House embraces mail-in, early voting for the long haul

Political News

BOSTON (SHNS) – Over the objections of the minority leader and his appeals to progressives in the chamber, House Democrats approved a supplemental budget amendment Thursday to make mail-in voting and early voting before the biennial state primaries and general elections permanent.

The amendment would establish the framework for early voting and mail-in voting, which proved popular last year with many voters during the pandemic, for state primaries, state general elections and any municipal elections held at the same time, meaning the provision would take effect with the 2022 primary.

The House adopted the amendment filed by Election Laws Committee Chairman Dan Ryan as part of a policy-heavy budget bill it passed Thursday after Ryan presented it as a time-sensitive matter, which irked Minority Leader Brad Jones.

“I’m a little shocked that we’re doing this today as part of the supplemental budget when we’re all told, ‘it’s not the right vehicle,’ ‘it should go through the committee process,’ ‘it’s been pre-conferenced,’ ‘we’re trying to keep the document tight,’ and much of the afternoon has been spent trying to encourage members to withdraw their amendments,” Jones said on the House floor.

He later added, “This should go through the committee process. The chairman of Ways and Means has tried to impress that upon me numerous times, I don’t understand why that’s not the case here particularly for something that isn’t timely. This doesn’t have to be done … this doesn’t have any effect on the voters for over a year.”

Jones, who said he had been soliciting feedback from town clerks in his district because he thought the House would debate maintaining some of the pandemic-inspired voting reforms on a separate day, then turned his attention to House leadership and the way the House conducts its business.

“The operating paradigm around here is that the ends justify the means. That really is the operating rule of the House of Representatives, that’s what we’ve come down to. There’s no transparency in this process, there’s no real opportunity to debate,” Jones said, at one point appealing to members of the Progressive Caucus who frequently call for greater transparency from leadership to reject the amendment because of the way it was being pushed through.

He added, “Do as I say, not as I do. I think it’s unfortunate, I think it’s disrespectful to the membership.”

While the House addressed voting issues in the supplemental budget Thursday, the Senate voted Thursday to approve a pandemic policy extensions bill that included a temporary extension of mail-in voting through Dec. 15.

The Ryan amendment was adopted by a recorded vote of 128-32.

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