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Voting going smoothly in MA with some issues like long lines, election protection coalition says

By Melissa Hanson | mhanson@masslive.com


With Election Day underway, voting is going generally well in Massachusetts with some issues like long lines and unnecessary ID checks, according to officials with the Massachusetts Election Protection Coalition.

“The number one thing that we’re seeing right now is some excessively long lines,” said Sophia Hall, an attorney with the Lawyers for Civil Rights. “We’ve always had issues of long lines in Massachusetts but those are sort of being enhanced by the fact that we’re also trying to deal with proper safety protocols related to this pandemic.”


Specifically, long lines have been spotted in the Mattapan, Dorchester and Hyde Park, neighborhoods, officials said during a Massachusetts Election Protection Coalition press conference Tuesday morning.


However, those lines are getting shorter now, with waits that are about 30 minutes. In contrast, during the 2016 election, some voters waited in line for more than an hour and in 2012, some waited more than three hours, according to Pam Wilmot the executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts.


Massachusetts affiliates of the Election Protection Coalition include the Lawyers for Civil Rights, Common Cause Massachusetts, ACLU of Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the League of Women Voters MA, the Anti-Defamation League and Demos.


There are nonpartisan coalition volunteers spread out across the state, ready to help voters in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Lynn, Lawrence, Lowell, Springfield, Randolph, Brockton, Fall River, New Bedford, Springfield and Worcester.


Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the executive director of the Lawyers for Civil Rights, said poll machine issues have been reported in Lynn, Lawrence, and Randolph. Technicians have been dispatched to those sites.


“We are also seeing reports of improper requests for identification. While these are being generally requested to facilitate the administrative process, it is highly disturbing that this is disproportionately affecting the Latinx community, especially in Boston, Lawrence, and Waltham,” Espinoza-Madrigal said. “Although Massachusetts election laws require the presence of a law enforcement official to guard ballot boxes, we have already seen law enforcement officials aggressively confronting non-partisan Election Protection volunteers, particularly in Springfield, Framingham, Cambridge, and Boston.”


To address that issue, coalition members are asking the Secretary of State’s office to call poll workers and offer education and information.


Additionally, the coalition has seen some police officers or wardens ask coalition volunteers to move away from polling places in Springfield, Framingham, Cambridge and Boston.


“We’ve seen something to the extent of at least five or six cities in which our volunteers have been forcibly removed from the area and even threats of arrest being made when they were simply trying to assist voters,” Sophia Hall said.


The coalition’s volunteers are nonpartisan and are out to help voters cast a meaningful ballot, no to support a particular candidate or ballot question, officials said.


“Another significant issue is some confusion around the mail-in ballots and absentee ballots,” said Rahsaan Hall, the racial justice program director for the ACLU of Massachusetts. “There are been a couple of reports of individuals in Lawrence who have been turned away because they were told that they had been mailed a mail-in or absentee ballot and therefore could not vote, which is not the law. As long as a person has not mailed in their mail-in ballot or their mail-in or absentee ballot has not been received and accepted, they are still able to vote in person.”


The coalition has a national hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE to answer voter questions and concerns. There have been about 200 calls so far in Massachusetts, Sophia Hall said.


“I think it’s important to note that even though there have been a significant numbers of calls that we have received, a lot of those calls have been voter information, are they registered to vote, where is their polling location, questions about whether or not people can vote if they’ve moved, what are the requirements,” Rahsaan Hall said. “So, it appears that the overwhelming experience in Massachusetts has been a good one, but there are certainly some election administration issues that certainly need to be tightened up.”

Polls in Massachusetts are open until 8 p.m. Registered voters can look up their polling place online.


Mail-in ballots that come in after Election Day will be counted as long as they are postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday. Under the emergency voting law, local election officials are allowed to continue counting those late ballots until Friday.


Overseas ballots postmarked Tuesday may be counted if they arrive by 5 p.m. on Nov. 13.


Voters can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) toll-free with any questions or issues. Spanish-speaking voters can call the 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682) hotline.


This story originally appeared on MassLIVE. Check it out here!

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