A new Massachusetts law making no-excuse mail-in voting permanently available for residents — meaning anyone will be able to vote by mail without having to justify their preference to election authorities — was protected this week by the state’s highest court.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which upheld the new rules for mail-in and early voting, didn’t immediately explain its reasoning but indicated an explanation would be coming soon. There’s also apparently an expansion to early voting at polling places under the new law: it will, WBUR reports, “set aside two weeks — including two weekends — of early voting in-person for biennial state elections and one week — including one weekend — for presidential or state primaries.” Previously, mail-in voting was apparently only available to Massachusetts voters under a set of specific circumstances, including if the voter would be traveling on Election Day or was disabled. Republicans including Massachusetts GOP chair Jim Lyons were pushing for the new rules to be blocked. Lyons indicated those behind the case would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The law mandates that state authorities send mail-in voting applications to registered Massachusetts voters, and Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin indicated he’s proceeding with doing so. “We’re proceeding immediately,” Galvin remarked, according to WBUR. “They have no injunction against me. They better catch me if they can, because I’m going to make sure voters have the right to vote [by mail] if they possibly can… At a time when so many states are reversing the rights of voters, reducing them, we are expanding them… And I think that’s the right way to go.” The law also makes the deadline for registering to vote closer to Election Day, making it easier for Massachusetts residents to participate in the electoral process. Previously, the deadline was 20 days before Election Day; now, it’s ten. Allowing for same-day voter registration was part of the original proposal, but state House members opposed it.
GOP advocates against the new mail-in voting rules argued that mail-in voting was especially susceptible to fraud. In the 2020 elections — the most recent elections at that scale in the United States, no real-world evidence ever emerged indicating that mail-in voting had facilitated any systematic fraud. Michael Walsh, an attorney who represented the state GOP and other plaintiffs in the case challenging the new mail-in voting rules, argued he was simply discussing the potential for fraud rather than any particular instance of it. “It’s not an allegation that fraud is occurring… As a system, it’s more susceptible to irregularities or frauds than voting in person,” he insisted in arguments before the Massachusetts court that’s now ruled against him. However, since the most recent opportunity to obtain evidence that mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud didn’t actually turn up any wide-scale evidence, the argument falls apart.
For their part, the attorney general’s team argued in defense of the new law that no-excuse mail-in voting could be characterized as a method of early voting rather than an expansion of the absentee voting addressed by the state Constitution. Adam Hornstine, an assistant attorney general, argued: “Here, respectfully, Article 105 contains no explicit limitation… early voting or early voting by mail wasn’t on the minds of the framers… Though there may be some practical similarities between what is considered absentee voting and what is considered early voting by mail, the two have a different origin and the two have a different genesis.”