Massachusetts lawmakers unveil compromise voting rights bill

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BOSTON (AP) — Mail-in ballots and early voting — popular options used to vote in Massachusetts in the 2020 pandemic-era election — would become permanent features of the state’s political landscape in as part of a compromise version of a voting overhaul bill unveiled Wednesday at the State House.

The bill would also increase ballot access for voters with disabilities and overseas military; ensure that eligible voters who are incarcerated can apply for a mail-in ballot and vote; and is taking steps to modernize the state’s election administration process, lawmakers say.

The legislation — a compromise version of separate bills earlier approved by House and Senate lawmakers — now returns to both houses for debate. The Senate could seize the measure as early as Thursday.

The final bill does not include any provision that would allow individuals to register and vote on Election Day, despite efforts by the Senate to offer several compromise approaches, according to Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem.

More than 3.6 million residents cast ballots in the 2020 state general election, totaling 76% of all registered voters. Of these, 42% voted by post in the general elections. Another 23% voted in the early voting windows.

The bill would allow registered voters to vote by mail for any presidential, state or local primary or election; set aside two weeks — including two weekends — of in-person early voting for biennial state elections and one week — including one weekend — for presidential or state primaries; and moving the voter registration deadline from 20 to 10 days before a preliminary, primary or general election.

Suffrage advocates urged both houses to approve the bill.

“Absentee voting and early in-person voting have made it easier and safer for people to vote during the pandemic and should continue to improve turnout in our elections,” said Patricia Comfort, executive director of the League of Women. Voters of Massachusetts.

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