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MA Mail-In Voting Has Huge Turnout, Few Issues Despite Worries

Massachusetts' first test with mail-in voting comes at a time when officials nationwide have argued whether it would lead to voter fraud.

By Jimmy Bentley

BOSTON — Despite worries about mail-in ballots, Massachusetts town clerks were by-and-large able to get all votes counted on election night. State officials reported the highest voter turnout in at least a decade in the state primary, thanks to expanded mail-in and early voting.

The state's success with its first test with mail-in voting comes at a time when elected officials nationwide have argued whether it would lead to voter fraud.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that mail-in ballots will lead to widespread voter fraud. He said he's opposed emergency funding for the Postal Service because it would allow more Democrats to cast ballots and hurt Republican candidates.

But in Massachusetts, state officials including Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey reported zero issues. Secretary of State William Galvin's office has yet to release a final tally on the number of votes cast, but Healey put the number at nearly 1.4 million.

"We spend a lot of time talking about the bad news, but let's take a moment to savor the fact that almost 1.4 million people voted in the Massachusetts primary," Healey said. "Early voting and vote-by-mail work."

Earlier this week Galvin's office projected that 1.2 million to 1.3 million votes would be cast. The only other time more than 1 million votes were cast in a primary was 1990, when there were contested primaries for governor in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

"Voter turnout in the September 1 Primary makes one thing abundantly clear — vote by mail should be here to stay," Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, Executive Director of MassVOTE, said in a statement.

The non-partisan, nonprofit that seeks to increase voter participation in Massachusetts said the high voter turnout for Tuesday's primary was in large part because the new rules called for sending mail-in ballot applications directly to registered voters. Baker, in his Thursday news conference, said turnout also increased because of what's at stake in politics right now. He said he expects that to happen again in November.

"People believe the stakes in these elections are incredibly high, and people are focused on it and people are paying attention to it and people want to vote," Baker said. From Barnstable to Burlington, town clerks had to adapt to the new rules and process the flood of mail-in ballots. In Wilmington, Town Clerk Christine Touma-Conway said mail-in voting increased primary turnout from 4.9 percent in 2016 to 37 percent on Tuesday — an increase she jokingly called "traumatizing." She said it did what early voting was supposed to do but hasn't since its implementation in 2016. "It was worth it because of the increased turnout," Touma-Conway said in an email. "And hopefully having gone through the experience during the primary has taught us some process lessons that will improve our efficiency for November, when we can probably count on at least double the number of mailed ballots and a much higher number of in-person early voting." Peabody City Clerk Allyson Danforth also said the town experienced some stress from mail-in voting, especially at the end of the night.

"Right up until 8 o'clock we had people running around at the last minute getting the ballots to the polls," she said. "I am sure we were not the only city where that happened. The earlier you can get in mail-in ballots, the better."

There was one problem in Tuesday's primary: In the 4th District Democratic primary, clerks across the district did not complete counting ballots on Election Day there that were returned in the hours before polls closed. That forced Galvin to seek a court review of the vote count.

This story originally appeared on the Patch.com Check it out here!


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