On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Senate overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive election reform bill (S. 2545) to codify many temporary election allowances previously implemented and then extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as vote by mail and early voting in-person.

The bill includes new provisions as well, such as same-day voter registration and increased ballot access for incarcerated individuals and voters with disabilities.

The bill would:
• Permanently allow no-excuse vote by mail for all elections
• Provide a local option for municipalities to set up secure drop boxes for collection of mail-in ballots
• Codify early voting in person for at least two weeks before regular state elections and for one week before state primaries and special elections (including weekends with the exception of the final weekend prior to each election)
• Provide a local option for early voting in person for municipal elections
• Allow same-day voter registration for eligible individuals on election day and during early voting periods
• Direct sheriffs and corrections officials to assist eligible incarcerated voters to learn their electoral rights and apply for and cast ballots by mail

The bill now heads to the House, where there is strong interest in passing an election reforms package this legislative session.

In July, the Legislature passed a supplemental budget that included many extensions for temporary election provisions, such as no-excuse absentee voting and in-person early voting. These allowances were first instituted due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 and are currently set to expire on Dec. 15, 2021.

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