Early Voting Begins Across Massachusetts
A new era in Massachusetts elections began today with early voting offered for the first time.
Zenaida Fernandez remembered waiting in a long line to vote in her first presidential election in 2008, so she said she was excited to be able to fill out her ballot for the 2016 election more than two weeks before Election Day.
" I am excited to come place my vote particularly in this election so I can watch the rest of the news cycle and say ' I already did my job'," she said.
Feranandez voted Monday morning at Springfield City Hall at the beginning of the inaugural 11-day early voting period in Massachusetts from Oct. 24-Nov. 4.
Luis Rosa, who works in downtown Springfield, came into city hall to cast his ballot Monday and praised the convenience of voting early.
" I am actually very excited about the opportunity to vote early, " he said.
After filling out his ballot at the Mayfair Community Center in Springfield, Alan Surprenant said the process for voting early was quick and simple.
" I think it is great and I am surprised that it took this long for Massachusetts, which is a pretty progressive state, to do it. They are doing it now and I like it," he said.
A 2014 law championed by election reform advocates authorized early voting in Massachusetts. The law requires all municipalities to have at least one voting location open during regular business hours for early voting. Many cities and towns are doing more than the minimum required.
Springfield Election Commissioner Gladys Oyola said City Hall will be open for early voting until 6 p.m. this week and 7 p.m. next week. Ten sites including senior centers and library branches have been selected as early voting locations.
" There is heavy foot traffic in those locations and we picked locations in the outlying wards of the city where people might have difficulty coming down to City Hall. We have evening hours for people to vote who work during the day," explained Oyola.
There will be early voting at City Hall on Saturday Oct. 29 from 9 a.m.–5p.m.
Oyola said the city has budgeted for additional staff and overtime pay to administer early voting this year, but she hopes the state will help with the costs in future election years.
" Maybe going forward ( the state) will see this is a burden the cities and towns can't bare solely," she said.
The state did supply Springfield, and other municipalities, with electronic poll books that are being used for the first time at the early voting sites to look up voter registrations. After early voting ends Nov. 4th, the electronic records will be used to update the paper voting lists that are sent to each precinct to ensure people who have voted early cannot cast a second ballot on Election Day.
The ballots filled out during early voting are sealed in envelopes and put in locked boxes. The ballots won’t be counted until after the polls close Nov. 8th.
Early voting is not for everybody. AnnMarie Holt said she wants to wait until Election Day.
" Something might pop-up that might change my mind completely and if I voted early today I might be sorry. So, I am going to give myself that extra time," said Holt at the Mayfair Community Center, where other people were voting Monday.
Massachusetts is now one of 34 states that along with Washington D.C. offer some form of early voting. It is estimated that a third of the people voting in this election will have cast a ballot before Election Day.