The Massachusetts primary is coming up on September 1st (yes, there are still primaries taking place) and the Democratic-run state has decided to go whole hog on mail-in ballots. To say that the process hasn’t gone entirely smoothly thus far would be a bit of an understatement. The local CBS station tries to paint some lipstick on this pig by saying that “a handful of Massachusetts cities and towns” are dealing with some “issues” as they prepare for the vote, but the details suggest that there are probably quite a few snags awaiting them in the road ahead. For one thing, some areas saw nearly all the residents receiving ballots without return envelopes included. (At least among those who actually received one.)
A handful of Massachusetts cities and towns are dealing with mail in voting issues, with one week before the September 1 Primary.
The city of Medford mailed out roughly 1200 ballots without the corresponding yellow envelope needed to certify the vote.
Medford said the issue occurred on August 10 and 11 and envelopes were sent out to impacted voters within two to three days.
Andy Mallon, a lifelong Medford resident, says he still has not received his envelope. He decided to cast his ballot early and in person to be safe.
Sending out the ballots to entire cities or towns without the return envelopes is potentially much more than a simple logistical error. The envelopes have pre-paid postage on them so they can be dropped in the mail anywhere and be sent back to the election officials at no charge. If any of the voters have to grab an envelope of their own and put a stamp on it, they have effectively paid a poll tax. It would only take one person to complain and this could turn into a legal mess.
Also, if Mr. Mallon – a self-described registered voter from the article excerpt above – didn’t receive his ballot, you can rest assured that he’s not the only one. Why might that be? As we’ve discussed here on multiple occasions in the past, the vast majority of states are not used to the rigorous tasks involved in successfully handling a total vote-by-mail system. States like Oregon, where they have been doing it for years, manage this feat fairly well because they rigorously update their voter rolls. Other states do not, and Massachusetts falls into the latter category.
There’s a very good chance that Mr. Mallon moved at some point, changed his name or underwent some other life-event that altered his voter registry information but he never updated it. But since he always votes in person down at his local polling station, it’s never been an issue. Now his ballot has shown up at some other address. What happened to it after that will likely remain a mystery.
Down toward the end of the linked report we see one figure that should give all Massachusetts voters pause. Secretary of State Bill Galvin has informed all residents that over a million ballots were mailed out this month. And slightly over one half million were mailed back. So where are the other half-million ballots? Sure, some of them may have been thrown away by people who knew they planned to vote in person. Perhaps others fell into the “did not receive a return envelope” category and may still be on the way. But let’s not pretend that those factors account for all of them or even close to all of them.
A lot of those ballots went to the wrong address. Some number of voters will never receive one and be left wondering what they’re supposed to do on election day. Others may have fallen into the hands of unscrupulous people who just decided to fill them out and drop them off closer to election day. This could lead to some voters showing up as having voted twice and what are they supposed to do then? All good questions, but with few answers forthcoming. Buckle up, Massachusetts voters. You may be in for a bumpy ride next week and things will only get more interesting on November 3rd when the level of participation really goes through the roof.