Galvin: Federal law needed to protect mail-in voting

Boston Statehouse

FILE – In this May 27, 2020 file photo, a worker processes mail-in ballots at the Bucks County Board of Elections office prior to the primary election in Doylestown, Pa. Deep-pocketed and often anonymous donors are pouring over $100 million into an intensifying dispute about whether it should be easier to vote by mail, a fight that could determine President Donald Trump’s fate in the November election. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

BOSTON (SHNS) – Secretary of State William Galvin wants to see Congress pass a law guaranteeing that every voter can cast a mail-in ballot in federal elections.

Massachusetts authorized mail-in voting for last year’s elections in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the House this year plans to extend vote-by-mail until June 30 while also working to make it a permanent feature of the elections here.

The House gave its initial approval Monday to a bill (H 71) that would authorize the June 30 extension. Galvin, the state’s top elections official, voiced concern in a Sunday statement around what his office described as “recent moves by several states to restrict access to the voting by mail.” He said the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump was a “chilling reminder that democracy is fragile, but this coordinated effort by many around the country to make it increasingly more difficult to legally cast a ballot is even more chilling.”

Congress this week is expected to take up a sweeping elections package, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has blasted as a recycled version of “failed legislation that would have Washington Democrats grab unprecedented power over how America conducts its elections and how American citizens can engage in political speech.”

Attorney General Maura Healey has called for the bill’s passage, citing a Brennan Center report showing at least 165 bills in 33 states have been introduced to restrict voting access.

“While I strongly support state-run elections, the federal government needs to have some universal standards in place to protect the rights of voters,” said Galvin, a Brighton Democrat. “This partisan attempt to limit voting options in many states cannot be allowed.” He suggested making federal election funding contingent upon a state allowing vote-by-mail with certain minimum standards.

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