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Boston elections officials say they'd love to convert to vote by mail, but caution it could be tough to get ready for the fall elections

Boston elections officials told a City Council committee today that while voting by mail would be ideal in the age of pandemic, they're not currently set up to handle it - and that without proper planning it could mean having hundreds of volunteers counting ballots in close proximity at City Hall, which would defeat the whole point of trying to keep people away from each other.

At a hearing sponsored by City Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), several councilors expressed what they said was disappointment that not only did Secretary of State William Galvin decline to participate in the online session, his staffers refused to show up as well. Councilor Lydia Edwards (North End, East Boston, Charlestown), though, went further, saying she was not disappointed but disgusted that the state office in charge of elections refused to discuss the issue with councilors in the state's largest city.

O'Malley said he watched the April presidential primary in Wisconsin - for which Republican legislators and judges refused requests to postpone - with horror and said Boston and Massachusetts should do what several other states have done and move to a system where the default is that voters be allowed to vote by mail. Currently, Massachusetts residents can only vote by mail if they are in the military or provide a reason for getting an absentee ballot.

City Elections Commissioner Eneida Tavares said she'd love to do vote by mail, but pointed out several obstacles that would need to be overcome in time for the Sept. 1 primary:

The city doesn't currently have the high-speed tabulating machines needed to count large volumes of absentee ballots, which would mean gathering large numbers of volunteers into a room to count by hand, at a time when that's exactly what you don't want to do. The city can't just mail out absentee ballots but would instead have to mail out forms by which voters could request ballots - in particular for September, because the city has 181,000 unregistered voters, who would have to designate which party ballot they'd want for the primary. And making major changes would, of course, cost money.

Councilors, such as O'Malley said they were hopeful some of the changes could be made at the state level, where Galvin and legislators are hashing out changes in state elections law to make voting by mail easier. But even with that, he suggested that, at a minimum, the city should look at extending early voting so that voters could more easily social distance and not wind up in coronalines like in Wisconsin. Tavares, however, said, that early voting is also something that requires action by the legislature.

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Comments

It's too bad there's no reliable Internet voting platform yet. Of course there would have to be an option for people without Internet access.

By the way, it's not 181,000 unregistered voters, it's unenrolled voters, i.e. they didn't designate any party. Is making them mail back an application to request a party ballot really the best way to handle this? How about a ballot that contains all the party primaries, which is invalidated if you vote in more than one section?

Or would a handful of heroic, essential workers be sparing a much larger number of people from having to expose themselves (and others) to huge risk, not unlike the healthcare and food workers who continue working even now?

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in particular for September, because the city has 181,000 unregistered voters, who would have to designate which party ballot they'd want for the primary.

Unenrolled, not unregistered.

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Is there any good reason why we couldn't vote over 3 or 4 days rather than just one? I know there is early voting, but only at select polling places. I'm talking about having ALL polling places open over a series of days. This will lower crowd density and hopefully increase the voter turnout. I don't know why I haven't heard about this being a viable option.
I'd love to find out what others know about this.

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You are increasing labor costs by at least 300%

Can you provide the link(s) for that information?
I’d like to read what people who have seriously investigated this option have to say.

Here's the math. Take the cost of staffing a polling station for one day, which is what is done now. Multiply that by the number of days you think the polling stations should be open. That's the increase in cost.

Mandatory mail in voting isn't secure. Anyone living in a multi-family building that still receives mail for the last 10 people that lived there can tell you it is a recipe for difficult to detect fraud. I wouldn't count on the competence of the city to assure that every voter would receive their ballot in a timely fashion either.

Having voting occur on a holiday or across multiple days with either ID and or the purple ink on a thumb the 3rd world uses would work best.

Five states already do this, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and Hawaii. And CA (most populous state) has decided to join them. It can be done. And the list of states shows a range of political leanings. If Boston and the whole state of MA doens't want to because entrenched politicians don't see it benefiting them, well just be honest and say that. But don't say they couldn't figure it out or any of the other excuses politicians use to keep voting #s down.

All the maskless fools running, walking the beach and shopping shouldn't be concerned with voting at the pols with minimum contact with those who choose to wear masks.

because the city has 181,000 unregisteredunenrolled voters, who would have to designate which party ballot they'd want for the primary.

There's a simple solution to this. Just eliminate the UNNECESSARY and POINTLESS requirement that voters must choose a specific party's ballot in order to exercise their right to vote. Put ALL candidates, including independent candidates, on a SINGLE primary ballot. Doesn't prevent "party liners" from supporting only their party's candidates, but it will encourage many people who otherwise might not vote because they don't like the idea of having to cast a specific party's ballot (this is a common reason many unenrolleds won't vote in primary elections) especially as their choice of ballot becomes part of the public record for the election (so much for the concept of a secret ballot).