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MA Groups Applaud Vote-By-Mail Extension, Urge Permanence

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Massachusetts voters casting ballots in upcoming municipal elections can vote early in person or by mail. (Seventyfour/Adobe Stock)
Massachusetts voters casting ballots in upcoming municipal elections can vote early in person or by mail. (Seventyfour/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
March 16, 2021

BOSTON -- Massachusetts lawmakers passed a bill to extend early voting and vote-by-mail through the first half of this year, and advocates said it's a key step toward making the reforms permanent.

Ahead of the 2020 elections, the Commonwealth opted to allow voters access to alternatives to in-person voting on Election Day, but the vote-by-mail provision was set to expire at the end of this month.

Alex Psilakis, policy and communications manager for MassVOTE, said while people may think the next major election is the 2022 midterms, towns are having local elections now and in the coming months, and city elections will take place in the fall.

"This isn't a sort of issue we can just kind of kick down the road and wait a couple of years to solve," Psilakis asserted. "It's something we really have to consider now because there's always some sort of election that's going on, and it's really important that everybody has their voice heard."

Psilakis said MassVOTE supports the VOTES Act, a bill before the General Court that would make both early voting and vote-by-mail permanent.

It would also implement same-day registration up to and including on Election Day, which reformers in Massachusetts have been working toward for years.

Psilakis noted states such as Colorado and Washington, which used vote-by-mail even before the pandemic, used to be the exceptions.

But now he thinks states without alternative options will be the outliers.

"Because they proved so popular last year, and it's proven perfectly safe and effective, I think it's a matter of wondering when they're going to become permanent, not if," Psilakis contended.

For the short term, Psilakis echoed the importance of extending vote-by-mail through June, adding more than 200 elections across the state have either occurred or will occur in the first half of 2021.

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