October 10, 2013

Early-voting measure moves forward in Massachusetts

A proposed amendment would allow ballots to be cast up to 10 days before an election.

The Associated Press

BOSTON – Massachusetts lawmakers gave a nudge Wednesday to a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would permit voters to cast ballots up to 10 days before a scheduled election.

The early voting measure was advanced on a voice vote with no debate by the House and Senate meeting jointly in a constitutional convention. The convention lasted for barely a minute before adjourning to meet again next March.

The amendment, proposed by Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, must clear several more hurdles before becoming law, but the action appeared to signal strong interest among state leaders in having Massachusetts join the more than 30 other states that already allow some form of early voting.

In Massachusetts, absentee ballots can be requested and cast when voters provide a reason for why they cannot participate in a scheduled election — being out of the state on the day of an election, for example.

Under the proposed amendment, residents could choose to vote at local polling places up to 10 days prior to a scheduled election, or request an absentee ballot without having to provide a reason for doing so.

"Election Day has changed dramatically throughout the nation as our populations have grown and it's important that we provide all residents with the opportunity to vote," Murray said in a statement after Wednesday's action.

"Many states similar to Massachusetts have already made this change and successfully implemented early voting or no excuse absentee voting in recent years," she added.

The proposed amendment still needs final approval from lawmakers in the current two-year session of the Legislature, and another vote in the next session that begins in 2015. It would then need to be ratified by the state's voters.

Under that timetable, the first presidential election in which Massachusetts residents might be able to vote early would be 2020.

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