BOSTON — With the country on the edge of its seat as votes continue to be tallied in key swing states that will decide the presidency, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito encouraged residents planning to demonstrate Wednesday to do so peacefully and called for every vote to be counted.
Secretary of State William Galvin delivered a similar message about counting every vote, and he singled out President Donald Trump and his rhetoric surrounding mail-in ballots as "deceitful." The Democrat declared vote-by-mail a success in Massachusetts and one he now will work to make permanent in Massachusetts.
"The United States of America depends on every American having the freedom to cast their vote and for every vote to be counted. Every American, regardless of political affiliation, especially the President and every candidate on the ballot, should be united in supporting this process," Baker and Polito said in a statement released Wednesday, as ballot counting continued in Massachusetts and around the country.
Beginning early Wednesday morning, Trump began alleging "fraud" in the voting process, and as states like Michigan and Wisconsin that once looked good for the president drifted toward Joe Biden's column, he amped up that rhetoric.
"How come every time they count Mail-In ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction?," the president tweeted.
Galvin held a news conference outside the Statehouse, where he said he was "increasingly convinced" that the final raw vote tally in Massachusetts will approach the 3.6 million votes he predicted ahead of the election and set a record in the state.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, over 3.4 million votes had been cast, according to The Associated Press. In 2016, which lacked the widespread mail-in voting that occurred this year, 3.38 million people in Massachusetts voted.
"Yesterday was a great day for democracy in Massachusetts," Galvin said.
Galvin said now that the election was over, he would convene a working group and consult with the city and town clerks associations to put together a package for the Legislature "very very soon" to make voting by mail a permanent part of the process in Massachusetts. House Speaker Robert DeLeo told the News Service on Tuesday that, before he committed to such a step, he wanted to hear about what worked and what didn't on Election Day.
Galvin said some of the issues he intends to look at will be whether to shorten the timeline for mail-in voting in future elections, and whether it should be used in municipal elections, or made a local option.
He also said that he intends to request additional money this year from the Legislature to cover some local expenses related to early and mail-in voting this cycle. Despite the popularity of voting by mail this cycle, many clerks have said the workload and expense of hiring workers to process ballots could not be sustained long term.
"If vote by mail continues as I believe it will and should, we're going to have to provide resources to local officials," Galvin said.
While the margins for president in Massachusetts were much wider than in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, where control of the White House will be decided, Galvin said there is no excuse for Trump sowing doubt about whether ballots legally cast by mail should be counted after Election Day.
"The idea that you would somehow disqualify the rights of voters simply because you're ahead is unacceptable and un-American, and criminal, because these people have a right to vote and they have voted and they need to be counted," he said. "Every vote should be counted, whether it was for him or not for him."
In Massachusetts, as in Pennsylvania and other states, ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can be delivered by mail up until 5 p.m. Friday and still be counted. Galvin said that, as of about 4 p.m. Tuesday, there were about 180,000 early ballots that had been provided to voters and not yet returned, but the secretary said many of those voters could have chosen to vote in person either early or on Election Day.
"We knew we would never go to zero," Galvin said.
Baker voted by mail and said Tuesday that he blanked his ballot for president for the second consecutive cycle, declining to vote for either Trump or Biden.
"Regardless of who wins this election, the challenges facing the Commonwealth and the nation remain: defeating the pandemic, rebuilding the economy, and supporting those who need help in these difficult days," Baker and Polito said in their statement. "When the results are finally determined, we are hopeful that all candidates, especially the two running for the most powerful office in the world, set aside partisanship to improve the lives of all Americans."
The two Republicans continued, "While many anxiously await the results of this critically important election everyone must exercise their First Amendment right peacefully if they choose to do so, and we ask everyone to be respectful of one another."
With protests expected Wednesday afternoon and evening, many businesses in downtown Boston, including Macy's, had plywood covering their windows.
The ACLU of Massachusetts, the NAACP Boston branch, Indivisible Mass Coalition and other groups planned a news conference and rally at the Parkman Bandstand in Boston Common at 3 p.m. to call for every vote to be counted. Another rally and march is being planned for Nubian Square on Wednesday night.
In Massachusetts with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Biden had nearly 66 percent of the vote to Trump's 32.4 percent, outperforming Hillary Clinton in the traditionally Democratic stronghold from four years ago.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Wednesday that turnout in his city was about 63.51 percent, or slightly below 2016 levels, as election workers continued to count mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday.
The mayor called for people to be patient as tallying continues in other states.
"No one should be calling to stop the count, or talking about fraud while election workers are trying to do their job," he said. "It's the right of Americans and people everywhere to have their voices heard. We need to make sure that every single vote is counted, and I know the situation certainly has many anxious and some people are looking for opportunities to speak out during this time. I would just ask everyone, again, to do it peacefully and constructively."
Walsh said he was expecting to see demonstrations in Boston over the next few days but was "not concerned about violence in the city," where he said protesters have proved they can demonstrate peacefully.
He asked that any marchers wear masks, and Police Commissioner William Gross asked that anyone expressing their opinions do so "with the voices of logic, not the ignorance of destruction."
The close presidential race "just shows you how divided our country is," Walsh said.
"After this election, regardless of who wins, we have work to do," he said.