The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts testified Wednesday, March 27, in support of a proposed Constitutional amendment to remove the restrictions on obtaining an absentee ballot and allow voters to request an absentee ballot without stating a reason. This change will enable more qualified voters to participate in elections.
The Joint Committee on Election Laws hearing covered several proposed Constitutional amendments to permit no-excuse absentee ballots. The League testified in support of H.63, sponsored by Rep William Straus.
Currently, the Massachusetts Constitution specifies voters can only vote by absentee ballot if they will be out of town on Election Day, have a physical disability that prevents them from going to the polls or have a religious reason not to vote on Election Day. The Straus bill would add absentee voting “by qualified voters of the commonwealth who might otherwise choose to vote prior to the date of the election.”
Linda Freedman, the state League’s specialist on election and voting rights, testified that the three reasons listed in the Constitution for absentee voting are insufficient. She noted, for example, many elderly voters cannot wait in long lines, and voters with long commutes may not be in their towns during polling hours.
“Even volunteers working at the polls may have difficulty getting to their own polling places during the hours they are open,” she said.
The Massachusetts League also plans to testify at an April 3 Joint Committee on Election Laws hearing on proposed legislation to change election laws in the state.