Early voting now in session throughout Massachusetts
Massachusetts voters can now cast their votes in the general election.
Early voting, including in-person and mail-in ballots, opened Saturday and will be available until Oct. 30.
Boston residents can vote in person at City Hall on weekdays. They can also visit any of the dozens of early voting locations across the city, including Fenway Park, as they become available on varied days.
Local voter participation advocacy groups such as MassVOTE and Common Cause Massachusetts have worked to encourage turnout despite the pandemic.
MassVOTE is working to close the voter turnout gap between largely white, suburban areas and more diverse, urban areas, said Alex Psilakis, MassVOTE policy and communications manager.
Psilakis said the group has used phone banking and text banking to encourage voter participation, rather than in-person activities such as tabling and door-knocking.
Prior to the pandemic, MassVOTE had often organized in-person events to encourage voter participation. Last year, the group held a forum for the Boston City Council race, where candidates answered policy questions.
Since COVID-19, however, MassVOTE has pivoted to virtual town halls and forums, allowing voters to get to know candidates over Zoom instead.
“It’s not as good because you can’t meet the people,” Psilsaki said. “You can’t talk to them face to face, and the voters don’t get that same engagement. But, we’re making do with the times.”
He added that demographic data from this year’s presidential primary shows mail-in ballots during the early voting period largely came from white, middle- to upper-class residents, while residents of color tended to vote early in person.
Psilakis said voting early by mail seems to be more common in the suburbs because households in these communities tend to be wealthier than those in cities. He said the wealth-associated quality of infrastructure helps these communities trust the mail-in voting system.
Mail-in ballot turnout is likely to be high, Psilakis said, based on turnout in the primary, during which about half of total ballots came by mail.
Kristina Mensik, assistant director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said the organization had to shift to addressing voter suppression this election cycle.
Mensik said threats to gut the United States Postal Service have forced Common Cause to change its messaging.
The Trump Administration has been accused of interfering with USPS to stop mail-in voting, after the agency cut post office hours and residents across the country observed mailboxes being removed.
“Our role as advocates has been to try and strike a balance between always prioritizing what is best for voters,” Mensik said, “but also trying to meet the needs of election officials.”
This work includes recruiting poll workers and tackling other logistical election needs to help officials process ballots, she said.
Mensik said the greatest challenge right now is uncertainty about the progression of the pandemic throughout the voting process, which has been coupled with misinformation about the voting process.
“It’s one thing to conduct elections during a pandemic,” Mensik said. “It’s another thing to conduct elections during a pandemic when you have a president who is spewing misinformation and disinformation about voting by mail, which undermines trust and makes our job of working to educate voters a lot harder.”
This story originally appeared in The Daily Free Press. Check it out here!