House Passes Vargas-Cosponsored Early Voting, Mail-In Voting; Stated Aim to Keep People Safe

State Rep. Andy X. Vargas. (Courtesy photograph.)

State lawmakers are talking about changing the way people may vote in Massachusetts.

The state House of Representatives last week passed a bill, cosponsored by Haverhill Rep. Andy X. Vargas, to address concerns around elections access during the pandemic. It provides options for early in-person and mail-in voting for the primary and general, local, state and federal elections. Vargas, who was a guest Friday on WHAV’s morning show, said bill allows everyone who wants to vote by mail to be able to do so.

“The process for that is going to be as follows. Every single voter will receive an application to be able to request a ballot. You can also request a ballot online. You can fill out that application online or on the form mailed to you. You can mail the form back to the state saying, ‘Yes I want a ballot to be sent to me for the primary or the general.’ And then that ballot will be mailed to you, and you can vote by home and ensure that it’s postmarked by election day,” Vargas said.

Vargas originally sought a voting process similar to that in place in Oregon where the state just automatically sends ballots in a safe and secure way. However, he said, “This is a good compromise that keeps the integrity of our elections, and also supports our clerks. I know our clerk works very hard here in Haverhill, and she was an excellent person for me to consult as we worked on this piece of legislation.”

Vargas says there more to this bill than the convenience of voting by mail.

“I think people have to remember the main thing with this bill is keeping people safe. We have poll workers who are older, quite frankly, who are at risk. So, we don’t want to have people coming into these polling locations and putting not only themselves, but our poll workers at risk,” he explained.

The bill also provides options for early in-person voting and extends deadlines for early voting. The bill still must be approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker to become law.

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