Nearly half of Massachusetts voters mailed in their ballots for the 2020 general election
By Steph Solis | email@example.com
More than 41% of Massachusetts voters mailed in their ballots for the Nov. 3 general election under the mail-in voting law implemented because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to election data shared by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. More than 1.5 million voters mailed in their ballots in the weeks leading up to the general election, taking advantage of the law that took effect in July to reduce spread of COVID-19.
Nearly 844,000 voted in person before Nov. 3, making up roughly 23% of the vote. More than 1.2 million people voted in person on Election Day, making up 35% of the vote. Turnout overall was 76% and exceeded the turnout record last set in 2016, when 3.3 million voters cast their ballots. “Vote by mail was a great success,” Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said in an interview Friday.
Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, executive director of MassVOTE, said the higher turnout isn’t surprising considering how many options voters had in the 2020 election cycle. But she also raised concerns about lower turnouts in urban centers, such as Boston, Worcester, Lowell, Holyoke, Lawrence and Springfield. In Lawrence, turnout was 52%. Crawford attributed the lower turnout to several factors: graduation rates, home ownership, English proficiency, employment and the impact COVID-19 has had on these communities. “We have much to be proud of in the November 3 General Election, but we must also recognize that much work remains to be done,” Crawford said in a statement. “In collaborating with fellow advocates, legislators, election officials, and the people of Massachusetts, we aim to carry out this mission every single day.”
Galvin said he supports making an expanded mail-in voting system permanent in Massachusetts and plans to launch a working group by the end of the year. The working group should have a wide range of local clerks and elected officials who can weigh in on the cost, logistical problems and benefits of running a mail-in voting system in 2020. Mail-in voting was widely used in Acton, Lexington, Amherst and Brookline, where more than half of voters mailed in ballots. It was least popular in Monroe, where 6% of voters mailed in ballots, and in New Ashford, where no one voted by mail. The Senate passed a $46 billion budget last week that included a provision to allow mail-in voting in local elections through June.
Galvin said he worked with the author, Sen. Cynthia Creem, to clarify that mail-in voting would work better in lieu of voting early in person, which could create more work for local clerks in communities that don’t get high turnout for municipal races. The proposal, however, did not appropriate any funds to help local clerks cover the cost of postage. “We would have to address sooner whether we would apply some of these things to municipal elections that occur the fall of ’21. That remains to be seen,” Galvin said. “In the short run, we want to make sure it’s extended through June and talk to local clerks.”
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