Massachusetts ready to get out the early vote

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Keen to get a head start on Super Tuesday, when 14 states and one territory (American Samoa) pick their presidential favorites?

Beginning Monday, Massachusetts voters can cast their ballots in a presidential primary — a first for the commonwealth. Anyone can do so; no reason or justification is required.

Interest is high in the March 3 set of primaries, when more than one-third of all Democratic delegates will be chosen by voters in states ranging from California and Texas, the two most heavily populated, as well as Massachusetts and Vermont.

Early voting is especially popular among older and suburban voters, according to Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, and it can cut down on lines at polling places on primary day.

"My hope is that it's going to help us have a smoother election," he said.

Unlike states like California, which began early voting a month in advance, Massachusetts limits it to five days during the week before Super Tuesday to avoid confusion if a candidate drops out on short notice and also to allow voters to factor in debates, televised town halls and other developments.

Even so, the Democratic ballot lists 15 candidates, including seven who have dropped out such as Deval Patrick, Cory Booker, Julian Castro and Andrew Yang.

Voters also can choose candidates for the state Democratic committee — Sherwood Guernsey, of Williamstown, and Marietta Rapetti Cawse, of Pittsfield, each unopposed for the two available slots. Cities and many towns also list candidates for their local party committee.

Massachusetts will field 114 delegates at the Democratic National Convention July 13-16 in Milwaukee, with 91 pledged to candidates based on the March 3 outcome. There will be 3,979 delegates, with 1,990 needed for nomination.

State officials expect a strong turnout, not only because of the highly competitive Democratic race but also because of vigorous support among Massachusetts Republicans for President Donald Trump.

The Republican primary ballot also lists former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld; former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, of Illinois, a conservative talk-show host who dropped out last week, and Roque "Rocky" de la Fuente, a southern California businessman who ran for president in 2016 on two minor-party tickets.

On the Libertarian ballot are 10 names, including Vermin Love Supreme and Dan Taxation is Theft Behrman, while the Green/Rainbow Party ticket has four candidates listed, including Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifa-Curry, Howard Hawkins, Kent Mesplay and Dario Hunter.

Massachusetts first allowed early voting during the November 2016 general election, with more than 1 million early ballots cast out of nearly 3.4 million total. In the 2018 general election, more than one out of five voters were early birds.

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There are more than 4.4 million registered voters in Massachusetts. The majority — more than 55 percent — are not enrolled in any political party. The highest turnout in a presidential primary in Massachusetts came during the 2016 primary when more than 44 percent of voters cast ballots.

"Allowing people to vote early in this critical election will absolutely increase turnout, which should be a bipartisan goal," said Gus Bickford, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia allow any qualified voter to cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day or primary day.

Registered voters eager to cast their ballots early for the Massachusetts primary can show up at their local polling places next week, beginning Monday and ending Friday, but days and hours vary, depending on the city or town.

Schedules generally correspond to when the city or town clerk's office is normally open.

Voters enrolled in the Democratic, Republican, Green-Rainbow or Libertarian party can select their preferred candidate in their chosen party. Those unenrolled in a specific party can select a ballot from any one of the four parties.

The deadline to change party registration was Feb. 12.

Early voters will be checked in, as on Election Day, and ballots will be sealed in an envelope to be counted on March 3.

To vote early by mail, those registered can download an application at mass.gov (search for early ballot). The application can be mailed to your local election official, typically the city or town clerk.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot from a city or town clerk for the March 3 primary is noon March 2.

Additional information: 1-800-462-VOTE (8683) for visit www.WhereDoIVoteMA.com for more details on local polling places.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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