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With the country on the edge of its seat as votes in the presidential race continue to be tallied in key swing states, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito called for every vote to be counted. They encouraged residents planning to demonstrate in the name of that cause Wednesday to do so peacefully.
"The United States of America depends on every American having the freedom to cast their vote and for every vote to be counted. Every American, regardless of political affiliation, especially the president and every candidate on the ballot, should be united in supporting this process," Baker and Polito said in a statement.
As ballots in Massachusetts continued to be tallied, Secretary of State William Galvin delivered a similar message about the importance of counting every vote. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Galvin called President Trump's false claims about mail-in ballots "deceitful." The Democrat declared vote-by-mail a success in Massachusetts, adding he would work to make the process permanent in Massachusetts.
Hours earlier, President Trump had alleged "fraud" in the voting process without evidence. He continued his false claims throughout the day, ramping up his rhetoric as states kept up their ballot counts and states like Michigan and Wisconsin drifted toward Biden's favor.
Galvin Wants To Make Vote-By-Mail Permanent
Galvin held a press conference outside the State House where he said he was "increasingly convinced" that the final raw vote tally in Massachusetts will approach the 3.6 million votes he predicted ahead of the election and set a record in the state.
With 98% of precincts reporting, over 3.4 million votes had been cast, according to The Associated Press. In 2016, which lacked the widespread mail-in voting that occurred this year, 3.38 million people in Massachusetts voted.
"Yesterday was a great day for democracy in Massachusetts," Galvin said.
Galvin said now that the election was over he would convene a working group and consult with the city and town clerks associations to put together a package for the Legislature "very, very soon" to make voting-by-mail a permanent part of the process in Massachusetts.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo told the News Service Tuesday that before he committed to such a step he wanted to hear about what worked and what didn't on Election Day.
Galvin said some of the issues he intends to look at will be whether to shorten the timeline for mail-in voting in future elections, and whether it should be used in municipal elections, or made a local option.
He also said he intends to request additional funding this year from the Legislature to cover some local expenses related to early and mail-in voting this cycle. Despite the popularity of vote-by-mail this cycle, many clerks have said the workload and expense of hiring workers to process ballots could not be sustained long-term.
"If vote-by-mail continues as I believe it will and should, we're going to have to provide resources to local officials," Galvin said.
In Massachusetts, ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can be delivered by mail up until Friday at 5 p.m. and still be counted. Galvin said as of about 4 p.m. Tuesday there were about 180,000 early ballots that had been provided to voters and not yet returned, but the secretary said many of those voters could have chosen to vote in-person either early or on Election Day.
"We knew we would never go to zero," Galvin said.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Wednesday that turnout in his city was about 63.51%, or slightly below 2016 levels, as election workers continued to count mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday.
The mayor called for people to be patient as tallying continues in other states.
"No one should be calling to stop the count, or talking about fraud while election workers are trying to do their job," he said. "It's the right of Americans and people everywhere to have their voices heard. We need to make sure that every single vote is counted, and I know the situation certainly has many anxious and some people are looking for opportunities to speak out during this time. I would just ask everyone, again, to do it peacefully and constructively."
Walsh said he was expecting to see demonstrations in Boston over the next few days but was "not concerned about violence in the city," where he said protesters have proven they can demonstrate peacefully.
He asked that any marchers wear masks because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Police Commissioner William Gross asked that anyone expressing their opinions do so "with the voices of logic, not the ignorance of destruction."
The close presidential race "just shows you how divided our country is," Walsh said. "After this election, regardless of who wins, we have work to do."
State House News Service's Katie Lannan contributed reporting.
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