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Mass. House Panel Strips Postage Costs From Mail-In Bill

A House committee has changed the vote-by-mail bill released last week by a joint committee, adding a measure requiring pre-paid postage on return envelopes that would be provided to registered voters so that they wouldn't have to pay to return their applications for a ballot or to vote by mail in the September and November state elections.

The adjustments were made by the House Ways and Means Committee, which released an amended version of the bill (H 4762) for members to vote on Tuesday morning in preparation for an expected debate on Wednesday afternoon. The committee is working on cost estimates for its bill.

With an overwhelming vote, the Election Laws Committee polled out a bill over the weekend that would require Secretary of State William Galvin to mail applications for a vote-by-mail ballot to the more than 4.5 million registered voters in Massachusetts by July 15.

The bill would also expand in-person early voting for both the Sept. 1 primary and the Nov. 3 general election, and give city and town clerks additional flexibility in how they run polling stations on election day.

House Democrats planned to discuss the legislation during a private caucus on Tuesday afternoon. Some advocates have called on lawmakers to go further by cutting out the application process and simply mailing ballots to all voters.

"It's progress, but no it's not sufficient," said U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy on Monday night, after a debate against his primary opponent U.S. Sen. Ed Markey.

Kennedy supports mailing ballots to every registered voter, and expanding in-person early voting.

"I don't seen any reason why Massachusetts should do anything other than set the standard here for the rest of the nation," he said.

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