On Jan. 27, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed an election reform package that would make permanent many recently expired election allowances, including vote-by-mail and early voting.

The bill (H. 4359) would:
• Permanently allow no-excuse vote-by-mail for any presidential or state primary, special election, or biennial general election
• Permanently allow early voting in person prior to regular state elections as well as presidential primaries and general elections
• Provide a local option for voting by mail and early voting in person for municipal elections
• Direct sheriffs and corrections officials to assist eligible incarcerated voters to learn their electoral rights and apply for and cast ballots by mail

This past fall, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive election reform bill (S. 2545), which included vote-by-mail, longer periods for early voting, and same-day voter registration. The House bill does not include direct authorization of same-day voter registration, but would have the Secretary of State’s Office evaluate the potential policy implications and costs of doing so.

The House and Senate bills now head to the conference committee process, where negotiators will work to reconcile differences between the bills and propose compromise legislation to send to the governor for consideration.

The MMA has supported many permanent election reforms, while also requesting a guarantee of full funding for all new election responsibilities and training requirements that may be imposed on municipalities by state legislation.

Authorizations for no-excuse voting by mail and in-person early voting — extended throughout the pandemic as temporary provisions — expired on Dec. 15, 2021.

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