Ballot drop boxes in (clockwise from top left) Boxford, Dennis, Easton, Mansfield, Orange and Winthrop. (Photos courtesy Andy Dowd/Mass. Town Clerks Association)

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin issued an advisory yesterday regarding the return of ballots via secured drop box for the Sept. 1 primary election and Nov. 3 general election.

The secretary’s office noted that voters are eager to be able to return their ballots this fall through methods other than the U.S. Postal Service. Under Chapter 115 of the Acts of 2020, absentee and early ballots mailed to voters may be returned to the appropriate local election office via secured municipal drop box, where provided.

The advisory is intended to provide best practices with respect to providing, locating, securing and emptying such drop boxes. Providing a drop box for ballot return is at the discretion of each city and town.

The following are some key points of the advisory:
• All local election offices must have a way to accept in-person delivery of mail-in ballots.
• All early voting sites must accept in-person delivery of mail-in ballots during early voting hours. The Elections Division recommends providing a drop box in these locations, near the entrance, for voters to return their ballots without coming into close contact with others.
• Early voting site drop boxes must be monitored by an election worker.
• Outdoor drop boxes must be secured and emptied regularly. They also must be staffed at the close of polls on election day.
• Ballots cannot be delivered by voters to polling places on election day.
• Local elections officials must inform the Elections Division of the location of any drop boxes.

The Elections Division is asking cities and towns that have a drop box available to complete an online survey. In completing the survey, cities and towns do not need to include the drop boxes at early voting sites, as the Elections Division already has lists of early voting locations.

Any changes made to drop box locations after completion of the survey may be emailed to elections@sec.state.ma.us. Those in the process of installing a drop box are asked to notify the Elections Division as soon as the installation is complete.

This information will be posted on the secretary’s website, on the same page where contact information for returning applications is listed.

Galvin reported today that his office has mailed out nearly 950,000 ballots in advance of the Sept. 1 primary election, representing about 21% of the state’s 4.5 million registered voters.

The secretary’s advisory (Election Advisory #20-01) includes guidance provided by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and Sector Coordinating Council’s Joint COVID Working Group.

View Election Advisory #20-01, Regarding Return of Ballots via Secured Drop Box (533K PDF)

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