It’s called a “mid-term election” because the president of the United States is not on the ballot, but this fall’s elections are important and will have a major impact in Massachusetts. Voters will decide on candidates and ballot measures that affect everything from public transit to police reform.
What are the important deadlines?
For the primary:
Aug. 27: Last day to register to vote; early votes can be submitted
Aug. 29: Last day to submit a vote by mail application (the Elections Division recommends to “apply 2-3 weeks before Election Day”)
Sept. 2: Last day to vote early
Sept. 6: Statewide primary election; 5 pm deadline for votes by mail and absentee ballots to arrive at the local elections office
For the general election:
October 22: First day of early voting
October 29: Last day to register to vote
Nov. 1: Last day to submit a vote by mail application (the Elections Division recommends applying no less than 2 weeks before the deadline “To ensure you receive your ballot with enough time to mail it back”)
Nov. 4: Last day to vote early
Nov. 8: Statewide general election
Nov. 11: 8 pm deadline for votes by mail and absentee ballots to arrive at the local elections office
How do I register to vote, or change my voting information?
Massachusetts residents can register to vote, ensure they are registered, or update their personal information and party affiliation on the Secretary of the Commonwealth Elections Division’s Online Voter Registration System. You can also go in person to a local election office or mail a registration form.
If a 16- or 17-year-old pre-registers by filling out the form, they will be automatically enrolled when they reach the voting age of 18. Residents “applying for or renewing a driver’s license or state ID at the RMV, or applying for health insurance through MassHealth or the Commonwealth Health Connector” will be automatically registered to vote, unless they opt out or their citizenship status is not verified, according to the Elections Division.
What will be on my ballot?
Every Massachusetts voter will be able to cast a ballot for statewide positions: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor and the Governor’s Council.
There will also be candidates for offices based on your address. Those may include representative in Congress, state senator, state representative, district attorney, sheriff and county commissioner. Once you know your district, you can find the candidates that will be on your ballot for each party’s primary on Sept. 6: Democratic Party and Republican Party.
There will also be ballot questions on the general election ballot in November. These yes-or-no questions will be finalized in September. An Elections Division-issued booklet containing the questions and what each answer entails is mailed to voters ahead of the general election.
What’s the difference between early, mail-in and absentee voting?
You can cast a ballot in person the week before the primary or general election. Early voting will be from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2 for the primary, and Oct. 22 to Nov. 4 for the general election.
Each city and town determines its own early voting locations and hours. Contact your local election office or check the Elections Division’s early voting site for your community’s plans.
Universal “no-excuse” mail-in ballots are now permitted for all elections in Massachusetts, a change newly enacted as part of the VOTES Act election-reform law. Mail-in ballots can be returned by mail, handed in at your local elections office, dropped off at an open early voting location, or placed into a ballot drop box. Once mailed, you can use Track My Ballot to make sure it gets to the right place.
Applications for mail-in voting are sent to every eligible voter in the state in July for the primary and September for the general election. You can also mail, fax or email a downloaded application or signed letter to your local election office to apply for your ballot, as “any written request with your signature is an acceptable application,” according to the Elections Division. If you are not registered with a party, commonly known as Independent, you must indicate which party’s primary ballot you want upon application. Doing so will not affect your Independent status.
Voters eligible for an absentee ballot must be away from their place of residence on Election Day, or have a disability or religious belief that keeps them from voting in person on Election Day.
Applications can be delivered by email, mail or in-person to a local election office. There is no official application deadline, but the Elections Division says to “allow ample mailing time for [the] application and for the ballot.” Absentee voters use early voting ballots and have the same deadlines as early voters.
Input your address on the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website to find out where your local polling place and election offices are located, what district your address is in, and who your current elected officials are.
What should I expect when I get to my polling place?
- Go to the table with poll workers. Give your name and address to the poll worker at the check-in table. They may ask for identification. If it is a primary election day and you are not registered with a political party, you will be offered either the Democratic or Republican ballot.
- Bring your ballot to an open booth. It will have instructions on how to fill it out properly. You may bring a person into the booth to assist you in voting or request the help of poll workers.
- Go to the check-out table with your filled-out ballot. You will again tell your name and address to the poll worker. Primary election voters not registered with a party will be asked what party’s ballot they are casting.
- Bring your ballot to the box or machine and insert it.
The Elections Division has a comprehensive step-by-step guide on the voting process.
What if I go to my polling place and I am told I can’t vote?
If your name is not on the registered voters list at your polling location, ask the poll worker to contact your local elections office and confirm your registration. If it cannot be confirmed, you may vote by provisional (temporary) ballot. Officials will then check to see if you are properly registered. If so, your ballot will be opened and counted. If not, the ballot will be destroyed without being opened.
In a primary election, if your listed party registration is wrong, you can cast a provisional ballot for the party you are enrolled in. First-time voters who cannot provide an ID may also cast a provisional ballot. Returning later in the day with an ID will allow your ballot to be counted.
What are my rights at the polling place?
- You cannot be intimidated or influenced at your polling place.
- You can bring someone with you to help you, or you can request help from poll workers.
- Your polling place must be accessible.
- You can vote if you are unable to read or write in general or in English.
- You can file a complaint if your right to vote is infringed.
- You can bring any papers or pamphlets with you into the voting booth.
- You have the right to stay in line to vote when the polls close at 8 pm for state and federal elections.
Contact the Elections Division at 1-800-462-8683 if you believe your rights have been violated. You can bring the complete Voters’ Bill of Rights with you to the polling place.
Can people who are incarcerated or on parole vote?
If you are incarcerated for a non-felony conviction, a misdemeanor or are being held for trial on any charge, you may vote.
If you are currently in prison for a felony conviction, you cannot vote. You will become eligible to vote immediately upon release and can vote while on parole.
Can new US citizens vote?
If you are a new citizen, you can register to vote after your naturalization ceremony. There is no waiting period.
I want to post this whole democracy experience on Instagram. Can I?
You can! However, when you take that ballot selfie, be sure that you do it before you fill out your ballot. It’s illegal in Massachusetts to post images of filled-out ballots. State law says it’s illegal for your filled-out ballot “to be seen by any person for any purpose not authorized by law.”
Information and links are sourced from the Elections Division of William Francis Galvin, secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Emancipation Initiative. For more, check the Election Division’s Voter Information give Voter Resources and Emancipation Initiative’s voter eligibility guide for incarcerated people. All forms and applications linked are available in languages other than English.
This article will be updated as ballot questions are released and primary elections have concluded.
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