SECTION 1. Chapter 54 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2002 official edition, is amended by adding the following language for newly created Section 62A:
Postponement and extension of qualifying periods for elections for public office during state of emergency; limitation-
Section 62A. The state secretary shall have the authority to regulate elections in emergency situations, including when the governor declares a state of emergency or a federal agency declares a state of emergency or disaster exists. Such authorization shall include, but not be limited to:
(a)Postponing or extending the qualifying periods provided in this chapter for the qualification of candidates seeking municipal, county, or state-wide office; and
(b)Postponing the date of any primary, special primary, election, or special election in the affected area; and
(c)Providing for procedures for the orderly conduct elections; and
(d)In the case of municipal elections, postponing or suspending such local election after consultation with local election officials.
Any such postponement or extension shall not exceed 45 days. The Secretary of State shall adopt by rule or regulation an election emergency contingency plan.
(b) The secretary of the commonwealth shall adopt, by rule or regulation, an elections emergency contingency plan, which shall contain goals and policies that give specific direction to state and local elections officials when an election has been suspended or delayed due to an emergency or alternate voting procedures are necessary. The contingency plan shall address, but not be limited to, the following concerns:
(1) Providing a procedure for state and local elections officials to follow when an election has been suspended or delayed to ensure notice of the suspension or delay to the proper authorities, the electorate, the communications media, poll workers, and the custodians of polling places.
(2) Providing a procedure for the release and certification of election returns to the department for elections suspended or delayed and subsequently rescheduled under the provisions this chapter.
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