House Passes Bill to Provide Voting Options amid Pandemic

Last week, Representative Joe McGonagle joined his colleagues in the House to pass legislation that will allow a number of voting options, including early voting by mail, in the midst of COVID-19.

An Act Relative To Voting Options In Response To COVID-19 aims to facilitate a number of options for voters confronting health risks due to the Coronavirus. Under the provisions of the bill, voters can elect to vote-by-mail, submit an absentee ballot, vote early in-person or vote on Election Day with public health safeguards in place.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges and forced us to adapt the way we normally operate,” said McGonagle. “To ensure that voting can be safe and accessible for all, it was essential that this bill was passed and I’m very grateful for the bi-partisan collaboration. I think House leadership has done a great job prioritizing the issues.”

The bill to expand voting options in response to COVID-19 has the following provisions:

Early Voting by Mail Application

•Requires the Secretary of State to mail all registered voters an application to vote early by mail in advance of the primary and general elections (by July 15 for the primary and September 14 for the general);

•Asks voters to apply by seven days prior to the primary and general elections;

•Allows for electronic signature and submission of applications;

Early Voting By Mail

•The city or town clerk will mail an early voting by mail ballot and an envelope with return postage pre-paid to voters who apply;

•Allows voters to return their early voting by mail ballot in the mail, secure drop box, or in person;

Absentee Voting

•Provides for absentee voting by any person taking precaution related to COVID-19;

•Allows electronic signature and submission of absentee voting applications;

In Person Voting Public Health Safeguards

•Requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, to promulgate emergency regulations requiring public health safeguards for in-person voting, including social distancing of voters and election officers; face coverings and personal protective equipment; frequent use of sanitizers; and sanitary use of marking pens;

Early Voting in Person

•Provides for 7 days of in person early voting in the primary—from Saturday, August 22 to Friday, August 28—including one weekend – and 14 days of in person early voting in the general—from Saturday, October 17 to Friday, October 30—including two weekends;

Election Day

•Permits voters to still cast a ballot at the polls on election day;

Local Elections

•Provides for early voting by mail for any city or town elections held at the same time as the primary or general or on or before December 31, 2020.

An Act Relative To Voting Options In Response To COVID-19 now moves to the Senate.

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