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Bay State voters have more choices to safely cast their ballots this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a new law that allows residents to vote by mail without having to give a reason.
This July and September, state officials sent all registered voters absentee ballot applications, which are preaddressed to local election officials. No postage is necessary, but AARP Massachusetts advises mailing applications as soon as possible, as they must be received by Wednesday, Oct. 28.
Early in-person voting at municipal offices has also been expanded and will include the two weekends before the Nov. 3 election. Each city or town sets early-voting hours and locations. To find your nearest early-voting center, visit MassEarlyVote.com.
“The more you can spread out opportunities to vote, the better,” said Mike Festa, state director for AARP Massachusetts, which supported the voting-law changes.
Early voting was introduced in the state in 2016 on a more limited scale. In that year’s presidential election, more than a million people cast their ballots early, contributing to a record turnout of about 75 percent of the state’s 4.5 million registered voters.
This year, Massachusetts joined the growing list of states that offer mail-in ballots to all voters. Previously, voters needed a reason to qualify for an absentee ballot.
To ensure the security of mail-in ballots, election officials use bar codes and signature matching. When officials receive ballots, they scan the bar codes, which registers in a state voter database that they have been received. This prevents individuals from voting more than once.
State officials verify the authenticity of a mail-in ballot by matching the signature on the envelope with the signature on the application for the ballot. If there are discrepancies or questions, they will contact the voter. Once ballots are received, they are stored in vaults or other secure facilities, according to the secretary of state’s office.
With so much at stake for older voters, AARP Massachusetts is trying to spread the word, via social media and other outreach, about the new voting options.
“Our mission is to get that information out there as clearly as possible. People need to have confidence that they can vote safely in this important election,” Festa said. —Jill Gambon
This story is provided by AARP Massachusetts. Visit the AARP Massachusetts page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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