The early voting period for the November 6th general election began on October 22 and will continue at multiple locations in Cambridge through November 2 (see schedule). But at present state law does not allow cities to offer early voting in our municipal elections, which are held in “off” (odd) years. Thus I have teamed up with Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim to file parallel home rule petitions in Boston and Cambridge this month.
Early voting can be more convenient for voters and eliminates the need to plan ahead to request an absentee ballot if in-person voting in Election Day becomes impossible (for example due to last-minute travel, sudden illness, or even an unanticipated change in work schedule). It provides more opportunities to vote, shortens lines, and raises awareness that elections are taking place, potentially increasing turnout among younger and newer residents who may not have voted in prior local elections. Early voting differs from absentee voting because the voter does not need to have an excuse for not being able to vote in person on Election Day.
The proposed home rule petitions would separately give the City of Boston’s Board of Election Commissioners and Cambridge’s Election Commission the authority to provide early voting in local elections, including: mayoral (Boston only), city council (both cities) and school committee (Cambridge only) elections. This joint effort by Boston and Cambridge local officials will hopefully encourage the state legislature to further expand early voting statewide.
The home rule petition by Councilors Zakim and co-sponsored by Councilor Kim Janey was introduced at the October 24th Boston City Council meeting and was enthusiastically supported by other Boston councilors including Lydia Edwards, Matt O’Malley and Ed Flynn. I have sponsored a similar policy order for Cambridge’s October 29 meeting with Mayor Marc McGovern, and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui as co-sponsors.
Should the state legislature pass our petitions it will be up to our respective election officials to determine an appropriate schedule and budget appropriation to offer early voting in future municipal elections, possibly as soon as for the November 2019 City Council and School Committee elections.
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Jan Devereux City Councillor Cambridge, MA