Minority voters sue Mass. over failure to send mail-in ballot applications

"It is clear that Secretary Galvin has not taken the steps required to mail applications to voters, as state law demands."

Massachusetts  Secretary of State William Galvin.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin. –Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

BOSTON (AP) — A group of minority voters filed a petition Monday urging Massachusetts’ highest court to order the state to send applications to request a mail-in ballot to voters this week.

The petition was brought by a group of Black, Latino and Asian-American voters and the organizations Common Cause Massachusetts and MassVOTE, who say the court must step in to “ensure that the Commonwealth’s citizens may safely vote in the upcoming elections, despite the ongoing viral pandemic.”

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed a bill into law that will allow any registered voter to vote by mail for the remaining 2020 elections, including the Sept. 1 state primary and Nov. 3 general election. In addition, in-person voting will be expanded, in an effort to make voting more convenient, and also reduce the risk of crowding in polling places.

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The law requires Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin to send applications to request a mail-in ballot to voters by July 15, the petition says. But Galvin has said he won’t be able to meet the July 15 deadline since lawmakers haven’t given him the funding to send the applications.

Oren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights said the lawsuit was “the only available option to protect the health of voters, poll workers, and our democracy.” The voters say it will be hard for them to request mail-in ballots if they don’t receive the applications by mail because they have limited access to computers or printers.

“It is clear that Secretary Galvin has not taken the steps required to mail applications to voters, as state law demands. We hope to resolve this quickly because delay comes at the expense of those in our communities who are most vulnerable, particularly those historically disenfranchised who need safe ballot access the most,” Sellstrom, litigation director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, which is representing the voters, said in an emailed statement.

Debra O’Malley, a spokesperson for Galvin, said in an email that the application mailing is being printed and “can be mailed out as soon as funding for postage has been provided.”

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She said a $5 million supplemental appropriation has already passed the state Senate and they hope the final supplemental budget “will contain that funding and will be passed soon, so we can use those funds to pay for the postage on the mailing.”

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