Politics

Mass. lawmakers unveil compromise voting rights bill

The legislation now goes back to House and Senate chambers for debate.

Election officials sort absentee and early voting ballots for counting inside Boston City Hall, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Boston. The bill would also increase ballot access for voters with disabilities and service members overseas and more. AP Photo/Elise Amendola


BOSTON (AP) — Mail-in ballots and early voting — popular options used to cast ballots in Massachusetts during the 2020 pandemic-era election — would become permanent features of the state’s political landscape under a compromise version of a voting overhaul bill unveiled Wednesday at the Statehouse.

The bill would also increase ballot access for voters with disabilities and service members overseas; make sure eligible voters who are incarcerated are able to request a mail ballot and vote; and takes steps to modernize the state’s election administration process, according to lawmakers.

The legislation — a compromise version of separate bills approved earlier by House and Senate lawmakers — now goes back to both chambers for debate. The Senate could take up the measure as early as Thursday.

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The final bill does not include any provisions that would allow individuals to both register and vote on Election Day, despite efforts by the Senate to offer multiple compromise approaches, according to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem.

More than 3.6 million residents cast ballots in the state’s 2020 general election, totaling 76% of all registered voters. Of those, 42% voted by mail in the general election. Another 23% voted during early voting windows.

The bill would allow registered voters to vote by mail for any presidential, state or municipal primary or election; set aside two weeks — including two weekends — of early voting in-person for biennial state elections and one week — including one weekend — for presidential or state primaries; and move the voter registration deadline from 20 to 10 days before a preliminary, primary, or general election.

Voting rights advocates urged both chambers to approve the bill.

“Voting by mail and in-person early voting made it easier and safer for people to vote during the pandemic and should continue to improve turnout in our elections,” said Patricia Comfort, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

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