SECTION 1. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, this act shall apply to the September 1, 2020 state primaries, in this act called the primary, and the November 3, 2020 biennial state election, in this act called the election. Terms used in this act shall have the meanings assigned by section 7 of chapter 4 and section 1 of chapter 50 of the General Laws, unless a contrary meaning clearly appears. Other general and special laws shall continue to apply to the primary and the election, except to the extent that they are inconsistent with this act.
SECTION 2. The general court finds that all voters who are ill, are confined to their homes to avoid transmission of illness, or wish to avoid polling places as a precautionary measure related to COVID-19, are unable by reason of physical disability to cast their votes in person at the polling places.
SECTION 3. On or before the nineteenth day before the election only, the state secretary shall cause to be mailed to all voters at their residential addresses as shown in the central registry of voters, without application, an absent voting ballot and accompanying papers, all in the languages otherwise required by law, as provided in section 91B of chapter 54 of the General Laws, except voters in designated health care facilities to whom subsection (b) of said section 91B of said chapter 54 shall continue to apply. The state secretary shall pre-pay return postage for all ballots mailed under this section. Return of undeliverable ballots mailed under this section shall not be a basis for or evidence in a challenge under section 85 or 96 of said chapter 54, or removal from the register of voters under chapter 51 of the General Laws. Voters shall return absent voting ballots to the city or town clerk as provided in section 92 of said chapter 54. The city or town clerk shall provide a secure, locked dropbox outside the building in which the clerk’s office is located, for absent voting ballots returned in person under subsection (a) of said section 92 of said chapter 54.
SECTION 4. Voters who do not receive a ballot under section 3, or who wish to have their ballot mailed to a different address or to vote in person at the clerk’s office, may continue to apply in writing to the city or town clerk under section 89 of chapter 54 of the General Laws. The clerk shall count only the first non-rejected ballot received from any voter.
SECTION 5. The state secretary shall establish a statewide Internet portal through which a voter may apply for an absent voting ballot from the city or town clerk, as a form of written communication under section 89 of chapter 54 of the General Laws. The city or town clerk shall process such an Internet application under section 91 of said chapter 54. The Internet portal shall allow such a voter to track the progress of the application and receipt of the ballot.
SECTION 6. For the election only, the city or town clerk shall receive and count absent voting ballots mailed not later than November 3 if they are received not later than November 13. A legible postmark shall be conclusive evidence of the date of mailing. Otherwise, the date of the voter’s affidavit shall be the date of mailing.
SECTION 7. The state secretary, after consulting the department of public health, shall adopt regulations requiring public health safeguards at early voting sites and polling places, including required distancing of voters and election officers, frequent use of sanitizers, appropriate clothing, and use of marking pens.
SECTION 8. Early voting in person as provided by section 25B of chapter 54 of the General Laws, except subsections (b) and (e), shall apply to the primary and the election, but the first day of early voting shall be the eleventh business day before the primary and the sixteenth business day before the election.
SECTION 9. Election officers need not be residents of the city or town or voters. They may be appointed without regard to enrollment in a political party or to lists submitted by political party committees.
SECTION 10. The city or town clerk may decide that only one voting list shall be delivered to the ballot clerks, that there shall be no requirement to check the voter’s name against a second list before the voter deposits the ballot under section 83 of chapter 54 of the General Laws, and that inspectors not be appointed for that purpose.
SECTION 11. Instead of transmitting absent voting ballots to polling places, the city or town clerk may decide that they shall be scanned in the clerk’s office at any time. The clerk may also decide that early voting ballots shall be scanned in the clerk’s office at any time. All such scanned ballots shall be kept secured, locked and unexamined, and no results shall be determined or announced until the time for closing the polls on the day of the primary or election. Disclosing any such result before that time shall be punished as a violation of section 14 of chapter 56 of the General Laws.
SECTION 12. The last day for voter registration under sections 1F and 26 of chapter 51 of the General Laws shall be the tenth day before both the primary and the election.
SECTION 13. The state secretary may adopt regulations to carry out this act.
SECTION 14. Sections 59 and 60 of chapter 56 of the General Laws shall apply to this act.
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