Early voting for the state primary starts Saturday. Here’s what you need to know.

The state’s early voting period for the primary election stretches from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2.

The early voting period in Massachusetts begins on Aug. 27. Craig Lassig/The Boston Globe

The State Primary is now less than two weeks away, and Massachusetts residents will soon be able to start casting their ballots through early voting. 

Early voting is available to Massachusetts residents for both the state primary election and the general election. For the primary, the state’s early voting period stretches from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2. Early voting can be done either in-person or by mail. 

Voters must first be registered. That can be done online, by mail, or in-person. The deadline to register to vote in any election is 10 days prior to the date of the election or meeting.

Early in-person voting

To vote early in-person, residents must find their community’s early voting locations and schedule. Each city or town has the power to determine early voting hours and locations. But every municipality is required to offer early voting to residents for a minimum number of hours, which is determined by the city or town’s population. Early voting may not be available on every day between Aug. 27 and Sept. 2. 


The state offers an online tool for residents to find their community’s early voting information. 

The in-person early voting process works in a very similar fashion to voting on election day. Election officials will first check voters in at their polling places. After voting, ballots will be stored in a secure area to be counted on election day. 

Ballots are considered to be cast once they are accepted by an election official. Residents cannot take back their early ballot or vote again. Some cities and towns can begin counting early and absentee ballots before election day, but no results can be shared until after the polls close. 

All ballot counting takes place in public. Ballots are only able to be removed from their envelopes during public counting sessions at central tabulation facilities and at polling places on Election Day

Early voting by mail – applying for a ballot

Massachusetts voters all now have the option to vote early by mail, without an excuse. To request a vote by mail ballot, residents must submit a signed application to their local election office. 

Vote by mail application can be submitted online, by mail, by email, or by fax. The quickest way for registered voters to submit their applications is through the state’s online application system. The site will first prompt visitors to enter personal information so that their registration status can be confirmed. 


Those wishing to apply by mail can use the application postcards sent to them by the state, or by any other signed request. Every voter was sent a Vote by Mail application in July, according to the state. Another mailing will be sent next month to every voter that hasn’t already applied for a general election ballot. 

Residents who need another vote by mail application for whatever reason can download and print one from the state’s website.  Any written request with a voter’s signature is an acceptable application. Residents can simply write a signed letter to their local election office to apply for a ballot. 

Applications not submitted online must include a signature that can be compared to the voter’s hand-written signature. Electronic signatures, scanned applications, and photos of applications are acceptable.

However, typed signatures on applications won’t be accepted unless the voter requires accommodations due to physical disability. Voters who are unable to sign their applications or mark their ballots by hand due to a disability can find information on requesting an accommodation through the state’s website.  

All mail-in ballots must be requested in writing at least 5 business days before election day. The application deadline for this year’s Massachusetts primary is 5 p.m. on Aug. 29. Applications can only be accepted if they reach a local election office by the deadline.

Early voting by mail – returning a completed ballot

Completed ballots may be returned in a number of ways. They can be mailed back using the envelopes provided, hand delivered to a local election office, dropped at an early voting location during early voting hours, or dropped in a secure drop box provided by a city or town. 


Ballots cannot be dropped off at a polling place on election day.

Ballots must reach local election offices by 8 p.m. on election day to be counted. If a ballot arrives after that time, even if it has been postmarked before election day, it won’t be counted. 

The state offers an online tool for residents to track their ballots. The tool shows the date the ballot was mailed, the date it was returned and whether or not it was accepted or rejected. 

Absentee ballots

On top of early voting by mail, Massachusetts also offers absentee voting for those who qualify. Early vote by mail ballots are more common, but special circumstances can require a voter to apply for an absentee ballot instead. 

To qualify for an absentee ballot, voters must either be away from their city or town on election day, have a disability that keeps them from voting at their polling place, or have a religious belief that prevents them from voting at their polling place on election day. 

Absentee voters use the same ballots as early voters and have the same deadlines for returning their ballots. Most who qualify for an absentee ballot can instead choose to apply for an early vote by mail ballot. 
But some voters need to fill out an absentee ballot application. This applies to citizens residing overseas, citizens on active military duty, citizens who are currently incarcerated for a reason other than a felony conviction, and citizens who are hospitalized.


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