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Groups Asks Court to Force MA to Mail Absentee-Ballot Applications

Applications for absentee ballots are being held up in Massachusetts due to funding issues. (Flickr_1/Adobe Stock)
Applications for absentee ballots are being held up in Massachusetts due to funding issues. (Flickr_1/Adobe Stock)
July 14, 2020

BOSTON -- Voting-rights groups are asking a judge to force Massachusetts to mail out applications for absentee ballots tomorrow, as required by a law passed just last week.

Secretary of State William Galvin has said he won't have the funds to pay the postage until either the Legislature or governor comes up with more money. But Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said time is running out - since the primary election is set for September 1.

"These applications need to get into the mail to allow more people to vote by mail," Wilmot said. "And that will allow them to vote from the safety of their own home, rather than having to risk their health and go in person."

Common Cause and MassVOTE filed the emergency petition on Monday in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Deb O'Malley, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State, said the ballots have been printed and will be mailed as soon as the funds are secured.

The federal government appropriated $8 million in emergency election upgrades, but O'Malley said that money has already been spent. It was used to upgrade vote-counting machines and buy personal protective equipment for poll workers.

Wilmot said the funds also can be used to mail the absentee-ballot applications.

"There's many different things that are required by this law, and none of them are optional," she said. "They are the law and they need to be followed."

It is possible for a voter to download the absentee-ballot application from the Secretary of State's website and fill it out electronically. But voting-rights advocates say many voters don't have computers or printers and need to mail in their completed applications.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MA