Members Of Massachusetts House Delegation Push Vote-By-Mail For 2020 Election | WAMC

Members Of Massachusetts House Delegation Push Vote-By-Mail For 2020 Election

Apr 17, 2020

Advocates of a universal vote-by-mail system in Massachusetts say it would give people a safer option than going to a polling place on Election Day during the coronavirus pandemic. Several bills to create some sort of voting-by-mail system have been introduced on Beacon Hill.
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      Several members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation are calling on the state to have a vote-by-mail law in time for the 2020 election. 

     Congressman Jim McGovern of the Second house district said given the likelihood the coronavirus will be around for a while it is vital people have the option to not vote in person.

    "Voting by mail, under the current circumstances, is simply the safest way to vote right now," declared McGovern.  "Everyone should have the opportunity to vote without fear of endangering themselves or their loved ones."

     McGovern pointed to the Democratic presidential primary that was held in Wisconsin earlier this month as an example of how voter participation could be severely suppressed if people are not given the option to cast ballots in the mail.

     " In Milwaukee, a city about the size of Boston, the original 180 polling locations were reduced to five and that is just unconscionable, its unacceptable," said McGovern.

          McGovern pushed back on unsubstantiated claims by President Trump that voting-by-mail will result in fraud.

    "The president's effort to paint this as a partisan issue and say it would lead to widespread voter fraud is not only ridiculous, but frankly a conspiracy theory and another attempt at voter supression," said McGovern.

     Joining with McGovern during a virtual press conference Thursday were four other members of the state’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation: Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Katherine Clark, and Rep. Lori Trahan.

     Several bills have been filed in the Massachusetts Senate to create vote-by-mail systems for both the state primaries on September 1st and the November election.

    Kennedy, who will be on the September 1st ballot challenging U.S. Senator Ed Markey in the Democratic primary, said the state should mail a ballot to everyone who is eligible to vote, not just to people who request a mail-in absentee ballot.

   " It is critically important that when Massachusetts has a chance to actually do this, that we do it right and are expansive about it, big about it, and bold about it," said Kennedy.

     Pam Wilmot, director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said having a vote-by-mail option would not preclude people from voting in person on Election Day.

  "If we prepare in advance and have 70-80 percent of our voters voting by mail there is an ability, with expanded early voting especially, to have a slighly different model of in-person voting," Wilmot said.               

    Smaller polling places, for example, would not need as many poll workers.

    " We want to have younger poll workers," Wilmot added.

   Democrats in Congress have proposed creating a $4 billion fund to help states cover the costs of conducting elections during the pandemic.  It has been suggested the money could be used for such things as paying for vote-by-mail operations and outfitting poll workers with personal protective equipment.

   The state’s highest court is weighing whether state laws on ballot access should be temporarily set aside during the pandemic. 

   A lawyer for a bipartisan group of candidates told the justices of the State Supreme Judicial Court during a hearing conducted by conference call Thursday that the requirement for candidates to collect hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of signatures in order to appear on the ballot is an unconstitutional barrier because of the need for social distancing during the pandemic.

  The State Senate has passed a bill to lower the signature threshold, but its fate in the House is uncertain.