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HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 2080        FILED ON: 1/17/2013

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 568

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

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PRESENTED BY:

James M. Cantwell

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To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
              Court assembled:

              The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the adoption of the accompanying bill:

An Act allowing no excuse absentee voting and establishing voting by early ballot.

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PETITION OF:

 

Name:

District/Address:

James M. Cantwell

4th Plymouth

Josh S. Cutler

6th Plymouth


HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 2080        FILED ON: 1/17/2013

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 568

By Mr. Cantwell of Marshfield, a petition (accompanied by bill, House, No. 568) of James M. Cantwell and Josh S. Cutler relative to absentee and early voting.  Election Laws. 

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 

_______________

In the Year Two Thousand Thirteen

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An Act allowing no excuse absentee voting and establishing voting by early ballot.

 

              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

              SECTION 1.  The first paragraph of section 34A of chapter 53 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after clause (c) the following clause:-

              (d) Official early voting ballots, similar in all respects to the official ballot to be used in such primary, on paper similar in color to the official ballot of the respective parties.  Instructions for the use of such early ballots may be printed on the back of the ballots.

              SECTION 2.  Section 37A of chapter 53 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “absentee,” in line 9, the following words:-  “or early”

              SECTION 3.  Section 37A of chapter 53 is hereby further amended by inserting after the first paragraph the following paragraph:-

              A city or town clerk shall not supply any voter with the early ballot of more than one party at any one primary.  If an enrolled voter requests the early ballot of a party other than the party in which the voter is enrolled, the clerk shall supply the voter with the early ballot of the party in which the voter is enrolled.  If the voter is unenrolled, the voter shall inform the clerk of the party in whose primary the voter desires to vote.

              SECTION 4.  Section 37A of chapter 53 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by inserting after the word “absentee,” in line 11, the following words:- “or early”

              SECTION 5.  Section 37A of chapter 53 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by inserting after the word “absentee,” in line 12, the following words:- “or early”

              SECTION 6.  Section 37A of chapter 53 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by inserting after the word “absentee,” in line 14, the following words:- “or early”

              SECTION 7.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 86, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, and inserting in place thereof the following section: -

              Section 86. Any voter whose application for an official absent voting ballot has been filed with the city or town clerk as provided in section eighty-nine, and certified under section ninety-one, may vote in accordance with sections eighty-seven to one hundred and three, inclusive. A voter who will be unable by reason of permanent physical disability to cast his 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 his permanent physical disability, stating that it is reasonably certain because of permanent physical disability that the voter will be unable to cast his vote in person at the polling place on the day of the election. The city or town clerk shall maintain a list of such permanently disabled voters and such voters shall not be required to file any such certification thereafter with their applications for an absent voting ballot. Not later than twenty-eight days before every primary, preliminary election or election, the city or town clerk shall send to each voter whose name appears on the permanently disabled voters’ list an application for an absent voting ballot, which application said clerk shall complete so far as possible except for the voter’s signature.

              SECTION 8.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by inserting after section 86 the following section:-

              Section 86A. Early Voters

              Any voter may, during the period beginning on the third Monday preceding an election and ending on the Friday preceding an election, make a personal appearance during normal business hours at the town or city clerk whose jurisdiction contains the voter’s assigned election precinct and request to vote by early ballot.  A voter who makes a personal appearance to vote before election day shall be given an early ballot, and shall not be given an absent ballot.  If the third Monday preceding an election is a holiday, a voter may request to vote by early ballot beginning on the second Tuesday preceding an election.

              Voting by early ballot shall be carried out consistent with sections eighty seven, eighty eight, and one hundred and one to one hundred and three Q, inclusive.

              The Secretary of State shall adopt regulations and guidelines consistent with sections eighty seven, eighty eight, and one hundred and one to one hundred and three Q, inclusive for the conduct of voting by early ballot.

              SECTION 9.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 87, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

              Section 87.  Preparation of absent and early voting ballots, envelopes, instructions

              Prior to each biennial state election the state secretary shall prepare in such quantities as he may deem necessary the following papers:

              (a) Official absent voting ballots, similar in all respects to the official ballot to be used at such election, except that they shall be printed on paper differing in color from that used for official or specimen or early ballots.

              (b) Official early voting ballots, similar in all respects to the official ballot to be used at such election, except that they shall be printed on paper differing in color from that used for official or specimen or absent ballots.

              (c) Envelopes of sufficient size to contain the ballots specified in subsections (a) and (b) bearing on their reverse the voter’s affidavit of compliance with the requirements of section ninety-two.  Each envelope shall bear the words “absent voting ballot” or “early voting ballot” as applicable.

              (d) Envelopes of size sufficient to contain the absent voting envelope identified in subsection (c), addressed to the clerks of the several cities and towns within the commonwealth, upon which shall be printed blank spaces for the name, address and voting place of the sender, which shall be filled in by the city or town clerk prior to the mailing of such envelopes.

              The state secretary shall furnish such explanatory matter and instructions as he may deem appropriate to carry into effect the purposes of sections eighty-six to one hundred and three, inclusive.

              SECTION 10.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by striking out section 91, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the following section: -

              Section 91. When an application for an official absent voting ballot is received by the clerk of a city or town, it shall be transmitted by him to the registrars, who shall examine it and, if they believe the signature thereon to be genuine and the person executing the signature to be a duly registered voter or a family member of a duly registered voter, shall execute the certificate thereon and return the application to said clerk.  The clerk shall cause to be placed on the voting lists prepared as required by section sixty of chapter fifty-one, opposite the name of each voter on whose application such certificate has been so executed, the letters in capitals A. V. If the registrars find the person signing the application not to be a duly registered voter, they shall send him written notice to that effect and shall preserve the application during the time fixed by law for the preservation of ballots cast in the coming election, after which time said application shall be destroyed. The clerk shall prepare lists, arranged by voting precincts, of the names and addresses of all voters on whose applications for absent voting ballots the certificate has been executed as provided in this section, and shall post copies of such lists for public inspection. An applicant for an absent voting ballot who has been furnished a certificate of supplementary registration, as authorized by section fifty-one of chapter fifty-one, shall submit such certificate with his application, and the clerk shall cause to be placed on such certificate opposite the name of the applicant the letters in capitals A. V. Every such certificate shall be securely affixed to the voting lists required by section sixty of chapter fifty-one to be transmitted to the polling place for the precinct where such applicant claims the right to vote and shall be considered a part thereof.

              Sections fifty-nine and fifty-nine A of chapter fifty-one shall apply to applications for absent voting ballots, but the certificate mentioned in section fifty-nine shall be issued by the city or town clerk.

              SECTION 11.  Section 92 of chapter 54 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the second sentence of clause (a), as so appearing.

              SECTION 12.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by striking out section 96, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the following section: -

              Section 96. All ballots transmitted under any provision of sections eighty-six to one hundred and three, inclusive, shall be subject to challenge when and as cast for non-compliance with any provision of sections eighty-six to one hundred and three, inclusive, or for any other reason allowed by law, and if challenged shall be disposed of in accordance with section eighty-five, except that so much of said section as involves the administering of an oath shall not apply thereto, and the writing of the name and address of the voter on the ballot shall be performed by the officer charged with depositing the ballot in the ballot box.

              SECTION 13.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by inserting after section 100 the following section:-

              Section 101.  Early Ballot Procedures

              When a voter makes a personal appearance to vote by early ballot the clerk shall request suitable written identification consistent with sections seventy six and seventy six B.  If the clerk verifies the identity of the voter and determines that the voter is eligible to vote, the clerk shall give the voter one early ballot and one early ballot envelope.  No voter shall be given more than one early ballot or envelope at a time.  An early ballot cannot be mailed to a voter, even if the voter makes a personal appearance and requests an early ballot be mailed.

              A voter shall mark his or her early ballot in the presence of no other person, except as provided in section seventy nine.  The voter shall mark his or her early ballot without leaving the town or city clerk’s office.  The voter shall then enclose and seal the ballot in the envelope provided and return the ballot and sealed envelope to the clerk.

              The provisions of section fifty-nine of chapter fifty-one, relative to certificates and voting procedure, shall apply to early ballots.

              The provisions of section seventy six C, relating to voting by provisional ballot, shall apply to early ballots.

              The provisions of section eighty-one, relative to spoiled ballots, shall apply to early ballots.

              SECTION 14.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by inserting after section 101 the following section:-

              Section 101A.  Challenges

              All early ballots shall be subject to challenge when and as cast for non-compliance with the sections eighty six A, eighty seven, eighty eight, and one hundred and one to one hundred and three Q, inclusive, or for any other reason allowed by law, and if challenged shall be disposed of in accordance with section eighty-five.

              SECTION 15.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by inserting after section 101A the following section:-

              Section 101B.  Record of Early Ballots

              The clerk shall cause to be placed on the voting lists prepared as required by section sixty of chapter fifty-one, opposite the name of each voter who made a personal appearance and voted by early ballot, the letters in capitals E.B.  No voter who voted by early ballot, and opposite whose name on the voting lists the letters E.B. have been placed, shall be permitted to vote on election day.

              SECTION 16.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by inserting after section 101B the following section:-

              Section 101C.  Counting of Early Ballots

              Early ballots shall not be counted until the close of polls on election day.

              The city or town clerk, on the day of the election, but no later than one hour after the hour for closing of the polls, shall transmit all envelopes purporting to contain official early voting ballots to the election officers in the several precincts where the voters whose names appear on such envelopes assert the right to vote.  The warden or deputy shall forthwith, after receipt of any such envelopes, distinctly announce the name and residence of each voter and check his name on the voting lists referred to in section sixty of chapter fifty-one, if it has not already been so checked.  He shall open the envelopes in which the ballot is enclosed in such a manner as not to damage or destroy the ballot, take the ballot therefrom without opening it or permitting it to be examined and deposit in the ballot box.  All envelopes referred to in this section shall be retained with the ballots cast at the election and shall be preserved and destroyed in the manner provided by law for the retention, preservation or destruction of official ballots.

              In the event that a voter who voted by early ballot dies after voting but before election day, the voter’s early ballot shall be valid and shall be counted.

              SECTION 17.  Section 102 of chapter 54 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “absent” the following words:- “and early.”

              SECTION 18.  Section 103 of chapter 54 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “absent,” in line 3 the following words:- “or early.”

              SECTION 19.  Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 103Q, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, and inserting in place thereof the following section: -

              Section 103Q. No mere informality in the manner or carrying out any provision of law affecting voting by absent or early voting ballot at an election shall invalidate such election or constitute sufficient cause for the rejection of the returns thereof, and such provisions shall be construed liberally to effectuate their purposes.

              SECTION 20.  Section 21 of chapter 56 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “absent,” in line 1, the following words:- “or early”

              SECTION 21.  Section 27A of chapter 56 is hereby further amended by inserting after the word “absent,” in line 1, the following words:- or early

              SECTION 22.  Section 27A of chapter 56 of the General Laws is hereby further amended by inserting after the word “absent,” in line 2, the following words:- “or early”

              SECTION 23.  Chapter 56 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after section 27A the following section:-

              Section 27B.  Unlawful distribution of early voter ballots

              Whoever, at any election in which early voting is permitted, knowingly and willfully delivers an early voter ballot to a voter or other person in any other manner than as provided for in section eighty-six A and one-hundred and one shall be punished by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars and by imprisonment for not more than five years.

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