KINGSTON – State Representative Kathy LaNatra (D-Kingston), together with her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, passed legislation this week that would allow a number of voting options, including early voting by mail, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An Act Relative To Voting Options In Response To COVID-19 seeks to facilitate a number of options for voters confronting health risks due to the Coronavirus. Under the provisions of the bill, voters can elect to vote by mail, submit an absentee ballot, vote early in-person or vote on Election Day with public health safeguards in place.
The bill to expand voting options in response to COVID-19 includes the following provisions:
(1) Early voting by mail application
• Requires the Secretary of State to mail all registered voters an application to vote early by mail in advance of the primary and general elections (by July 15 for the primary and September 14 for the general);
• Asks voters to apply by seven days prior to the primary and general elections;
• Allows for electronic signature and submission of applications
(2) Early voting by mail
• The city or town clerk will mail an early voting by mail ballot and an envelope with return postage pre-paid to voters who apply;
• Allows voters to return their early voting by mail ballot in the mail, secure drop box, or in person;
(3) Absentee voting
• Provides for absentee voting by any person taking precaution related to COVID-19;
• Allows electronic signature and submission of absentee voting applications;
(4) In person voting public health safeguards
• Requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, to promulgate emergency regulations requiring public health safeguards for in-person voting, including social distancing of voters and election officers; face coverings and personal protective equipment; frequent use of sanitizers; and sanitary use of marking pens;
(5) Early voting in person
• Provides for 7 days of in person early voting in the primary—from Saturday, August 22 to Friday, August 28—including one weekend – and 14 days of in person early voting in the general—from Saturday, October 17 to Friday, October 30—including two weekends;
(6) Election day
· Permits voters to still cast a ballot at the polls on election day;
(7) Local elections
• Provides for early voting by mail for any city or town elections held at the same time as the primary or general or on or before December 31, 2020.
The bill next moves to the Senate.
Representative LaNatra, who serves on the Joint Election Laws Committee, said, “I am very pleased with this bill. It is a comprehensive piece of legislation that addresses the challenges of voting during a pandemic, and provides a number of options to remedy these challenges. The legislature began this process by reviewing and discussing eight separate bills on the topic and worked together to put forward one very strong piece of legislation. I thank my colleagues in the House for this great work, and I am hopeful that the Senate will quickly pass this and that the Governor will sign it into law.”
Representative LaNatra’s district includes all residents of Halifax, Kingston and Plympton, as well as residents of Precincts 1, 11 and 13 in Plymouth; Precinct 1 in Middleboro; and Precinct 1 in Duxbury. To reach her, email Kathleen.LaNatra@mahouse.gov or her legislative aide, Chris Jean, Christopher.Jean@MAhouse.gov. The phone number for the office is 617-722-2430. For updates and announcements, please visit Representative LaNatra’s Facebook page, https://bit.ly/2Ura8VR or her website, https://www.kathylanatra.com.