New early voting offers more convenience for voters, but confusion for city clerks

For the first time, Massachusetts voters will be able to cast their ballots days before the general election.

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – For the first time, Massachusetts voters will be able to cast their ballots days before the general election. But while early voting means more convenience for voters, it’s more confusion for city clerks right now. Holyoke City Clerk Brenna Murphy McGee will attend training next week with other clerks in Plymouth.

“Definitely have a lot of questions, and I’m definitely looking forward to the training. It just gives you a little bit more confidence on what we should and shouldn’t be doing. So I want to make sure we’re going about this the right way,” said McGee.

Early voting became law in 2014, but will be implemented for the first time this year, with the goal of encouraging more residents to vote.

“Hopefully, they take advantage of it, because you know, it will be less people because most people won’t know about it and it will get more people out there to vote,” said Jamal Pressley, a first time voter in Springfield.

Municipalities are required to have at least a 10 day period of voting that begins 11 business days before Election Day, November 8. That means early voting begins October 24. Otherwise, cities and towns have the autonomy to determine when and where voting will take place. Historically, there is higher voter turnout in presidential election years like this one. Murphy McGee said she hopes the City prepares for that by allocating more funding to pay for more volunteers, to work at polling centers in the days leading up to the general election. She’s going to inform residents by attending their ward meetings.

The Commonwealth is encouraging cities to offer voting at night and on weekends. Another concern is how to ensure residents don’t vote more than once. Secretary of State William Galvin recommends electronic polling books for big cities. Murphy McGee plans to use bins to sort ballots leading up to Election Day. All versions of the 2017 fiscal budget include $400,000 for early voting costs.

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