What to know about 2018 early voting in Massachusetts

Bay State voters could start heading to the polls Monday morning. Here's when and where and how.

A man walks out of town hall where early voting is taking place, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, in North Andover, Mass. For the first time in Massachusetts, voters can cast their ballots for president before Election Day. Early voting began Monday and will continue through Nov. 4. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
A man walks out of town hall during early voting in 2016 in North Andover. –Elise Amendola / AP

Can’t wait to vote? You’re in luck. Early voting in Massachusetts began Monday morning.

More than one out of five of the state’s registered voters participated in early voting in 2016, the first time that Massachusetts offered an early voting period. In a few towns, the percentage of early voters was over 40 percent. Across the state, officials said the process went smoothly.

Advocates say that the expanded hours make participation more accessible and convenient for people with inflexible work schedules or difficulty making it to their polling place, though the actual data on whether early voting alone increases overall turnout is less conclusive.

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But still, if your schedule on Election Day — which, by the way, is Tuesday, Nov. 6 — looks like it may be busy, why wait?

When can I vote early?

This year, early voting runs from Monday, Oct. 22, to Friday, Nov. 2.

Under the law passed in 2014, towns and cities are required to hold early voting during their local election office’s regular weekday business hours, but they can also offer additional hours, including on the weekend. And most of them will.

Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Bill Galvin, says 252 out of 351 communities in the state will have early voting this upcoming weekend. Eighteen will have early voting both Saturday and Sunday, while 232 communities will have it only on Saturday and two will have it solely on Sunday.

Residents can look up when their local polling location will be open on the state’s early voting website.

Where can I cast my ballot during early voting?

There won’t be as many polling locations open as on Election Day, but every single town and city in Massachusetts is required to have at least one polling location for early voting. State law requires early voting to be located in the same building as the community’s election office or, if necessary, another “centrally-located, suitable and convenient public building.”

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Local early voting locations can also be found by searching for one’s town or city on the state’s website.

Residents can also opt to vote early by mail. Open to any registered voter, all they have to do is fill out an “early ballot application” with their name, address, and some personal information, and then mail or hand-deliver it to their local election office. Local officials will then mail them their ballot.

Unlike an absentee ballot, no excuse is needed for early mail-in voting. But make sure you give yourself enough time; all such ballots must be received by local election offices by the close of polls on Election Day.

“Please allow plenty of time for your ballot to be mailed to you and returned to your local election official,” the application reads.

What does early voting look like in Boston?

In Boston, City Hall will be open for early voting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday during the two-week period, with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. City Hall will not be open for early voting this upcoming weekend, Oct. 27-28, but there will be nine other polling locations open on both days across the city in each City Council District, from Eastie to Southie to Mattapan to West Roxbury to Allston and four other locations in between.

Boston will also have a number of “pop-up” polling locations open throughout the city from noon to  8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

See Boston’s full early voting schedule on the city’s website (scroll to the bottom of the page) or check out the map of all the early voting locations.

How can I tell if I’m registered to vote?

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Again, any registered voter can vote early in Massachusetts. However, the deadline to register in time for this year’s general elections was last Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Residents can find their registration status (as well as party enrollment and preview ballot) by filling out their name, birthdate, and zip code on the state’s website. If your registration status says “inactive,” you can still vote. However, inactive voters will just be asked to show identification and fill out a form with their residential information upon arriving at their polling location.

Though Massachusetts does not have same-day registration, Galvin’s office say the state’s recently passed automatic voter registration law will be implemented by the beginning of 2020.

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