Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Barry Finegold, Senate Chair
The Honorable Daniel Ryan, House Chair
Joint Committee on Election Laws
State House, Boston
Dear Senator Finegold, Representative Ryan, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to share comments on the election bills that were before your committee for hearing on May 19.
This past year, municipal clerks and election officials in the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns were responsible for administering federal, state and local elections in the most accessible and efficient way allowed by law during a public health crisis. The new option to vote by mail was a big part of the success of this past year’s elections, and we thank you and your colleagues in the Legislature for acting immediately on that issue. This is why we support S. 477, which would make voting by mail a permanent change to encourage and allow all citizens to exercise their right to vote from home.
In order to properly prepare for elections, municipalities and their clerks need at least five weeks of lead time. To ensure a seamless process at the local level while deliberations on a permanent option continue in the Legislature, we also support swift passage of a temporary extension of vote by mail as proposed in S. 457, but would respectfully request the deadline be extended further, to June 30, 2022, so that all spring elections can also be covered. This would allow city and town clerks to have a much more predictable election cycle with resources secured and in place.
In addition, the MMA respectfully requests a guarantee of full funding for all new election responsibilities and training requirements that may be imposed on communities by state legislation. Cities and towns are already facing major budget uncertainties due to deep revenue losses and increased public health and safety expenditures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not the time to mandate new responsibilities and costs without full state funding or assistance. Unfunded election mandates would further pressure already stressed cities and towns, and create uneven and inequitable burdens throughout the state. This is why we support H. 838/S. 489, An Act relative to early voting cost reimbursements, and S. 492, An Act to fairly fund early voting.
As you consider the bills before you, we ask that you also direct your attention to the Massachusetts Town Clerks’ Association’s testimony, which details more specific process needs, as well as general input from all those who administer elections in our cities and towns.
The MMA supports legislative action to ensure healthy and safe elections through processes that preserve the integrity of elections and retain voter confidence and participation. We ask you to support provisions to facilitate the conduct of elections, without imposing unfunded mandates or requirements, as cities and towns cannot absorb these given the deep revenue losses they are experiencing. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Brittney Franklin at 617-426-7272 at any time.
Thank you very much.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO