By Bob Katzen

Senator Becca Rausch and Representative  Adrian Madaro have filed bills to permit voting by mail for all state primaries and general elections. Under the bill, which would be effective beginning with the 2020 election, the secretary of state would send every registered voter affiliated with a party a ballot by mail with a prepaid return envelope 18 days before the Sept. 1 primary election and the Nov. 3 general election. Voters who are unenrolled or independent would have to request a specific party ballot online or by mail at least 35 days before the Sept. 1 primary.

The instructions on how to complete and send in a ballot would be printed in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Haitian. The bill still requires that voters have the opportunity to vote in person in their city or town. The measure provides that if the state of emergency declared because of COVID-19 is still in effect, the state must provide personal protective equipment for all poll workers. Another provision makes the November Election Day a legal state holiday except for public employees whose jobs relate to the operation and administration of elections.

“We’re facing a global pandemic that makes traditional in-person voting seriously concerning if not downright dangerous, so we must proactively pursue alternative voting methods,” said Rausch. “Mail voting already works in Massachusetts; we process thousands of mail-in absentee ballots every election with no issue,” said Madaro.

Opponents say that voting by mail opens the door to fraud and abuse. President Donald Trump is one of the most vocal opponents of voting by mail. “It shouldn’t be mail-in voting,” said Trump recently. “It should be you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself. You don’t send it in the mail where people can pick up — all sorts of bad things can happen … by the time it gets in and is tabulated.”

$1,500 PER MONTH FOR SOME SENIORS (HD 4978) – A bill proposed last week would provide monthly cash assistance of $1,500 per month for persons over age 65 who are not eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) but stopped working as a result of a pre-existing condition placing them in a high-risk category for COVID-19’s most serious symptoms or death.

“Elder Affairs Chair Ruth Balser and I filed [the bill] to provide relief for self-employed and gig economy elders who had the foresight to stop working, possibly weeks before the Massachusetts Stay-At-Home Advisory, because of an underlying condition such as chronic kidney disease or a compromised immune system,” said the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-Jamaica Plain). “We filed [the bill] before the passage of the federal CARES Act, which expanded unemployment insurance eligibility to include many self-employed workers. We are watching for federal guidance to understand whether gaps in UI coverage remain within this vulnerable demographic. If so, this bill would fill in those gaps for yet uncovered elders.”

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