State Rep. Jay Livingstone, who is co-sponsoring a bill to increase access to early voting for all elections, first learned of its necessity in November of 2012 – one year before he assumed office – when he was working on Elizabeth Warren’s campaign in her successful bid for her first term as U.S. senator.
“We were at the victory party when we realized one of the volunteers wasn’t there,” Livingstone recalled. “We called her and found out that she had been in line for two and a half hours and was still waiting to vote at the polling location for Precinct 5, Ward 1 at the Benjamin Franklin School in the South End.”
As a result, early voting was allowed citywide in the 2016 Presidential election, and for last November’s state election, special legislation was passed allocating money for early voting.
“People all across my district in Boston and Cambridge were able to take advantage of it,” Livingstone said. “I heard a lot of feedback on how much voters liked it and appreciated the convenience that early voting allowed.”
Livingstone and Rep. Andres Vargas of Haverhill are cosponsoring An Act to extend early voting for all elections (Bill H.681), which Livingstone said is modeled after the current laws that allowed early voting in the 2016 Presidential election.
“I would imagine that Boston would implement early voting in the way it has for other elections [if the bill passes],” Livingstone added.
According to the bill, “The election officers and registrars of every city or town shall allow any qualified voter…to cast a ballot for any biennial state election, municipal election, or any primary during the early voting period as set forth in this section including, but not limited to, any city or town election held at any time.”
The bill also mandates that early voting would take place “during the usual business hours for each town or city clerk,” and that each city or town could extend the hours beyond this at its own discretion.
Moreover, each city or town would be required to establish a designated site for early voting at their respective election offices, or in case that location is deemed unsuitable for such a purpose, each town or city would be mandated to provide for an alternative centrally located, suitable and convenient public building.” Early voting sites also must all be ADA accessible.
Also, the bill states that designated sites for early voting must be determined no less than 14 days before the beginning of the voting period, and that no less than seven days prior to the start of the voting period, the locations for early voting “shall be published in every newspaper listed for the city or town in the New England Newspaper & Press Association.”
The bill further states that each city or town is required to post early voting sites “conspicuously…in the office of the city clerk or on the principal official bulletin board of each city or town,” as well as on the website for each city or town and, if applicable, on the website of the state secretary.
“It’s just about making it more convenient for people to vote and increasing turnout,” Livingstone said.