House may add permanent mail-in voting rider to budget bill

Political News
Boston State House

Boston State House

BOSTON (SHNS) – House Speaker Ron Mariano and House Democrats are moving towards a permanent expansion of voting options to include mail-in voting and early voting before the biennial state primaries and general elections, and could vote as soon as Thursday on a comprehensive plan that would cover the 2022 elections.

The House on Thursday plans to take up a policy-heavy budget bill that could get heavier with Election Laws Committee Chairman Dan Ryan filing an amendment (28) that would make voting by mail a permanent fixture in Massachusetts elections.

Mariano “conceptually supports” the Ryan amendment, according to a senior aide to the speaker. The proposal would direct Secretary of State William Galvin to mail applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters in Massachusetts, akin to the mostly successful process used for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ballots would have to be received by local clerk before the close of polls on election days, except for voting in presidential elections when ballots postmarked on election day would still be counted if received up to three days after the close of polls.

The amendment also proposes a detailed structure for in-person early voting that includes windows for early voting before the state primaries and general elections, and mandatory weekend hours.

If the House does move forward with the Ryan amendment on Thursday, it would put them on a faster timetable than Democrats in the Senate who have included a temporary extension of mail-in voting through Dec. 15 in separate bill coming up for a vote in that branch also on Thursday.

The Senate voting measures are included in a package of short-term extensions of policies put in place during the pandemic, such as remote municipal meetings and the sale by restaurants of to-go cocktails.

Secretary of State William Galvin and other lawmakers have proposed reforms to the electoral process this session, such as same-day voter registration, that remains under consideration.

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