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Vote-By-Mail Is Extended. What Does That Mean For Boston's Preliminary Mayoral Race?

A Massachusetts vote-by-mail application. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
A Massachusetts vote-by-mail application. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Several municipal preliminary elections in Massachusetts are less than two months away, and once again voters across the state will have the option to cast their ballots by mail — no excuse needed.

On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a provision to extend vote-by-mail through Dec. 15. The law that allowed for no-excuse early voting by mail through the pandemic had initially expired on June 30.

The Boston mayoral race is one of the most-watched preliminary races, and the first open mayoral contest in the city in eight years. Many voters may opt to mail their ballots because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike in 2020 — which featured a presidential election with unprecedented public safety challenges — there has been far less lead time this year for city and town electioneers to promote mail-in voting as they awaited word on whether the option would be renewed by lawmakers.

Last year, Secretary of State William Galvin's office sent by mail postcards with detachable forms for people to request mail-in ballots for the statewide elections. That is unlikely to occur for municipal elections, according to a spokeswoman for the office, because mailers were not budgeted for this year, and there is a tighter window of time before most preliminary elections.

That said, while the messaging may be different, the process of voting by mail remains largely the same. And a quick reminder: There is functionally no difference between absentee voting and voting by mail. It's just that there are rules around who is eligible for an absentee ballot, whereas the current law around voting by mail allows anyone to use it.

While many states have long used some version of vote-by-mail, the expansion of no-excuse vote-by-mail was new to Massachusetts last year. In total, 46 states offered mail-in voting options for the 2020 presidential election.

Here's what to know if you want to cast your ballot by mail in Boston's preliminary municipal race on Tuesday, Sept. 14:

Make Sure You're Registered To Vote

As always, before you can vote in your municipal election, you must be 18 years old and registered to vote in the town or city in which you reside. The deadline to register to vote in the Boston preliminary municipal election is Aug. 25 at 8 p.m.

Here are details from the city of Boston on how to register to vote, as well as helpful links from Galvin's office on how to check your voter registration or register online.

How To Vote-By-Mail

In life, and also in voting, timing is key.

To vote by mail, you'll need to:

  1. Request a mail-in ballot with an application and submit it.
  2. Receive your ballot in the mail and fill it out.
  3. Mail your ballot to your local election office or place it in a designated dropbox.

All of those steps may take time. As Galvin's office notes, the U.S. Postal Service recommends you give yourself at least seven days for the delivery of your ballot in each direction. Ideally, if you're mailing an application, receiving your ballot by mail and planning to mail it back, a spokeswoman for Galvin's office said you'd want at least a three-week buffer to get the ballot in by Election Day.

Galvin's office has posted an application that people can use to request their ballots. However, legally, any written request for a mail-in ballot is valid and will be accepted — provided you don't forget to sign your legal name. You can send your application or request to your local election office.

The Boston election office address is:

Elections Department
One City Hall Square, Room 241
Boston, MA 02201

You can contact the office at elections@boston.gov or send vote by mail questions to absenteevoter@boston.gov. You can also call the office at 617-635-8683.

What Will My Mail Ballot Look Like?

Mail-in ballots look the same as regular ballots.

Here are details on candidates' ballot order. In addition to the mayoral race, Boston's preliminary municipal election features several competitive city council contests, with four at-large councilor posts up for grabs and candidates vying for seats in Districts 4, 6, 7 and 9.

This year, there will not be preliminary city councilor contests for Districts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8.

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Lisa Creamer Twitter Managing Editor, Digital
Lisa Creamer is WBUR's digital managing editor.

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