Bucking party, Baker makes vote-by-mail permanent
Republicans in Legislature opposed the policy
DESPITE CONCERNS by members of his own party, Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed a law Wednesday making voting by mail permanent.
Massachusetts allowed early voting by mail for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Democrats and voting rights activists have been pushing to make the reforms permanent in order to increase voter turnout.
The new law will permanently allow voting by mail for any state or presidential primary or general election. It shortens the voter registration window to 10 days, although it does not allow for same-day voter registration, as some advocates had hoped.
The bill expands early voting by providing early voting for two weeks prior to a general election and one week prior to a primary. It allows electronic voting for the first time for overseas military voters, and people with disabilities who request an accommodation.
The final bill passed the House 126-29 with every Republican and one Democrat voting against it. It passed the Senate 37-3 with the Senate’s three Republicans opposed.
However, those margins were large enough that Baker’s veto would not actually matter, since the Democrats have a two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.
Baker’s spokesperson sent out a copy of the signed parchment without providing a comment from the governor. By signing the bill rather than letting it become law over his veto, Baker will give Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin more time to prepare for the upcoming elections.
Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said he is thrilled Baker signed the law. “At a time when many states are making it harder to vote, this new law will modernize our elections and make our democracy more accessible and equitable,” Foster said.Patricia Comfort, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, said, “We are proud Massachusetts is actively supporting voters and appreciate the governor signing this bill. We expect voters to use the mail and early voting options as soon as the September 6 primary election.”
Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin said he had been anticipating the new law and “preparations are already well underway” for the September state primary.