Legislature gives cities and towns new flexibility to reschedule municipal elections

The House and Senate passed legislation to help protect public health by providing cities and towns the authority to postpone and reschedule certain municipal elections and related activities.  The bill now goes to the Governor.

The House also issued orders to reschedule two special state elections until June 2, 2020.  The Senate issued an order to reschedule two state special elections until May 19, 2020.

The legislation includes guidelines for public notification of rescheduled election dates, voter registration deadlines, absentee ballots processing, and the display of sample ballots. The legislation:

  • Allows municipal governments to postpone caucus or certain elections scheduled before May 30, 2020 and reschedule the caucus or elections to a date prior to June 30, 2020.
  • Allows any eligible voter to vote early by mail for elections occurring before June 30, 2020.

“Massachusetts took action to not only preserve our elections system, but to protect public health during this historic public health emergency,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop).  “We appreciate the leadership of Senate President Spilka and the work of Chair Lawn on this COVID-19-related public health issue.”

“Even as we confront this unprecedented public health crisis, we continue to hold up the fundamental ideal that the right to vote should be cherished and protected,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This emergency law gives cities and towns the flexibility they need to postpone municipal elections while maintaining options that maximize voter protections and participation. I’d like to thank everyone in the House and Senate who worked quickly and thoughtfully to move this legislation forward.”

“The legislation the House passed today minimizes the disruption of COVID-19 on democracy in the Commonwealth,” said Representative John Lawn, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Elections (D-Watertown).  “It empowers municipalities to postpone and reschedule over 150 upcoming elections. It also protects voters and increases participation by expanding absentee and early voting options.  The voices of Massachusetts voters will be heard despite the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19.”