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.
The 2014 law stipulates that cities and towns must have at least one early voting site open during business hours. It also gives municipalities the ability to extend their hours, hold polling hours on weekends, and establish additional voting sites — though they are not required to do so. Cheryl Crawford, executive director of MassVote, a group that advocated for early voting, said she is encouraging towns and cities with populations over 35,000 to create more than one early voting site.
Pam Wilmot, executive director for Common Cause Massachusetts, another organization that pushed for early voting, said data from elsewhere has shown that early voting and extended hours will be of particular help to people of color and lower-income voters, who may have more unpredictable schedules and difficulty getting to the polls on Election Day.