Galvin 'more concerned about voters' rights than I am about the rules'
BOSTON >> With the first run of early voting in Massachusetts set to begin in just more than a month, Secretary of State William Galvin said Tuesday he is confident the law that allows pre-Election Day voting "is legal and will be successful."
Galvin responded to a letter Woburn City Clerk William Campbell wrote to Attorney General Maura Healey last week asking for an official review of the law that will allow voters to begin casting ballots up to 11 business days before the Nov. 8 general election.
Campbell wrote in his letter, which was copied to Galvin, that the state constitution prescribes that elections for members of the Governor's Council, senators and representatives shall be held biennially on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Early voting, which was approved in a 2014 package of election law reforms, is being added this year to absentee voting -- which is the only alternative in the constitution to voting on Election Day that allows voters to cast ballots ahead of an election should an absence from their home town, a disability, or a religious belief prevent them from voting at their polling location.
Campbell posited in his letter that based on those narrow exemptions in the constitution, the only way early voting could be considered legitimate under the constitution would be an interpretation that each day of the early voting period is an election day.
"I think the distinction Mr. Campbell is trying to make is an interesting legal issue, perhaps, but I don't think it's meaningful, to be very honest," Galvin said.
The secretary added, "I don't think Mr. Campbell is insincere in his inquiry, I respect Mr. Campbell, but it's the type of thing...it's a bureaucratic type of thing and that's very reasonable but, frankly, I'm more concerned about voters' rights than I am about the rules."
Campbell ran unsuccessfully against Galvin for secretary of state in 2010 as a Republican, and has run once before for state representative.
Campbell suggested in his letter that the "legitimacy of any election conducted using these early voting provisions" could be in jeopardy due to the "statutory procedures which are in conflict with constitutional restrictions."
But Galvin said Tuesday he is not concerned about the constitutionality of early voting and is looking forward to the launch of the program on Oct. 24.
"I'm quite confident that if a challenge were to be brought, which I doubt will, but if a challenge were to be brought, I think we would prevail," he said. "I think Massachusetts courts in particular have been very clear in trumping the voters' rights over that of the bureaucracy."
In a 2013 effort spearheaded by then-Senate President Therese Murray, lawmakers meeting in a Constitutional Convention advanced a proposal that would have changed the state constitution to allow for early voting, but it would have required a ballot referendum that would have been decided by voters this November had lawmakers gone that route.
Galvin at the time supported an early voting constitutional amendment, which he called "absentee without any excuses." On Tuesday, Galvin said a constitutional amendment "was not absolutely necessary" and said a statutory approval of early voting "was a better way to do it, I think."
Absentee voting, he said, is different than early voting -- which the constitution is silent on. Because the constitution details the requirements for absentee voting, expanding that program would require an amendment, Galvin has said.
"All we're really doing is extending the timeline. The Legislature has had for a long time the right to prescribe hours. For instance, the statewide polling hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. is something the Legislature required," Galvin said. "So to suggest that somehow the Legislature doesn't have the power to provide manner and methods of voting, I don't think is realistic."
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