After seeing how voting by mail helped lead to a record number of voters casting ballots in the 2020 election, Secretary of State William Galvin said Tuesday he would file legislation this month to make the option a permanent fixture of the Massachusetts voting system.
Galvin said his bill would also implement same-day voter registration in Massachusetts, allowing eligible voters who need to register or update their voting information to do so at the polls on Election Day before casting their ballot. Currently, voters must be registered at least 20 days before Election Day in order to vote.
The secretary's bill would also expand in-person early voting options by guaranteeing weekend voting in statewide elections and primaries, with early voting periods spanning 14 days for general elections and seven days for primaries. The bill would also newly enable cities and towns to offer early voting for local elections.
A record 3,657,972 votes were cast in the 2020 election in November after lawmakers and election officials collaborated to implement reforms intended to making voting safe and accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1.5 million people used the vote-by-mail option in 2020, and another 844,000 voters cast ballots in-person before Election Day, avoiding crowded polling places.
"What we saw last year was that voting by mail was enormously popular," Galvin said. "While voting by mail may not always be used to the same extent as the pandemic finally ends, my office has heard from many voters who have made it clear that they want this option to remain available for all future elections."
A coalition of lawmakers and advocacy groups, including Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. John Lawn, plan on Wednesday to roll out the VOTES Act, which would make last year's election reforms permanent, implement same-day voter registration, improve ballot access for incarcerated eligible voters, improve the automatic voter registration system, and introduce "risk-limiting post-election audits."