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Voting & Elections Toolkits

Voter Registration in Massachusetts

Eligibility

  • Age: At least 16 years old for pre-registration
  • Formerly incarcerated individuals: Those convicted of a felony may vote unless currently incarcerated
  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Residence: Must be a bona-fide resident of the Massachusetts town in which you are voting
  • College students can either vote absentee in their home state or register to vote in MA.
  • Check to see if you are already registered https://www.sec.state.ma.us/VoterRegistrationSearch/MyVoterRegStatus.aspx

More information: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleifv/howreg.htm

Deadline

Online registration

To use the online voter registration system you must have a current and valid driver’s license, learner’s permit or non-driver photo identification card issued by the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and a signature on file with RMV.

Online registration form (in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Khmer): https://www.sec.state.ma.us/OVR/

Mail-in registration

Printable forms (in multiple languages): https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleifv/howreg.htm

Refer to the box below for information about ID requirements.

Choosing a political party:   

You may choose a political party affiliation when you register, but it is not required.   

Updating registration      

To update registration after a move, name change, or change of political party affiliation, use the voter registration form.

Cancelling registration

Local Election Authorities for each town maintain the voter rolls. To remove someone from a voter roll, contact the local Election Authority.

Directory of Local Election Authorities: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleclk/clkidx.htm

ID Requirements for Massachusetts Voters

ID Requirements for Registration

Online Registration

For online voter registration, a Massachusetts drivers license or state ID is required.

Mail-in Registration

Section 7 requires you to include your driver’s license number or the last 4 digits of your social security number on this application. This information will be verified through the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Commissioner of Social Security. If the information cannot be verified or you do not provide this information, you must provide identification either with this application or at your polling location when you go to vote. Sufficient identification includes a copy of a current and valid photo identification, current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document showing your name and address.

ID Requirements for Voting

First-Time Voters

If you are voting for the first time in a federal election in Massachusetts after registering to vote by mail, you may be required to show identification under federal law. It is recommended that you include a copy of your identification with your mail-in voter registration form; if you choose not to do so, you may be asked for identification when you go to your polling place on Election Day. If you are unable to present identification when you check-in, you may cast a provisional ballot and return later with identification. If you do not return with acceptable identification by close of polls, your ballot cannot be counted.

All Other Voters

You may also be asked to show identification if you are on the list of inactive voters or if a poll worker has reasonable cause to request it. If you are not able to present identification in such a situation, you must still be permitted to vote; however, your ballot must be challenged. This means that your name and address, the name and address of the challenger, and the reason for the challenge must be written on your ballot. Your ballot will be cast normally, and will only be re-examined in the case of a recount, court order, or audit.

Acceptable identification must include your name and the address at which you are registered to vote. Examples of acceptable identification include: 

  • a driver's license or state-issued ID card, 
  • recent utility bill
  • rent receipt
  • lease
  • a copy of a voter registration affidavit
  • any other printed identification which contains the voter's name and address.

More information: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleidreq/idrequirementsidx.htm

 

 

Casting a Ballot in Massachusetts

Important Dates

  • Primary Election: March 3, 2020
  • General Election: November 3, 2020
  • Early voting: Early Voting is available the week before the election for primaries and two weeks before the election for the general election.

Absentee voting

Opening/closing dates

  • Absentee ballot applications must be received by your local election office by 12 p.m. on the day before the election, unless the day before the election is a holiday or a Sunday, in which case the application must be submitted by 5 p.m. on the last business day before the election..
  • If you are voting by mail, you should be sure to submit your application in a timely manner. Please allow enough time for the ballot to be mailed to you and for you to return the ballot by Election Day. All ballots being mailed from inside the United States must be received by your local election official no later than the close of polls on Election Day.

Military voters and voters who reside outside the U.S.

  • Your absentee ballot application should be submitted to your local election official. Your absentee ballot application will be valid until December 31st of this year. Submit a new application each year in which you wish to vote.
  • The best application to use is the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which is an application designed by the federal government specifically for military and overseas voters.
  • Overseas ballots must be received by the Town Clerk by 5pm, 10 days after election day in order to be counted.

Who is eligible to use an absentee ballot?

In order to be eligible to vote by absentee ballot in Massachusetts, a voter must be prevented from voting at their polling place on Election Day, due to:

  • Absence from the voter's city or town on Election Day; or
  • Physical disability; or
  • Religious belief.

Application for Absentee Ballot (English, Spanish, Chinese, Khmer): https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleabsentee/absidx.htm

 

 

Polling places and hours

  • Use the Polling Place Locator to find your polling place: https://gettothepolls.com/
  • For a general election or primary, polls in Massachusetts are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Check with the Town Clerk regarding voting hours for municipal referenda.
  • Time off to vote: Employees in certain industries must be given time to vote within the first 2 hours the polls are open. They must request the time in advance, and it does not have to be paid.

Rides to the polls

Many organizations offer free rides to polling places. Some of these include:

Help for disabled voters

Ballots

Where to get more info on candidates

Referenda

Sample ballots

Elections

Primaries vs. general elections

  • Primary elections are conducted to select each party’s candidates in the general election.
  • In Masachusetts, a voter must be a member of a political party in order to vote in that party’s primary.
  • In a general election, voters are not required to have a party affiliation.

 

Jurisdiction

Offices/Measures That May Appear on the Ballot

Federal (even years)

President/Vice-President (elected every four years; next election in 2020)

Senator (elected every six years for staggered terms; next election in 2020)

Representative (elected every two years)

State (even years)

Governor’s Council (elected every two years)

Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of the Commonwealth, Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General (elected every four years; next election in 2022)

State Senator (elected every two years)

State Representative (elected every two years)

Statewide ballot measures

County (even years)

County Commissioner

District Attorney     

County Treasurer     

Register of Probate     

Register of Deeds         

Clerk of Courts      

Sheriff

 

Who are the candidates, and what else is on the ballot?

  • Sample ballots: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/wheredoivotema/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx

 

Who conducts elections?

  • The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the Commissioner of Elections and oversees statewide and local elections
  • Local election officials maintain voter rolls for each municipality
  • Local election officials prepare ballots and administer balloting for each municipality

Voter Bill of Rights

https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elerights/rightsidx.htm

 

Where to go with complaints about candidates or how elections are conducted

The Elections Division (http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elecontact.htm) oversees state elections

Campaign finance

Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (https://www.ocpf.us/) provides access to candidates’ election committee and Political Action Committee campaign finance filings

How to contact your elected officials:

Find your elected officials: https://malegislature.gov/search/findmylegislator

General Resources on Voting and Elections

General Resources on Voting and Elections


Hotlines


1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)

1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español)

1-888-API-VOTE (Asian multilingual assistance)


Voter Registration & Election Day Resources

Find useful voter information including:

  • Local Election Office and Contact Information
  • Address, Telephone and Email for Local Election Offices
  • Upcoming Federal Election Dates and Deadlines
  • Upcoming State Election Dates and Deadlines
  • Eligibility Requirements
  • Identification Requirements
  • Voter Materials Transmission Options
  • State Lookup Tools – Am I Registered? Where’s my Ballot?

Population-Specific information and Resources

Voting Rights: Laws, Cases, Policy

Voter Engagement

Voter Education

Campaign Finance/Funding Information

Primary Sources, Lesson Plans & Exhibits

Disclaimer

Librarians from the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT), a Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA), created these reference guides. These guides are intended for informational purposes only and are not in any way intended to be legal advice.

These guides are designated with a Creative Commons license and re-use and modification for educational purposes is encouraged.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.