How to get, return, and track your ballot

Ballots can be dropped off at your local election office, and Boston is setting up multiple drop boxes throughout the city.

Delivery vehicles at a U.S. Postal Service facility in Darby, Pa., Aug, 13, 2020. President Donald Trump’s furious objection to mail-in balloting and a new Trump-allied postmaster general are raising fears about the election and the Postal Service. (Michelle Gustafson/The New York Times)
Delivery vehicles at a U.S. Postal Service facility in Darby, Pa., on Thursday. –Michelle Gustafson/The New York Times

Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation into law expanding both early and mail-in voting options due to the coronavirus pandemic ahead of the state’s primary and general elections.

There’s been much controversy around mail-in voting, with President Donald Trump saying he fears it will result in voter fraud and the U.S. Postal Service warning Massachusetts and other states that mail-in ballots could potentially arrive late and go uncounted. On Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he would suspend cost-cutting operational changes such as reducing post office hours, cutting overtime, and removing postal boxes until after the election amid backlash from Democrats and others that those changes could jeopardize mail-in voting, according to The New York Times.

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In Massachusetts, voters using mail-in ballots can personally deliver ballots in addition to mailing them in, according to Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office. Here’s how to obtain, return, and track your mail-in ballots.

Still need a mail-in ballot?

Fill out a 2020 Vote by Mail Application, send the signed application to your local election office, and you will be mailed a ballot to vote and return. Boston residents can also e-mail ballot applications to the Boston election office at absenteevoter@boston.gov or fax them to (617) 635-4483. Residents outside of Boston can find information about how to email or fax their local election office here.

You should apply as soon as possible, according to Galvin’s office, because it can take up to a week for mail to be delivered in one direction, and your local election official needs to receive your application at least four business days before the election you’re applying for. The office recommends applying at least two to three weeks before the election, which is Sept. 1 for the state primary and Nov. 3 for the general election.

Do I need to send an ID with my ballot?

You might, if you are a first-time voter in Massachusetts.

“First time voters in Massachusetts are sometimes required by federal law to present ID showing their name and the address where they registered to vote,” according to Galvin’s office. If you do, your local election official will send a notice with your ballot. You’ll need to send a copy of your ID on the outside of the ballot envelope since the envelope can’t be opened until it’s time to count the ballots.

How do I return my ballot?

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By mail or in person. If you are returning it by mail, use the pre-addressed, pre-stamped return envelope provided with the ballot.

If you are delivering the ballot in person, you can drop it off at your local election office or in an official ballot return drop box. Wondering where to find a drop box? Your local election office can tell you.

Where can I find a drop box?

Drop boxes are available for Boston residents at early voting locations from Aug. 22 through Aug. 28 ahead of the Sept. 1 state primary election, the city announced on Wednesday.

Here is the schedule:

Aug. 22-23
11 a.m. to 7 p.m.: East Boston High School Gymnasium, 86 White St., East Boston; James F. Condon School Cafeteria, 200 D St., South Boston; Richard J. Murphy School Cafeteria, 1 Worrell St., Dorchester; Thelma Burns Building, 575 Warren St., Boston; Another Course to College Cafeteria, 612 Metropolitan Ave., Hyde Park; Roche Community Center Gymnasium, 1716 Centre St., West Roxbury; Copley Square Library (McKim Building, 700 Boylston St., Back Bay; Jackson Mann School Auditorium, 500 Cambridge Street, Allston.

Aug. 24
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Boston City Hall, 1 City Hall Square, Boston

Aug. 25
9 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Boston City Hall, 1 City Hall Square, Boston
Noon to 8 p.m.: Harvard-Kent Elementary School, 50 Bunker Hill Street, Charlestown; Dewitt Center, 122 Dewitt Drive, Roxbury; BCYF Tobin Community Center (community room), 1481 Tremont Street, Roxbury; Honan-Allston Branch Library (community room), 300 North Harvard Street, Allston

Aug. 26
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Boston City Hall, 1 City Hall Square, Boston

Aug. 27
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Boston City Hall, 1 City Hall Square, Boston
Noon to 8 p.m.: BCYF Perkins Community Center/Lee School Gymnasium, 155 Talbot Avenue, Dorchester; Mildred Avenue School Gymnasium, 5 Mildred Avenue, Mattapan; Saint Nectarios Greek Church, Banquet Hall, 39 Belgrade Avenue, Roslindale; Margarita Muniz Academy Gymnasium, 20 Child Street, Jamaica Plain

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Aug. 28
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Boston City Hall, 1 City Hall Square, Boston

Where is my election office?

For those hand-delivering mail-in ballots, the Boston election office is at One City Hall Square, Room 241, in Boston. For those mailing their ballots, the address is as follows:

Elections Department
One City Hall Square
Room 241
Boston, MA 02201

Those who live outside of Boston can find the address of your local election office here.

When do I need to return my ballot?

For the Massachusetts primary, your ballot needs to be returned by 8 p.m. on Sept. 1, according to Galvin’s office.

For the election, mail-in ballots need to be postmarked by Nov. 3 and must reach your local election office by Nov. 6.

Those hand-delivering their state election ballot to either the local election office or a secure drop box must do so by 8 p.m. Nov. 3.

Ballots arriving from outside the country must be received by Nov. 13 and postmarked by election day.

Can I track my ballot?

Yes, you can track your ballot at TrackMyBallotMA.com. You’ll have access to the following information: whether your application has been received, the date your ballot is mailed, the date your ballot is received at your local election office, and whether your ballot has been accepted or rejected.

What if I’m worried that my ballot will not arrive in time to be counted?

Consider hand-delivering your ballot or voting in person.

How do I know my ballot was counted?

Your ballot will be counted in a public space, either at your polling place or at a central tabulation facility in your city or town, according to Galvin’s office.

You can confirm that your ballot was accepted here.

Why was my ballot rejected?

You probably didn’t sign the affidavit on your ballot envelope. You’ll be notified by your local election official if your ballot is rejected along with the reason why, and you’ll be sent a new ballot if there is time.

You also have the option of voting in person before 8 p.m. on Election Day.

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