ballot is Vermont.
Massachusetts: House passes campaign finance changes aimed at transparency, special elections | MassLive
The Massachusetts House on Wednesday passed three campaign finance bills aimed at increasing transparency and leveling the playing field for special election candidates. “These three bills would tighten potential loopholes that can result in abuses of campaign finance laws,” said State Rep. John Mahoney, D-Worcester, who spoke in favor of the bills on the House floor. The bills now go to the state Senate. All three bills were sponsored by State Rep. Garrett Bradley, D-Hingham, a member of the House committees on rules and ethics. One bill relates to donor limits for special elections. Currently, donors are allowed to contribute $1,000 to a candidate each year. The bill, H.542, which passed unanimously, would allow a candidate who runs in both a special election and a general election in the same calendar year to accept $1,000 from a donor before the special election and another $1,000 before the general election.
For the first time ever, Massachusetts will hold an early-voting period ahead of the general election in November, giving residents more time to get to the polls — but worrying town clerks who must administer the new program. The early-voting law, signed in 2014 by then-Governor Deval Patrick, requires communities to let residents vote during a 10-day window immediately preceding Election Day during biennial statewide elections. This is the first year Massachusetts will try it out. Now, communities across the state must determine how to best undertake early voting — a task that is more complicated than it seems.
Talk of Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a possible running mate for presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is throwing a fresh spotlight on Massachusetts’ process for filling an empty Senate seat. Warren is in the fourth year of her first six-year term and if she is elected vice president, she would be leaving her seat vacant in a year when Democrats are hoping to retake the Senate. It would also spark the state’s third special election for a Senate seat since the death in 2009 of Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy after 47 years in office. Before his death, Kennedy sent a letter to state lawmakers urging they change the special election law to let the governor — then Democrat Deval Patrick — name an interim appointment to the seat while a special election was held.