Mail-in vote

Volunteers prepare ballots and voting materials at the Pittsfield, Mass., City Hall, Friday, October 9, 2020. Massachusetts' vote-by-mail laws are set to expire next week.

With vote-by-mail laws set to expire next week, the state's top election official is calling on lawmakers to act quickly on an extension, warning upcoming local elections stand to be affected and voters in several cities might be unable to submit vote-by-mail applications for fall elections.

House and Senate Democrats who run both branches of the Legislature agree on the idea of extending vote-by-mail laws but haven't sent a consensus proposal to Gov. Charlie Baker, who has previously heralded the successes of mail-in voting and early voting reforms.

"Several local elections being held in July will be affected. Moreover, several large cities including Boston have active preliminary elections scheduled for September 14, 2021, less than 90 days from now. For budgetary and planning purposes these cities must have clarity," Galvin wrote in a letter released by his office Tuesday morning to House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka.

The House has added a permanent extension to a supplemental spending bill that the Senate is scheduled to consider Thursday, though the Senate legislation as drafted does not address mail-in voting.

The Senate passed a plan to extend mail-in voting until December, but that provision was dropped in talks with the House over a bill that extended certain policies put in place during the pandemic.

Vote-by-mail laws approved for the 2020 elections were extended this year by the Legislature but are set to lapse June 30.

According to Galvin's office, several communities have special elections coming up — Somerset and New Marlborough on July 12, Fairhaven on July 26, Mattapoisett on July 27 and Plymouth on Aug. 14.

Up to 21 cities and towns, including Boston, have preliminary municipal elections scheduled for Sept. 14, with another 13 cities scheduled to hold elections on Sept. 21, Galvin's office said.

Ahead of the Sept. 1, 2020 state primary, the secretary's office began designing a potential mailer in May, finished postal permits in June, and printed materials over the Fourth of July weekend to get everything in the mail by July 15, according to a Galvin spokeswoman.

"Ideally, local election officials should be able to inform voters of the rules for voting by mail well in advance of the election, so voters know what their options are," Galvin spokeswoman Debra O'Malley wrote in an email. "If the cities are going to be mailing applications to voters, then they will need to get started right away."