The House and the Senate have both passed a final version of An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19. I am very pleased with this final bill, which I have supported and voted for, and I believe that it will make it significantly easier and safer to vote this year. I am grateful that the legislature was able to come to agreement in order to safeguard our elections while considering the current public health crisis.
You can find a summary of the bill below.
EARLY VOTING BY MAIL APPLICATION
- Not later than July 15, 2020, the state secretary will mail to all registered voters an application to vote early by mail in the September 1, 2020 state primary and an envelope with return postage pre-paid.
- Not later than September 14, 2020, the state secretary will mail to all registered voters an application to vote early by mail in the November 3, 2020 state general election and an envelope with return postage pre-paid.
- The deadline to apply to early vote by mail in the primary will be 6 days before the primary—Wednesday, August 26, 2020.
- The deadline to apply to early vote by mail in the general will be 6 days before the general—Wednesday, October 28, 2020.
Voters may also apply to vote early by mail through an online portal developed by the state secretary.
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.
Voters may return their early voting by mail ballot in the mail, in a secure drop box, or in person.
The deadline to submit early voting by mail ballots will be the close of polls on primary and election day. Ballots mailed by election day, however, will be counted until 5 p.m. on Friday, November 6.
The bill provides for absentee voting by any person taking precaution related to COVID-19.
IN PERSON VOTING PUBLIC HEALTH SAFEGUARDS
In consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, the state secretary will 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
There will be 7 days of in person early voting in the primary—from Saturday, August 22 to Friday, August 28—including one weekend.
There will be 14 days of in person early voting in the general—from Saturday, October 17 to Friday, October 30—including two weekends.
Voters may still cast a ballot at the polls on election day.
The bill 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.
ACCESSIBILITY AND EQUITY
The bill provides for accessible voting options for persons with disabilities in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and national standards.
Municipalities must evaluate and report any disparate adverse impact on polling place accessibility on the basis of race, national origin, disability, and income or age to change a polling location.