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Election Administration in Massachusetts

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Election Types and Dates

Election Dates

Upcoming Primary Elections

The primary election is September 8, 2016.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. 2016 Election Calendar [link]

Upcoming General Elections

The general election is November 8, 2016.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. 2016 Election Calendar [link]

How is a nominee determined?

How is a nominee determined (caucus, primary, convention)?

Primary elections.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 53, § 1 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 53, § 70B [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 53, § 2 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 53, § 4 [link]

Political Party Affiliation

Can voters register by party in the state?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 44 [link]

Must voters be registered with a political party if they would like to vote on that party’s candidates in a partisan primary election (i.e., are primaries open or closed)?

Partially closed. To vote in a party's primary, a voter must be either enrolled in that party or not enrolled in any party.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 53, § 37 [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(6) [link]

When can a voter change or switch their party affiliation?

The voter registration deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 26 [link]

Voter Registration

Who Can Vote?

What are the state's residency requirements for voters?

A person must live in the city or town where they register to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 1 [link]

Can someone pre-register to vote if they will not be 18 years old by the next election? If so, who?

Yes, any person who is at least 16 years old may pre-register to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 47A [link]

Can 17-year-olds who will be 18-year-olds by the general election vote in the primary?

No, a person must be 18 years old to vote in any election, including a primary.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 1 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 47A [link]

Does the state take away the right to vote from persons convicted of certain crimes? If so, what crimes?

Those convicted of a felony are ineligible to vote while in prison.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 1 [link]

If people lose the right to vote because of a criminal conviction, can they regain the right to vote? How?

Upon release from prison, a person who was convicted of a felony automatically regains the right to vote, and they may re-register to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 1 [link]

Voter Registration Options

Is fully online voter registration available? (i.e., can voters fill in and submit an online application without printing and signing it?)

Yes, but it is available only to people who have a valid driver's license, learner's permit, or non-driver ID issued by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and have a signature on file with the RMV. Click here to access the online voter registration website.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 33A [link]

Mass. Sec. of Commonwealth, Online Voter Registration System [link]

Does the state accept the National Mail Registration Form?

Yes. Click here to download the form.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

National Mail Voter Registration Form [link]

Is the state required to register voters at public assistance agencies and driver's license agencies, per the National Voter Registration Act of 1993?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

U.S. Department of Justice website [link]

Student-Specific Rules

Does the state have specific rules on students registering to vote or voting?

Students may register to vote in the district where they attend school or at another address considered their permanent home, such as their parent's address.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Hershkoff v. Board of Registrars of Voters, 366 Mass. 570, 576-77 (1974) [link]

Voter Registration Deadlines

When is the voter registration deadline?

20 days before an election, and 10 days before a special town meeting.

Different registration requirements may apply to local elections, particularly town meetings. Consult the municipal clerk for details.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 26 [link]

How is the deadline enforced for mailed applications?

Postmark - a mailed voter registration application must be postmarked by the voter registration deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 26 [link]

Same-Day Registration

Can voters register and vote on the same day (i.e., does the state offer same-day registration)?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 26 [link]

Voters Who Have Moved or Changed Their Name

Can people vote if they moved, but did not update their voter registration with their new address?

A person may remain registered to vote under their old name until June 1st of the year following the year in which they changed their name.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 2 [link]

Can people vote if they have changed their name, but did not update their voter registration with their new name?

For all elections and primaries held before June 1 in any year, a person may be registered and vote in the ward or voting precinct where they lived on January 1 of the previous year; for all elections and primaries held after June 1 in any year, a person may be registered and vote in the ward or voting precinct where they lived on January 1 of that year. However, any registered voter of a city or town who moves to any other precinct in that city or town, and any person who moved into the city or town, may re-register to vote at their new address before the voter registration deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 3 [link]

Language, Literacy, and Disability Access

Language and Literacy Access

Does the state have any places that must provide election materials in languages other than English, per Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

The city of Quincy must provide voting materials in Chinese. Additionally, the following cities must provide voting materials in Spanish:

  • Boston
  • Chelsea
  • Fitchburg
  • Holyoke
  • Lawrence
  • Lowell
  • Lynn
  • Revere
  • Springfield
  • Worcester
  • Town of Southbridge
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Voting Rights Act Amendments of 2006, Determinations Under Section 203, 76 Fed. Reg. 63602 (Oct. 13, 2011) [link]

Does the state have any other rules about providing election materials in languages other than English?

The Secretary of State must provide voter registration applications in both English and Spanish, and the Secretary may choose to provide them in other languages.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 36 [link]

Who can help a voter with reading assistance or translation if they can't vote on their own?

Under Section 208 of the federal Voting Rights Act, any voter who requires assistance to vote due to inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

Under state law, if a voter cannot read or write English, they may ask any person of their choice to help them mark their ballot, or they may request help from two election officers of different political parties.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

52 U.S.C. § 10508 (federal law) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(11)(c) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 79 [link]

Disability Access

Who can help a voter with a disability if they can't vote on their own?

Under Section 208 of the federal Voting Rights Act, any voter who requires assistance to due to blindness or disability may be given assistance by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

Under state law, if a voter has a physical disability or blindness, they may ask any person of their choice to help them mark their ballot, or they may request help from two election officers of different political parties.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

52 U.S.C. § 10508 (federal law) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 98 [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(11)(c) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 79 [link]

Does the state have other rules related to access for persons with disabilities?

If a person has a disability that prevents them from applying to register to vote in person, they may request that the registrar send two election officials of different political parties to visit the person and give them a voter registration application, allow the person to fill it out, and then return it to the registrar's office. The person must make this request no later than 3 days before the voter registration deadline, and the request must be made in writing.

Voters with physical disabilities may also vote by absentee ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 86 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 42A [link]

Early Voting, Absentee Voting, and Other Ways to Vote

Vote-by-Mail

Does the state provide mail ballots to all voters without a request?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 86 [link]

Early Voting/Absentee In-Person Voting

Does the state have early voting/absentee in-person voting?

Yes, but early voting is available only for biennial elections in November. Early voting is conducted both in person at early voting locations and by mail.

Additionally, a separate system of absentee voting exists for all elections. In any election, voters who qualify to cast an absentee ballot may vote their absentee ballot in person at the clerk's office. For more information on voting by absentee ballot, see the section below entitled ""Absentee Voting by Mail.""

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 92(a) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 91B(a) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B [link]

Where does early voting/absentee in-person voting take place?

Early voting takes place at the clerk's office or another location if the clerk's office is unsuitable for early voting, and at any other locations that clerk may choose.

In-person absentee voting occurs at the clerk's office.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 92(a) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 91B(a) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B [link]

When does early voting/absentee in-person voting take place?

Early voting is available only for biennial November elections. The early voting period begins the 11th business day before Election Day and ends at the close of business on the 2nd business day before Election Day. For voters who wish to vote an early ballot by mail, they must submit a written request for a early ballot to the clerk's office, and the request must be received no later than 12:00 p.m. on the 2nd business day before Election Day.

For voters who qualify to cast an absentee ballot, in-person absentee voting is available from the time absentee ballots become available through 12:00 p.m. on the day before Election Day. To be counted, early/absentee ballots must be received by the time the polls close on Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 89 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B(b)-(c) [link]

What official chooses early voting/absentee in-person voting locations?

Early voting locations are chosen by the city or town clerk, and usually one location is at the clerk's office itself. In-person absentee voting occurs at the clerk's office.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 92(a) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 91B(a) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B [link]

Are lists of early voters/absentee in-person voters published? How?

Lists of voters who requested an absentee ballot are maintained by the clerk and open to public inspection. The clerk also maintains lists of early voters.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B(m) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 91 [link]

Absentee Voting by Mail

Can anyone vote absentee by mail without an excuse? If not, what excuses allow a voter to vote absentee by mail?

In most elections, a voter may vote by absentee ballot only if they:

  • Will be absent from their city or town on Election Day; or
  • Have a physical disability that prevents their voting at the polling place; or
  • Cannot vote at the polls due to religious beliefs; or
  • Are confined in a correctional facility or a jail, except if by reason of a felony conviction

Additionally, in biennial November elections only, all voters may vote an early ballot by mail.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 86 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 50, § 1 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B(b)-(c) [link]

Deadline to apply for absentee ballot by mail

An absentee ballot application must be received by 12:00 p.m. on the day before Election Day. If the day before an election is a Sunday or a holiday, the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot will be 5 p.m. on the preceding business day.

A request to vote an early ballot by mail must be received no later than 12:00 p.m. on the 2nd business day before Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B(b)-(c) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 89 [link]

How does a voter apply for an absentee mail ballot?

A voter must apply for an absentee ballot by either (1) using the official application form, which is available online here and at local election offices, or (2) sending an informal written request with the same information that is on the official application to their city/town clerk. A family member of a person qualified to vote by absentee ballot may apply on the voter's behalf so long as they state their relationship to the voter on the application and sign it. The application must be mailed or hand delivered to the city/town clerk.

Additionally, a voter who will be unable by reason of permanent physical disability to cast their vote in person at the polling place may file once with the city or town clerk a certificate executed by a registered physician who is personally acquainted with the voter and aware of their permanent physical disability, stating that it is reasonably certain because of permanent physical disability that the voter will be unable to cast their vote in person at the polling place on the day of the election. The city or town clerk must maintain a list of such permanently disabled voters and such voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots in future elections.

To request an early vote mail ballot, a voter should make a written request to their clerk.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 86 [link]

Absentee Ballot Application [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B(b)-(c) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 89 [link]

Can a voter make an online request for an absentee mail ballot?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Absentee Ballot Application [link]

Does a voter need to submit any supporting documentation or verification with an absentee mail ballot or absentee mail ballot application? If so, what is required?

Generally, no.

To be added to the list of permanent absentee voters, voters with permanent physical disabilities must submit with their application a statement executed by a registered physician who is personally acquainted with the voter and aware of the permanent physical disability, stating that it is reasonably certain because of permanent physical disability that the voter will be unable to cast their vote in person at the polling place on the day of the election. The voter will then automatically be sent absentee ballots in future elections.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 86 [link]

Absentee Ballot Application [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B(b)-(c) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 89 [link]

Are there restrictions on who may request or turn in an absentee mail ballot application for a voter?

Family members may turn in absentee ballot applications for voters must sign the application themselves and state on it their relationship to the voter.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 89 [link]

Deadline to return absentee ballots

Completed absentee ballots and early vote ballots must be received by the time the polls close on Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B(e) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 93 [link]

Are there restrictions on who may return a voter's absentee mail ballot for them?

Only a voter or a member of the voter's family may return a voter's absentee ballot for them.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 92(a) [link]

Are there any special emergency rules that allow a voter to vote absentee by mail if they are unable to make it to the polls at the last minute?

A voter who is admitted to a health care facility after noon of the fifth day before Election Day should contact their city or town clerk. They can have a ballot delivered to them by an election official. Or, if the registrar permits it, a person designated in writing by the voter (who is not a candidate) may pick up the ballot at the clerk's office, bring it to the voter and return it to the clerk. However, if the health care facility is outside the city or town, and a family member is not available for this purpose, it can be mailed instead of personally delivered.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 91B [link]

Are lists of people who vote absentee by mail published? How?

Lists of voters who requested an absentee ballot are maintained by the clerk and open to public inspection. The clerk also maintains lists of early voters.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 25B(m) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 91 [link]

Presidential-only ballots

Under federal law, any registered voter who moves out of the state after the 30th day before a Presidential election may vote for President and Vice President either in person at the voter’s previous state of residence or using an absentee ballot from the voter’s previous state of residence.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

52 U.S.C. § 10502(e) [link]

Absentee Voting for Military and Overseas Voters

Who is eligible for military/overseas absentee voting?

The following voters are eligible for military/overseas voting:

  • A voter who is absent from their town/city due to being an active-duty member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and their spouses and dependents
  • U.S. citizens who live outside the United States and are eligible to vote at the last place where they lived in the United States, or would be eligible to vote at that place if they currently lived there
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 91C [link]

52 U.S.C. § 20310 [link]

How do voters apply for a military/overseas ballot?

Using the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) or the state's regular absentee ballot application process (see the above section, Absentee Voting by Mail, for more details on the regular process.)

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 91C [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 50, § 1 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 91A [link]

Deadline to apply for a military/overseas ballot

An absentee ballot application must be received by 12:00 p.m. on the day before Election Day. If the day before an election is a Sunday or a holiday, the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot will be 5 p.m. on the preceding business day.

However, voters should apply well in advance of this deadline to ensure they receive their ballot in time.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 89 [link]

Deadline to return the military/overseas ballot

If the voter is mailing their ballot from a location outside of the United States, it must be postmarked no later than Election Day and received no later than 10 days after Election Day. Otherwise, the ballot must be received no later than the time the polls close on Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 99 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 93 [link]

Who is eligible to use a write-in absentee ballot? How does it work?

For any election, military and overseas voters can use the federal write-in absentee ballot (FWAB) to vote anytime before an election, even if they have not applied for a state absentee ballot. Military and overseas voters also have the option of faxing or emailing their complete federal write-in absentee ballot, but they must waive their right to a secret ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 95 [link]

On Election Day

Where do you vote in person?

Where do you vote in person?

At the polling place for the voter's precinct.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 24 [link]

What hours are the polls open on Election Day?

What hours are the polls open on Election Day?

Usually 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. At a state election, the polls may open as early as 5:45 a.m., but not later than 7:00 a.m., and must remain open for at least thirteen (13) hours. In no case may the polls at a state election close before 8:00 p.m. For the election of city officers, the polls may open as early as 5:45 a.m. but must open no later than 10:00 a.m., and they must remain open for at least ten (10) hours. For state, city and town elections, no poll may remain open past 8:00 p.m. In town elections, the polls may be open as early as 5:45 a.m., but may open no later than 12:00 p.m., and must remain open for at least four (4) hours. The time set for closing must be contained in the notice or warrant for the election.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 64 [link]

In the Voting Booth

Can a voter bring children into the voting booth with them?

Children may accompany a voter within the guardrail, unless the warden decides that it would disrupt good order.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(20)(e) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(24)(e) [link]

Are employers required to give employees time off to vote?

Are employers required to give employees time off to vote?

Some employers are. If an employee in a manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishment applies to their employer for time off to vote, they must be allowed to leave work and vote during two hour period after the polls open.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 178 [link]

Campaigning, Electioneering, and Recording Devices

Are there restrictions on campaigning/electioneering during early voting/absentee in-person voting?

Soliciting votes and distributing campaign literature is prohibited in any location that registers voters. This includes city/town clerk's offices, which is where in-person absentee voting occurs and usually where early voting occurs too. No state rule specifically prohibits campaigning at other early voting locations, but cities and towns might prohibit it under their local rules.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, § 52A [link]

Are there restrictions on campaigning/electioneering on Election Day?

No campaign material intended to influence the vote of a voter, including campaign literature, buttons, signs, and ballot stickers, may be posted, exhibited, circulated, or distributed in the polling place, in the building where the polling place is located, on the building walls, on the premise where the building stands, or within 150 feet of an entrance door to a building. Additionally, within this 150 foot area, no person may solicit votes for or against, or otherwise promote or oppose, any person or political party or position on a ballot question, and no person may solicit signatures for nomination papers or petitions of any kind.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(22) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(18) [link]

Can a voter wear a button or t-shirt with a candidate's name or logo on it into the polling place when they vote?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(22) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(18) [link]

*NEW 1** Can a voter use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) inside the polling place or voting booth?

Yes, generally digital devices are allowed. While there is no specific restriction on taking pictures, the law prohibits a voter from allowing their marked ballot to be seen by others.

Source (confirmed on: 10/14/2016)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 56 § 29 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 56 § 25 [link]

*NEW 2** Can a voter use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) outside the polling place but within the zone around the polling place where campaigning/electioneering is banned?

Yes, generally digital devices are allowed. While there is no specific restriction on taking pictures, the law prohibits a voter from allowing their marked ballot to be seen by others.

Source (confirmed on: 10/14/2016)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 56 § 29 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 56 § 25 [link]

Who's at the Polls?

Can persons other than election workers observe inside the polls?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(22)(a) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(18)(a) [link]

What are observers inside the polls called in the state?

Observers.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(22)(a) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(18)(a) [link]

Does the state establish requirements to observe inside the polls?

Any person may be an observer. If there are so many observers in the polling place that they obstruct voters, they may be asked to cooperate in collecting information.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(22)(a) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(18)(a) [link]

*NEW 3* Can a poll observer use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) in the polling place?

State law does not address this issue. Local practices may vary.

Source (confirmed on: 10/9/2016)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 76 [link]

Are there other rules on what poll observers can or cannot do?

Observers may watch the election process and take notes, including creating marked voting lists. Observers must stay outside of the guard rail, and they cannot disrupt the election.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(22)(a) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(18)(a) [link]

Provisional Voting and Voters at the Wrong Polling Place

When should a voter be offered a provisional ballot?

Under Section 203 of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, if a person claims to be a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the person desires to vote and the person claims to be eligible to vote in a federal election, but the person’s name does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the person is not eligible to vote, then that person must be permitted to cast a provisional ballot at that polling place. The person may cast the provisional ballot after executing, before an election official at the polling place, a written affirmation stating that the person is (1) a registered voter in the jurisdiction, and (2) eligible to vote in that election.

Additionally, any person who votes in a federal election as a result of a federal or state court order, or any other order extending the time established for closing the polls by a state law in effect 10 days before the date of that election, may only vote in that election by casting a provisional ballot. Any such ballot cast must be separated and held apart from other provisional ballots cast for different reasons.

Under state law, a voter must be given a provisional ballot (also called an ""escrow ballot"") if they claim to be eligible to vote in the precinct but are not allowed to vote for any reason.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

52 U.S.C. § 21082 (federal law) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 76C [link]

If a voter casts a provisional ballot at the wrong precinct, will the ballot be counted?

If the provisional ballot was cast in the incorrect precinct but in the correct city or town, the provisional ballot will partially count; any candidates or measures that the voter was not eligible to vote for in their correct precinct will not count, but the voter's other preferences will count.

If the provisional ballot was cast in the incorrect precinct and the incorrect city or town, the provisional ballot will not be counted.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 76C [link]

Finding out if a provisional ballot was counted

Voters may call a toll-free telephone number to the Office of State Secretary for the purpose of determining the status of provisional ballots. Provisional voters wishing to determine the whether their ballot counted may call the number 7 days or more after a presidential or state primary and 20 days or more after other elections.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 76C(j) [link]

Ballot Shortages/Voting Machine Malfunctions

What is the law or procedure on emergency ballots if a polling place runs out of printed ballots? Are handwritten/photocopied ballots allowed?

All ballots for state elections must be furnished by the State Secretary and all ballots for city or town elections by the city clerk. If a polling place does not have enough ballots, the city or town clerk must deliver substitute ballots to the polling place. Handwritten or photocopied ballots are not allowed.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 61 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 40 [link]

What is the law or procedure on emergency ballots if a voting machine breaks or malfunctions?

If a voting machine malfunctions, election officers must immediately take the machine out of service and call the voting machine custodian to come repair it. While the machine is out of service, election officers may allow voters to cast their votes using absentee ballots.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(14)(a) [link]

Voter ID and Challenges

Voter ID

Who must show ID to vote?

The following voters must show ID:

  • In federal elections only, first-time voters in the city or town who registered to vote by mail and did not either (1) write on their voter registration application a valid Massachusetts driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number, or (2) provide identification with their voter registration application or otherwise before the election must show ID when voting when voting in person or enclose a copy of their ID with their absentee ballot/early mail ballot.
  • Voters who appear on the ""inactive list"" must show ID
  • An election officer is allowed to request identification from any voter, as long as the request is truly random, consistent, or based on reasonable suspicion; election officers cannot request a voter's ID to discriminate in any way.
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(5B), (5)(b) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(5B), (5)(b) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 76B [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 54.04(6B), (6)(b) [link]

Are there any special requirements for first-time voters?

In federal elections only, first-time voters in the city or town who registered to vote by mail and did not either (1) write on their voter registration application a valid Massachusetts driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number, or (2) provide identification with their voter registration application or otherwise before the election must show ID when voting when voting in person or enclose a copy of their ID with their absentee ballot/early mail ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 76B [link]

What ID is acceptable?

Acceptable identification must include the voter's name and the address at which they are registered to vote, for example a current and valid:

  • Photo identification
  • Driver's license
  • Recent utility bill, rental receipt printed on a landlord's letterhead, or lease
  • Bank statement
  • Paycheck
  • Government check
  • Copy of a voter registration affidavit
  • Other document showing the voter's name and address
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(5B), (5)(b) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(5B), (5)(b) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 76B [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 54.04(6B), (6)(b) [link]

Is a student ID an acceptable form of identification?

Only if the ID show's the voter's current address.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(5B), (5)(b) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(5B), (5)(b) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws 54 § 76B [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 54.04(6B), (6)(b) [link]

Does the address on the ID have to match the address at which the voter is registered?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(5B), (5)(b) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(5B), (5)(b) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 76B [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 54.04(6B), (6)(b) [link]

If a voter has no ID, are there alternatives such as an oath or witness?

The voter may cast a provisional ballot. If the voter casts an absentee ballot without enclosing any required ID, the absentee ballot will be treated as a provisional ballot. The provisional ballot will be counted so long as election officials later confirm the voter's eligibility; the voter is not required to submit ID to election officials after the election.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 76B [link]

Do elections without federal offices on the ballot (such as off-year gubernatorial elections) have different ID requirements?

In federal elections only, first-time voters in the city or town who registered to vote by mail and did not either (1) write on their voter registration application a valid Massachusetts driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number, or (2) provide identification with their voter registration application or otherwise before the election must show ID when voting when voting in person or enclose a copy of their ID with their absentee ballot/early mail ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 76B [link]

Challenges to Voters at the Polling Place

Who can challenge a voter at the polling place?

Any person, including an election officer or observer.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 85 [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 54.04(23) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 96 [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(23) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(19) [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 53 § 109 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 85A [link]

What are the allowed reasons on which a voter can be challenged at the polling place?

A voter can be challenged on the basis that they are not eligible to vote. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • The voter is not old enough to vote
  • The voter is not a citizen
  • The voter should have been removed from the voting list
  • The voter has already voted
  • The voter is not the person they claim to be
  • The voter did not present required ID
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 85 [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 54.04(23) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(23) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(19) [link]

Is there a requirement for the challenger to provide cause or evidence?

If a voter is challenged, the warden must ask the challenger to briefly set forth factual information specific and personal to the challenged voter as to the reasons that voter is not qualified to vote in the election in that precinct. If insufficient evidence is presented, the challenge may be dismissed. Any challenge made for the purpose of intimidating a voter or learning how the voter voted is illegal.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 85 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 56 § 31 [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 54.04(23) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(23) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(19) [link]

How does a voter defend their eligibility to vote if they are challenged?

The warden must ask the challenger to briefly set forth factual information specific and personal to the challenged voter as to the reasons that voter is not qualified to vote in the election in that precinct. If insufficient evidence is presented, the challenge may be dismissed.

If the challenge is not dismissed, the warden must administer an oath to the challenged voter affirming their identity, registration, and that they have not previously voted in that election. The warden will then allow the voter to cast a challenged ballot and require the challenged voter to write their name and address on the outside of the ballot. The warden will record the name and address of the challenger and the stated reason for the challenge, and the voter may cast the ballot in the ballot box.

After the election, a hearing with the registrars will be held. The challenged voter may appear before the registrars and answer the registrars' questions under oath. The voter may also offer additional evidence of their eligibility. If the voter does not appear before the registrars, the challenger must produce sufficient testimony to make out a prima facie case for the voter's name to be struck from the official register of voters. However, the voter may then appear before the registrars if the voter shows sufficient cause for not attending the original meeting with the registrars, the hearing may be reopened and the matter decided on its merits, as determined from the evidence presented on both sides. The voter and the challenger may be represented by counsel, and all witnesses may be cross-examined.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 85 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 56 § 31 [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 54.04(23) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(23) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(19) [link]

What are the restrictions on polling place challenges?

Challenges are permitted at the polls on Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 85 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 56 § 31 [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 54.04(23) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 52.03(23) [link]

950 Code Mass. Regs. 53.03(19) [link]

State and Local Election Officials

The State Election Authority

Who/what is the state election authority?

Secretary of the Commonwealth

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Sec. of the Commonwealth's website [link]

Current official

William Francis Galvin

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Sec. of the Commonwealth's website [link]

E-mail

elections@sec.state.ma.us

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Contact Information [link]

Phone

(617) 727-2828

Toll-Free: 1-800-462-VOTE (8683)

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Contact Information [link]

Address

Secretary of the Commonwealth

Elections Division

McCormack Building

One Ashburton Place, Room 1705

Boston, MA 02108

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Contact Information [link]

Local Election Authorities

What local election official(s) are in charge of major state-level elections (such as the even-year November general elections)?

The Board of Registrars or the Board of Election Commissioners.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51 § 17 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51 § 15 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51 § 16A [link]

What is the county-level election official?

There are no county-level elections officials in Massachusetts.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

What is the municipal-level election official?

The Board of Registrars or the Board of Election Commissioners.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51 § 17 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51 § 15 [link]

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51 § 16A [link]

Contact information for local election authorities

Click here.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Massachusetts City and Town Directory [link]

The Voter File

Voter File Basics

National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) Disclosure Law

Section 8 of the federal NVRA requires that each State maintain for at least 2 years and make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters, except to the extent that such records contain information about a person declining to register to vote or information about the identity of a voter registration agency through which a particular voter might have chosen to register.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

52 U.S.C. § 20507 [link]

Acquiring a Voter File

Under state procedure, who may acquire a voter file?

Under state law, the voter file is not a public record. (However, as stated in the previous question, federal law requires that states make their voter files available for public inspection and copying.)

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-12)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51 § 47C [link]