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How To Vote By Mail In Boston's Preliminary Election

For the first time ever this fall, all Bostonians will be able to vote by mail, no excuses needed, in a mayoral race.

Gov. Charlie Baker signed an extension of the law allowing voters to cast ballots by mail, just weeks ahead of Election Day for a slew of municipal elections across the state. The extension is good through Dec. 15.

In Boston, where the city is seeing its first open race since former Mayor Marty Walsh won in 2013, election officials are scrambling to get the word out about vote by mail. (Walsh resigned as mayor on March 22, after his confirmation as U.S. States Secretary of Labor in the Biden administration.)

Getting the word out about vote-by-mail's rules and procedures may be more challenging than it was in 2020. That memorable year presented not only the novelty of a new option for voters, but also an unprecedented presidential contest amid a devastating public health crisis that heightened awareness around mail voting.

Today, the historic nature of Boston's race — none of the candidates running for the office are white men — may inspire more interest in voting. Add to that mounting concerns about the coronavirus' delta variant, and many residents may elect to send their ballots via post.

If you're looking to vote by mail, here's what you need to know:

Get Yourself Registered To Vote

The deadline to register to vote in Boston's preliminary municipal election is Wednesday, Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. To check your voter registration, go here.

How To Get Your Mail-In Ballot

By Tuesday, Aug. 17, the city will mail out detachable forms residents can use to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot to all of the city's more than 430,000 registered voters, according to Sabino Piemonte, Boston's head assistant registrar of voters.

The official deadline to submit an application for a vote-by-mail ballot is Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. 

That said, the U.S. Postal Service recommends that voters looking to apply, receive and submit their mail-in ballots should move swiftly to begin the process at least three full weeks ahead of Election Day.

To get started now, voters can apply for a ballot by printing and mailing this application to:

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

You can also make the process move along faster by either faxing (617-635-4483), emailing absenteevoter@boston.gov or hand-delivering your mail-in ballot application directly to address above. (For those voting in another municipal elections, the process is the same except you can use this directory to find your city or town's elections office address.)

Any registered voter's written request for a vote-by-mail ballot will also be honored as long as the request is signed and delivered to the city's elections department.

As was the case with the last election, it's critical that voters sign their application for a mail-in ballot. That goes on file, and poll workers may compare it to the signature you provide when you later vote by mail.

How To Submit Your Ballot

Once you've applied for a ballot, the city will mail it to your home as soon as possible.

Fill out your ballot as you would at the polls, seal it and don't forget to sign the ballot envelope.

Then, put your ballot in the mail or hand-deliver it to either the city's elections office or to one of the city's designated mail-in ballot drop boxes.

According to Piemonte, Boston election officials will set up two drop boxes at each City Hall entrance. Beyond those, there will be at least 18 drop boxes placed throughout the city's neighborhoods. Each of the drop boxes will be under 24-hour surveillance, Piemonte noted.

During the early voting period — from Saturday, Sept. 4 - Friday, Sept. 10 — completed mail-in ballots are allowed to be cast at early voting locations. This is different from Election Day, when vote-by-mail ballots will not be accepted at the polls. (Note: Early voting locations will not be open on Sept. 6 because of the federal Labor Day holiday.)

All mailed ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on election night: Tuesday, Sept. 14. Ballots received after that hour will NOT be accepted — even if they were postmarked by Sept. 14. Do not bring your vote-by-mail ballot to the polls on Election Day; it will not be accepted.

Other Voting Options

Polls in Boston open on Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Check here for details on where to find your polling location.

While vote-by-mail is an available option for all voters, you can still apply for a traditional absentee ballot. Details are here.

The Boston City Council is set to discuss on Thursday, Aug. 18 whether to pass an ordinance that would allow for early voting at the polls.

For more details on voting in the city's preliminary municipal election, see our complete voter guide.

Related:

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

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