Vote by Mail Testimony
May 15, 2020
Dear Chairs Lawn and Finegold, Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on a variety of bills relating to election access and administration for the 2020 cycle. We are faced with the moral imperative to not force citizens of the Commonwealth to decide whether they should exercise their right to vote or potentially compromise their health and safety. The move to expand voting by mail is not unprecedented as five states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah) and 29 offer no-excuse absentee voting where you may cast an absentee ballot without stating a reason for doing so. After watching much of the testimony provided in the hearing, it appears there is no clear consensus on which bill is best, so instead of outlining support for a specific bill, I will provide principles of what I believe will provide safe and secure outcomes. 1) We must act quickly. With a looming potential print deadline of June 2 by the Secretary’s office, it is clear the Legislature must act soon. I think it is best for a bill to be voted out of committee quickly and then tweaked along the way to ensure passage.
2) The bill must include vote by mail and safe in-person elections. I have heard from a number of constituents concerned about spouses or family members filling out ballots for others, that some type of in-person option must be available. Anyone who has experience canvassing has met people who respond for their spouses, clearly unaware of their spouse’s voter registration with a different party.
3) The same action must be made available for both the primary and the general elections. For many elections, the primary will be the only competitive election.
4) The bill should direct the Secretary to use HAVA funds to fund any action. Municipalities will need funding for clerks’ offices and staffing issues.
5) Any mailed in ballot postmarked by the election date (Sept 1, Nov 3) must be counted (as opposed to only accept ballots received by said date).
6) Pre-paid postage must be included for all mailed ballots to be returned.
7) PPE and hand sanitizer or hand washing stations must be provided at in-person voting locations. Extra funding should be provided to advertise for poll workers, recognizing that more assistance will be needed, and most poll workers are often retirees and could be less likely to volunteer due to the prevalence of covid-19. I heard a great deal of concern about the ability of the USPS to deliver ballots on time at yesterday’s hearing. As an individual who sends a fair amount of mail and has USPS employee family members that are deeply interested in the amount of time it takes for mail to get from point A to point B, we have been finding it takes approximately 3-4 business days for mail to get from Framingham to anywhere else in the state, including remote locations (recognizing all mail from Framingham gets processed through the central bulk mail center in Boston, even if it’s going to another Framingham location; I would be happy to provide the committee with additional information about USPS processing, as I myself have worked as a clerk at the USPS). All of the suggestions around timing for mail appears to be accurate. Thank you for giving these bills a timely hearing, and I appreciate the work of the committee to ensure we have safe and fair elections in both September and November. Best, Maria D. Robinson State Representative 6th Middlesex District