Republicans in the Massachusetts Senate want to reimburse cities and towns for the state-mandated costs of last year’s early voting program. Early voting in the 2016 election in Massachusetts cost the state’s municipalities an estimated $720,000 in expenses mandated by the state. Republican State Senator Don Humason of Westfield said legislation that is to be filed this week by the Senate’s minority party will allow cities and towns to seek some financial assurance following the introduction of early voting. “Now that the program has been implemented and was successful and we’ve had time to look back on it, I think it is a good idea our caucus files this bill,” he said Tuesday.
Articles about voting issues in Massachusetts.
While many Americans are still digesting the ramifications of our most recent election, Charles Stewart III, professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is already looking towards 2020. Stewart is the founding Director of MIT’s Election Data and Science Lab: an initiative that strives to bring together data from American elections into one place so that researchers, academics, the press and policymakers can use the information as a resource to inform improvements of elections. It’s a non-partisan gathering ground for that beautifully objective jewel of a thing—raw data—to be stored, aggregated and then transformed into meaningful, accessible content. It’s a “one-stop shop,” as Stewart said, of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but that.
A lawsuit challenging the state’s 20-day voter registration cutoff deadline is working its way through the courts with a goal of finding a final resolution ahead of next year’s elections. Defenders of the 20-day cutoff say it’s an important tool for the orderly management of the election process in Massachusetts. Critics say ending the voter registration period 20 days before Election Day is arbitrary. They point to the state’s adoption of early voting last year that allowed voters to begin casting ballots on Oct. 24, just five days after the Oct. 19 registration cutoff. “So as a practical matter you had to be able to let people vote five days after the registration cutoff,” said Kirsten Mayer, a lawyer with the firm Ropes & Gray arguing against the existing registration deadline. “So under those circumstances how can you say you need 20 days?”
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.
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.