Massachusetts Senate approves compromise voting rights bill
The Massachusetts Senate approved a compromise voting rights bill Thursday that would ensure mail-in ballots and early voting become permanent fixtures in future elections.
The voting options proved popular in Massachusetts during the 2020 election at the height of the pandemic.
The bill — which was approved by a 37-3 vote in the Senate — would also increase ballot access for voters with disabilities and service members overseas. It would also make sure eligible voters who are incarcerated can request a mail ballot and vote and would take steps to modernize the state’s election administration process.
The legislation is a compromise version of separate bills approved earlier by House and Senate lawmakers.
The final bill does not include any provisions that would let individuals both register and vote on Election Day.
More than 3.6 million residents cast ballots in the state’s 2020 general election, totaling 76% of all registered voters. Of those, 42% voted by mail in the general election. Another 23% voted during early voting windows.
The bill would allow registered voters to vote by mail for any presidential, state or municipal primary or election; set aside two weeks — including two weekends — of early voting in-person for biennial state elections and one week — including one weekend — for presidential or state primaries; and move the voter registration deadline from 20 to 10 days before a preliminary, primary, or general election.
Critics, including Republican lawmakers in the Senate, questioned whether the changes were constitutional.
The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House.
If approved there the legislation would move to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker who could sign or veto it.