Voting Rights in Massachusetts

Watching events in Washington with disappointment, many have reached out to me to check in on voting rights in Massachusetts. Here is where we stand.

There is a strong consensus in both branches of the state legislature to continue improving access to the ballot. Both branches have voted for extension of mail-in voting and the senate has voted for a broader package of reforms. All agree that we need to get a strong package across the finish line soon. While we may differ as to some elements, there is little prospect of the philosophical deadlock we have seen in Washington.

The most important reform is permanent no-excuse mail-in voting for all elections. We started that system as a public health priority when COVID hit, but it also creates valuable flexibility for voters. In state/federal election years, the secretary of state would mail out ballot applications to every registered voter on July 15. Local election officials would mail ballots to those who send in their application. Return postage would be guaranteed for both the ballot application and for the ballot. For other elections, local officials would send out applications by request. Ballots mailed before the election and received by the third day after the election would be counted.

Additionally, the senate package requires a period of early voting in-person — voters could come to a polling place and vote during the two weeks before a state/federal general election or one week before a primary. Municipalities would have an option to allow early in-person voting for local elections.

The senate bill also includes a requirement to allow same-day registration on election day or during the early in-person voting period.

All three of these measures substantially increase voter access, but increase the work load on our election officers. The senate package does include changes to make the process more manageable. Traditional in-person voting involves the following steps for poll workers: Identify and check a voter off as they walk in, hand them a ballot, check them off again as they walk out. Mail-in voting involves many more steps — ballot applications need to be mailed out (by the secretary of state or by a local election official); when the ballot application is returned, a ballot package with an outer return mailing envelope and an inner secrecy envelope needs to be assembled and mailed; and then when the ballot is returned, it needs to be checked off the voter list, opened in a way that preserves voter privacy, run through the voting machine and checked off on a second control list. As in traditional in-person voting, records must be maintained at each step and ultimately reconciled with other records.

The senate bill allows poll workers to spread out the additional work by running ballots into the voting machines as they come in over the days before the election (without actually running a tabulation of results). Additionally, the senate bill makes optional the secondary check-off of voters after the ballot is cast.

In addition to these basic expansions of access for all voters, the senate bill includes provisions to make voting easier for people with disabilities and for people in jail. Voters with disabilities will be able request accommodations from the secretary of state for voting by mail in state elections. People in jail who are eligible to vote will be provided with voting information and necessary materials, but voting eligibility rules will not change. Massachusetts denies offenders the right to vote only while they are incarcerated after conviction for a felony; incarcerated people do remain eligible if they are awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted and they become eligible again after their release from prison.

Finally, the bill requires the Commonwealth to start working with the Electronic Registration Information Center and share data with other states to identify people who have moved, remove them from their old addresses, and help them re-register in their new addresses.

I am hopeful that we will put a reform package that includes most of these elements on the Governor’s desk soon.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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105 Comments

  1. I am in favor of all voters using paper ballots, whether in-person or vote-by-mail. Paper ballots are saved for verification, if necessary.

      1. But they are not talking about requiring voter ID, are they? That would be such an imposition. However, you need an ID to go to and sit down in in a local pizza place. Those are fine examples of the Democratic Party intelligent thinking.

        1. I recently needed an ID to pay with a major credit card for $25.00 at a Chinatown supermarket. I also needed to show an ID to buy wine in Belmont, even though I am decades past my 21 years. I could go on.

          Dems argue that some would not have an ID to produce because they can’t get it, they can’t pay for it, etc., etc. Really? What’s the real reason they do not want Voter ID?

          1. Agree. The argument that Dems make is that black people can’t afford or figure out how to obtain ID. This is an unbelievably racist argument, but yet this is what the Democrats say. Makes perfect sense when realize Dems were party of slavery and Jim Crow laws.

        2. Are you talking about a proof of vaccination? That isn’t an ID, doesn’t cost anything (unlike a driver’s license) and isn’t a hidden poll tax, in violation of the 24th amendment (if the corrupt Supreme Court would actually enforce it.) Also, the requirement of proof of vaccination (a public health measure) only applies for the duration of the pandemic. You are so, so wrong.

          1. Yet what has been laid out as the criteria for the ‘duration of the pandemic’? Michelle Wu has 5 yr olds requiring a shot in May on her schedule. Already in S. Africa and parts of Europe credible scientists are talking about Omicron infection being at the lower level of considered an endemic. Somehow this conversation has slipped away from us..So, again, anyone know what this expectation is, based on science and where other countries are at with this?

            We had a schedule of reopening which went to the wind in 2020. Ok, new crisis. But any evaluation on this one?

            Just mandates forever? I think this is a valid unanswered question..

            1. See Klaus Schwab and WEF group to see the future these technocrats have planned. In fact, meeting right now…more to come.

            2. that’s too bad about the 5 year olds because our CDC Director Rochelle Walensky made an announcement last week that the shots can no longer stop transmission or infection. And the risk of cv19 has always been described as so statistically low for children to at essense be zero. More children died of the common cold than cv19 the first year of the pandemic. When cv19 was still resulting in patients being placed on ventilators. Not one patient with Omicron (95% of current cases per CDC) has needed to be placed on a ventilator. My husband works at Longwood Medical Center and one of the Dr.’s he works with today said cv19 is now endemic. No longer a pandemic. So, if the shots are not really about health at this point, it makes me wonder about a lot of other “emergency authorized” measures that many of us have been subjected too, that Will has been supporting. This issue of the need to losen voting restrictions included.

            3. Thanks Mark, finally got around to reading your link on ‘Global reset’..refreshing it is!
              Thanks!

            4. My understanding is that the ICU is already filled daily: by others-heart, infection, diabetes, cancer especially..so Omicron patients are bumping others out somewhat..but how much? They overfill all Omicron? Really?
              Seems like news reporting depicts Covid patients as the only ones taking up all the space in these ICU units.. Thanks for your straightforward comments.

          1. PJ, can anyone answer my question on the anticipated end of mandates? Baseeded on what criteria..why is this a complicated question? After 4 or 5 boosters? I really feel stupid..

            1. The vision is to keep in place. You will have an App which will record many more things beside your medical status and whether you are up to date on your govt ordered shots. Banking, travel, work, your carbon credit allotment, will all be dictated by your social credit score on said app. Basically, the China model.

          2. Unfortunately, the Voter ID ballot initiative effort fell short of the required 80,000+ certified signatures and will not be on the 11/8/22 ballot.

      2. Photo ID, absolutely!! But is that required for write in ballots; how could it be applied.

  2. Will, Thank you for your support of legislation to make registration and voting easier. As a member of the Board of Registrars of Voters in Belmont, I know that these changes will further tax the resources of our Town Clerk’s office and I’m guessing that Belmont’s situation is not unique. Please make sure that this vital legislation is accompanied by the additional funding that will be necessary to smoothly and successfully implement it.

    1. You want non-citizens to vote here as they have the right to do in NYC?
      How about illegal aliens?
      Go ahead, avoid the questions.
      Your silence tells us a lot.

      1. Non-citizens are allowed to vote for local candidates where they reside and pay taxes. What possible non-xenophobic objection could you have to that? It has nothing to do with *illegal aliens*.

        1. “What possible non-xenophobic objection could you have to that?” How about people not wanting to see their taxes go up to fund the never ending freebies for unemployable or low skill people who need to be subsidized in practically every aspect of their lives? How about not wanting any of the defund police nonsense? How about not wanting to have overdevelopment that non-citizens who want cheap housing will be voting for? How about not wanting the English language to be displaced as the main language? How about not wanting to feel like a stranger in your own country? (And I’m saying this as a well assimilated immigrant.)

        2. That’s not true.
          Only in very limited localities in the US is a mere resident who is not a citizen allowed to vote.
          You have to be a citizen to vote.
          Please educate yourself.

  3. Thanks for that update, Will! Same-day voter registration seems to be something that voting rights activists have identified as particularly impactful in expanding access. I hope that will be included in the final bill!

    1. No, we should all be opposed to same day registration. Why would anyone be in favor of that? Please explain. Voting should be accessible, but not so easy that it makes cheating easy.

      1. They will never tell us the real reason why they want same day registration, such as you correctly noted: cheating. Next they will want two-week, after-election day registration and voting.
        What’s wrong with an earlier deadline to register to vote; 30, 60, 90 days? I would like to hear the reasons against it. Please dispense with “expanding access”.

        1. It’s really pretty simple as to why Same Day Registration is needed. If you move from one town to another on 9/1 and there is a primary election on 9/13, you wouldn’t be able to vote at your new address if there is a 2+ week registration requirement. Same would be true if you had an 11/1 lease and the election was on 11/8. Same Day Registration would fix that and there are still all sorts of penalties for falsifying information.

            1. It does seem pointless to pass such legislation in Massachusetts. Most races don’t even have a competitor as is so rigged. When we do have a choice it’s usually just a matter of how much of a Marxist you want representing you. No real choice.

          1. Same registration would allow some determined people who live close to state lines or municipal borders to vote more than once – and you know it, but prefer to disregard. And it would not be possible to detect such fraud because of complexity and the time-consuming nature of such a task.

    2. “Same day registration” is that what they mean by “vote early vote often”?
      Same day registration allows some to cheat in an election same as ballot harvesting.
      To preserve the integrity of an election same day registration and ballot harvesting cannot be an option.
      If you are moving residency vote early, that is an option.
      There is too much mistrust in government and the voting system, something needs to be done to restore the trust.

  4. I am an elderly female with limited mobility. I have always voted when I could get to the my voting place. But over the last few years my mobility has gotten worse and I had to voting. But when Watertown implement mail in voting I was able to vote again. Please keep the mail in voting available to citizens who want to vote are not able to get to a poll or stand in line for a period of time.
    There are a number of elderly who are not disable, but it is difficult for them to get to the polls and stand in line or walk around the set up area to vote.

    1. People with mobility issues were always able to request a mail-in ballot. All these current democratic party “Voting Rights” initiatives are suspicious because they make cheating easier, plus they undermine voters’ privacy. There is no way to verify authenticity of millions of signatures on mail-in ballots. Also, the individuals who open and process those ballots may be highly partisan and yet can look at the ballots. It is not inconceivable that some ballots may be “disappeared”. Why do we need all those changes now? Are Beacon Hill movers and shakers saying that our state did not have a proper and reliable voting system before? How come? They have been in control for decades, but are now suddenly concerned about our voting procedures. Well, everyone knows why.

        1. What makes you think that poll watchers will be allowed everywhere where mail-in votes will be counted? Also, I’ve seen video footage of citizen poll watchers being pushed beyond where they could observe anything during the 2020 election.

        2. I have done poll watching and you know what I saw older white people get out of line or walk around with there ballots to talk to is or other voters. The poll workers had to repeatedly to go back. I had to say repeatedly I am not allowed to talk to you. A couple of times a cop had to walk over. Most of the cops were friendly and helpful. One cop though stared down the poll watchers and only took breaks to urinate or recharge his phone so he could watch YouTube. Other voters were orderly and followed the process. One older gentleman even asked me who he should vote for and had to tell him I couldn’t talk to him. By the way voting by mail and my company making election day a holiday allowed me the time to sit at a polling place that was not mine own to do this service. I plan on doing it again this year.

          1. Ignore the typos and grammatical errors. I have fat thumbs and autocorrect is not my friend. I am better with a laptop.

  5. Thanks Will, for shedding light on something I didn’t even realize I was interested in. I feel as if writing into law that it would always take a full 3 days to know the outcome of any election seems a bit too long, to me, though.

      1. If the vast majority of people vote by mail, there will be many late arriving ballots – for the same reason people are often late paying their bills or taking care of other such chores.

  6. 100% in agreement. If you are able to get to vote in person, no need for mail in votes. Accommodations have always been made for extenuating circumstances. ID should be mandatory! Not in favor of same day registration, plan ahead. It’s our civic duty to vote and take it seriously.

  7. I bet Will secretly likes New York City’s enabling 800,000 non-citizens to vote.
    Perhaps he will state his opinion now as to whether he would oppose such a move in Massachusetts. No, I don’t think he will.
    Too risky.
    That’s where the Democrats are headed.
    Voting for illegal aliens too.
    Cheapen and degrade voting.
    That’s the goal.

      1. I don’t think they are blind to this danger. They know exactly what they are doing. Massachusetts is essentially a one party state so largely irrelevant. The elections are looking identical to the show elections in the old Soviet Union. As Chairman Joe Biden recently said “The fight is not about who gets to vote, it’s about who counts the vote”.

        1. Thanks Mark, Eva, and Lisa.

          A major problem is that Will is surrounded by constituents who agree with him whatever he says or does.

    1. I actually do not favor allowing non-citizens to vote. Voting is the core privilege that comes from citizenship — it is available to those who have made a permanent commitment to our country through becoming citizens.

      1. Thanks for clarifying, Will.

        I did not think you did, but I thought a good purpose would be served by having your position clearly stated.

      2. I am shocked! In a positive sense. But it remains to be seen if you would oppose non-citizen voting if your party pushes for it in Massachusetts.

      3. Nicely said, but I don’t believe you, Will.
        If Boston (which you partly represent) decided like NYC to allow non-citizens to vote, I don’t think you would fight against it. You would go along with what the Democratic Party wants even if you would not necessarily be the first one to propose it. You see what I mean?
        Maybe I’m wrong but I believe that.
        Just like I believe that there is no restrictive Covid mandate in the entire USA that you don’t agree with.
        For example, if local boards voted to mandates masks outdoors, you’d say OK.
        Look, Mayor Wu just imposed a very tough mandate so that restaurants etc. etc. in Boston MUST check vaccine status to be let in.
        Why not in Watertown and Belmont? Why not fight for in these two towns what part of your constituency must adhere to in Boston?

  8. After receiving two letters about mail-in options, I requested a mail in ballot last time and… it never came! Gee, think it was because I was registered as an R?? I’ve also registered as D in past to vote in primary. Went to town hall and voted anyway but just hope my vote was COUNTED. I sometimes wonder if it does and that’s not good.

    1. Well, remember Lisa, as Joe Biden said the other day (agreeing with Stalin) ‘ it doesn’t matter who votes, it only matters who counts the votes”.

  9. Great work by the legislature. Wishing this philosophy were more wide-spread across the nation. I, for one, am working with several networks to help GOTV in every state.

    1. For which party? If only for one of them, you’re reinforcing the one-party system we have – which is nothing to be happy about. If I wanted to live in a one-party state, I would move to China.

    1. Right.

      Paper ballots, no mail-in ballots, and check IDs at the polling place.
      Absentee ballots, yes, if the signature is checked (they often are not in big cities, let’s be honest about that), and if there is some additional check such as a notary stamp or a witness.

      Do any of you know that partisan people for years have into nursing homes and fooled the confused seniors there to either sign Mass. Initiative Petitions or cast an absentee ballot?
      Takes place throughout the country. Big, well-known scam that people get prosecuted for.
      >>>Most of you don’t know that cities and states throughout the country have more voters on the rolls than there are adults over 18<<<
      That's against Federal law.
      I bet Will knows that even if he does not tell you.
      The group Judicial Watch has filed suits but many states still don't obey the law.
      There is LOADS of voter fraud. Always has been.
      Look it up.
      You can't just read the Boston Globe.

  10. This is great and I hope that these measures are taken up quickly. Thank you for your clarity and work.

  11. Fair and Free Elections is the Foundation of our Democratic Republican.
    It’s a no trainer.

  12. Sad! Mail-in voting is good enough for Utah and many other western states. Gee, I wonder why? Voter ID = Suppression. People who fear democracy do not deserve any power. If one’s ideas are good, then one should compete in open elections. Why do voices about one’s ideas have to be silenced? It shows that suppressors have ideas that are not good enough. Sad indeed! I hope upcoming generations are not as fearful, fear-mongering, anti-competition or anti-democracy.

    1. Funny how flexible the anti democracy forces are! When it is convenient for the very conservative voters in rural western states, they are all for it. When it helps poorer people in urban areas in the midst of a 100-year pandemic, not so good.

      1. I know. It is ok for very white states like Utah, where some of my relatives, to 100 percent mail on voting. My relatives, most of who are conversation, see no problem with mail in voting without excuse. For them it is pure convenience.

    2. Voter ID = Suppression?

      Passport to board a plane = Suppression to travel
      ID to pay with a check = Suppression to buy things
      ID to check at MGH = Suppression to receive medical care
      I think not.

      No one is trying to “silence” anyone. We are not “suppressors”; we just want to know that you are whoever you say you are when circumstances warrant it – as the modicum of samples above would give a clue to those who needed.

      1. Erik – you’re 100% correct. It amazes me that so many people uncritically accept the partisan narrative that characterizes voter ID as a tool of voter suppression. If you love your country, and want peaceful transfer of power following an election, you would want to make sure that we have a system whose integrity is beyond reproach (and that involves voter ID – normal and required in other countries, so why not here?).

        1. Other countries also make election day a holiday and some even compel voting. So if you want to do what other countries do then let’s make election day a holiday. After all, they do it in other countries.

      2. Why are you looking for a solution to a problem that does not exist? Less than 2 percent fraud has been found by various think tanks on the left and right. The ex president stopped his own study when he found that when there is fraud it is usually committed by white older wealthy Republicans who apparently can’t remember if the are registered at their primary or secondary residence. How is voter fraud even possible? One would have to know who has already voted, where and how. The only logical reason for voter ID is to suppress youth, disabled, elderly and people of color because they very likely to vote against Republicans. If it really was about voter ID then everyone should be issued one at birth like a social security card. However, if that were to happen then I am sure there’d another excuse to prevent more voting. This is about making voting harder so that only certain populations get to vote. It is an access problem. Close things up so that there is no open competition. It is autocracy not democracy. And it is shameful. Really what are you afraid of?

      3. I have never had to use an ID at MGH or to pay by check. The id to board a plane has do with terrorism. Are you anticipating terrorist attacks at polling places?

        1. Why are Democrats so against showing an ID to VOTE but adamantly in favor of showing proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant? Even a 5 year old needs to prove vax status to eat at chucky cheese.

        2. I guess analogies may be elusive for some.
          You haven’t been to a hospital lately. Proof of ID is a must; saying otherwise is simply not true.
          It doesn’t matter that y o u don’t pay by check. Everybody else at a store must produce an ID.
          Try flying to another country without a passport. It’s not just about “terrorism”. Finally, my concerns about polling places include the presence of leftist ideologues – and voter fraud. Sorry, that was another analogy…

        3. I guess analogies may be elusive for some.
          You haven’t been to a hospital lately. Proof of ID is a must; saying otherwise is simply not true.
          It doesn’t matter that y o u don’t pay by check. Everybody else at a store must produce an ID.
          Try flying to another country without a passport. It’s not just about “terrorism”. Finally, my concerns about polling places include the presence of leftist ideologues – and voter fraud. Sorry, that was another analogy…

    3. If you have to drive over an hour to vote I think mail in ballots should be allowed.
      When there is 20 registered voters per square mile, mail in ballots should be allowed.
      When I can walk down the street and vote, why do I need mail in ballots? besides wasting taxpayers money!

  13. Thank you for the update, and thank you for working to preserve the voting rights of people who are in jail even though they haven’t been convicted of a crime.

  14. i think we need to have ID to vote it will be fast to look up name of person that want to vote it we have Ipad at the poll booth

  15. To see our right-wing friends labelling Biden, the NYC machine, and the Massachusetts Dems as “Marxists” is side-splittingly funny to actual Marxists. Whose usual retort to such bizarre accusations is “We wish!”

      1. …and is being funded by the Fortune 500, then it has to be a Democrat or a Republican. Tweedledum and Tweedledee divvying up the bribes, lol!

    1. They make every Russian autocrat smile from Svyatoslav to Ivan the iv to Nicholas the I and II to Stalin and finally to Putin. When I read Russian history in college, I never thought I’d see such actions and thoughts in our own country. Never. Even when I heard the definition of Communism in high school, I thought well that will collapse on its own. It’s not sustainable. What school did was make us think Communism was the end all and be all of Russia’s terribleness, but Russia’s terribleness goes back centuries and continues today. Russian soldiers in World War II were brutalizers, unlike those of Western allies rescued the oppressed. It has always been opposed to our Western, democratic roots because it is so feudal. Where have our roots gone? Why are we copying Eastern Europe? So sad.

  16. Thank you Will for the update and for working to make voting more accessible for every registered voter. To those commenters who insist on paper ballots, I will point out that some of us can’t see well enough to mark a paper ballot yet still deserve the same access to mail in voting that is offered to others. Hence, voting online is also needed. Thank you Will for supporting this option.

  17. President Biden did not say,
    “The fight is not about who gets to vote, it’s about who counts the vote”.
    This quote has been taken out of context for the expressed purpose of distorting what he said to spread disinformation and create more discord.

    Speaking in the Atlanta University Center Consortium
    in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 11, 2022, here is what he said as part of his 30-minute speech:

    “It’s not just here in Georgia. Last year alone, 19 states not proposed but enacted 34 laws attacking voting rights. There were nearly 400 additional bills Republican members of state legislatures tried to pass. And now, Republican legislators in several states have already announced plans to escalate the onslaught this year.
    Their endgame? To turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion — something states can respect or ignore.

    Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion. It’s no longer about who gets to vote; it’s about making it harder to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.

    It’s not hyperbole; this is a fact.”
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/01/11/remarks-by-president-biden-on-protecting-the-right-to-vote/.

    1. Obviously Biden did not mean to say “It’s about who gets to count the vote…”. Hard to follow his ramblings or keep up with his gaffes. As a lifelong politician, he was more skilled at hiding meaning and redirecting. His obvious dementia is making him slip up and say things he shouldn’t. He needs to be removed via the 25th amendment.

      1. “His obvious dementia is making him slip up and say”
        We need him for another three years, god only knows what else he will “say”.

  18. Hand-counted paper ballots
    Voter ID
    No mail-ins except for Absentee ballots
    U.S citizens only
    Election Integrity is essential, before anything else

  19. Hi Will,
    I just want to tell you how much I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to setup these chats with people to share our thoughts. I don’t know if other Senators are doing this in MA but it’s a great idea and I thank you.
    Stay healthy and thank you for supporting us.

  20. I would just like to comment that this process — of Will inviting constituent comments — seems to contribute to participation in civic involvement. Because we are invited to speak, we pay attention, think and share our comments and thoughts. I think this is what government should be, and I am glad Will is engaged in this type of citizen input and that you all are engaged in the process. Thank you.

  21. I’m not a fan of voter ID, or other poll tests, hurtles, or taxes. They offer a gigaton of suppression for a nanogram of double voting, or like fraud. Enfranchisement is the only prerequisite to vote and the best path to opportunity and liberty.

  22. I don’t hear out loud the fears that are couched in voter ID and other stop the steal proponents. Sure, I hear the pop psychology and political analysis of those covering the phenomenon, but I don’t hear the, “whys,” from the horse’s mouth, just the, “whats.” Yes, voting early and often is bad. Fruad is bad in principle, but it’s a red herring. Beyond the principle of fraud, I haven’t heard voter ID, or other sts explain why access to the polls/one man one vote is a problem. Is there a fear that practical universal suffrage is tantamount to surrender the vote to whoever buys airtime, or what have you?

  23. Last year, the pandemic provisions were not renewed in time for many towns that hold spring elections. Practically speaking, spring elections require a considerable lead time in order to prepare for the election. This is particularly important if the town wants to mail out applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters.
    I hope the legislature will act quickly, so towns are not closed out of these reforms for their 2022 municipal elections.

  24. Thank you so much for this comprehensive update! I am watching the progress of this issue and care deeply about making voting “easy” (and secure) for ALL eligible voters. I particularly appreciate the focus on disabled and other voters who can’t visit the polls in person. Personally, in 2020 I voted at home on a mailed ballot and left it inside my town’s dropbox. Everyone should be able to do this.

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