Is mail-in voting here to stay?

When the Legislature passed an unprecedented expansion of mail-in voting, they did it for this year only, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that makes crowding into polling places unsafe.

But now, amid record-breaking turnout in this week’s primary, some are calling for mail-in voting to become a permanent feature of Massachusetts elections.

“Voter turnout in the September 1 primary makes one thing abundantly clear– vote by mail should be here to stay,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, executive director of MassVOTE, a coalition that aims to expand voting access, in a statement.

The last time turnout in a state primary election topped 1 million was in 1990, when 1.5 million people voted. This year, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin says that turnout will be more than 1.5 million, although he still did not have a final number.

Before the primary, Galvin attributed the expected high turnout to the intensity of some of the races, including the statewide US Senate race between Rep. Joe Kennedy and Sen. Ed Markey. But it has also become increasingly clear that the enormous popularity of mail-in voting has also had a major impact, with more than 1.3 million people requesting mail-in ballots.

Galvin told WCVB’s “On the Record” that he thinks mail-in voting is here to stay “in some fashion.” He added: “We have to make sure it’s an option for voters as long as we can protect the integrity of the process.”

But to make mail-in voting permanent, the glitches that marred Tuesday’s primary will have to be worked out. The hotly contested 4th Congressional District primary was only called for Jake Auchincloss at 1:30 a.m. on Friday because of ballots left uncounted on Election Day, largely due to processes related to mail-in voting. For example, the Franklin clerk left 3,000 early ballots uncounted in a vault, while other towns did not count mail-in ballots that arrived close to the deadline of 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Other glitches stemmed from voters requesting mail-in ballots but not receiving them in time. And clerks cited an enormous amount of work that went into making mail-in voting happen.

Michael Palmer, the Falmouth town clerk, said in an interview with CommonWealth that this election proved that allowing voting by mail leads to enormous turnout. “I don’t see us going back. I see us expanding that on that concept of voting early and voting early by mail,” Palmer said.

But on the flip side, Palmer said, while mail-in voting made it easier for voters, it created a lot more work for elections administrators. “We have to do something about processing these ballots and the process of getting them out to people,” he said.

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Jake Auchincloss declares victory in the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District seat, but his top opponent, Jesse Mermell, hasn’t conceded.

Glitches marred some aspects of the primary election, but the big concern is that a smattering of small problems on primary day could become big issues in the Novemberfinal.

Gov. Charlie Baker says don’t rush approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, as the federal government appears to be doing.

After resisting riding the MBTA for a long time, Gov. Charlie Baker gave it a try earlier this year and seemed to like it. “I was riding the Blue Line just like other people do,” he said.

The Baker administration targets five hotspots with a COVID-19 education campaign along with a request that people living with extended family or someone with an underlying condition wear a mask at home.

Opinion: Craig Altemose of 350 Action says incumbents beware: the climate change movement showed with Sen. Ed Markey’s reelection that it is a force to be reckoned with.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

 

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

BEACON HILL

Republican legislators are calling for a hearing on the nonprofit Massachusetts Bail Fund, which has come in for criticism for posting bail for defendants accused of violent crimes. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Black activists in Boston say a huge street party last weekend in Dorchester could become a coronavirus “superspreader,” and they are faulting Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker for the lack of city or state action to stop it. (Boston Globe) In the face of the criticism for not responding sooner, Walsh condemns the large, two-day party which drew thousands of people. (MassLive)

Hundreds of people attend dueling protests in Danvers over the removal of “thin blue line” flags, which indicate support for the police, from town fire trucks. (Salem News)

A racial justice committee in Lynn that included many city councilors is disbanded after disagreements discussed internally seep into social media. (Daily Item)

Two women of color say they were silenced by Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates Speaker Suzanne McAuliffe during an online public comment session on Wednesday. (Cape Cod Times)

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell announced two outbreaks of COVID-19 at a church and a nursing home in the city that each affected at least 10 people. (Standard-Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A top adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, says it’s highly unlikely a vaccine will be ready by October. (NPR)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump made highly disparaging comments about American war dead, calling them losers, according to The Atlantic. Trump officials called the allegations false in a statement released after the story appeared.

A suspect in the fatal shooting of a Portland, Oregon, right-wing protester is killed by law enforcement officials who were trying to take him into custody. (NPR)

Attorney General Maura Healey joins a multi-state action to halt changes at the US Postal Service that could prevent employees from delivering the mail on time before the November election. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

Scot Lehigh says the Kennedy glory faded long before this week’s loss by Joe Kennedy III to Ed Markey. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The economy added 1.4 million jobs in August and unemployment fell to 8.4 percent, “a glimmer of good news as the pandemic continues its march across the country,” reports the Washington Post.

NPR investigates stock sales by executives at Moderna, the Cambridge company that has seen its share price skyrocket during the development of a possible vaccine for COVID-19.

Boston area hotels have suffered a bigger falloff in business than hotels in all but two other metro areas in the country. (Boston Globe)

Salem arcade Bit Bar sues Gov. Charlie Baker for continuing to keep arcades closed. (Salem News)

Apple orchards and other pick-your-own businesses are required to limit the number of customers in the field at one time, along with other rules to follow state coronavirus protocols. (WCVB)

EDUCATION

Ensuring adequate spacing is a problem in schools, with some districts differing whether 3 feet or 6 feet is an appropriate distance between students. (Salem News)

ARTS/CULTURE

Theater troupes are finding creative ways to get back onstage. (Eagle-Tribune)

Responding to allegations of racism, the Museum of Fine Arts hires its first director of belonging and inclusion. (Associated Press)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Martha’s Vineyard estate of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is being sold to a pair of nonprofits that plan on turning the property into conservation land open to the public. (Associated Press)

MEDIA

The Berkshire Eagle announces it is ceasing publication of a print newspaper on Sundays and Monday. The Saturday paper will become a weekend edition. Fredric Rutberg, the Eagle’s president and publisher, says the October 10 shift in the paper’s print schedule was accelerated by COVID-19.

PASSINGS

Massachusetts State Police Trooper Thomas Devlin, 58, dies of injuries he suffered during a 2018 traffic stop when he was struck by another vehicle that went into the breakdown lane. (MassLive)