First for Boston: Early vote hours for Nov. election; Oct. 24 start date

For the first time ever, registered voters in Boston — and across the state — will have the opportunity to cast their ballots ahead of the Nov. 8 elections during an early voting period.

Boston City Hall will open up voting booths during normal business hours beginning Oct. 24 and lasting through Nov. 4. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and the first Friday of the 11-day early voting period, City Hall will remain open until 8 p.m.

“Boston is proud to support early voting, and we have worked hard on a comprehensive plan that will allow many of our residents to vote at a time convenient for their work and family schedules,” Mayor Martin Walsh said in a July press release. “Whenever we are able to expand access to the ballot, we make our democracy stronger.”

The city has also installed a roving network of early polling places throughout the city council districts to engage those Boston’s neighborhoods that are farther from the city center.

As part of that initiative, on Wed., Oct. 26, voting booths will be open from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Dot House Health on Dorchester Ave. and at the Codman Square Library. The following Wednesday, Nov. 2, Mattapan’s Morning Star Church and the Strand Theatre in Uphams Corner will open their doors to voters who want to cast their ballots before election day.

In addition, the Grove Hall Community Center on Geneva Ave. and the Lower Mills Library will welcome voters on Sat., Oct. 29, from noon to 6 p.m. No reason is required to participate in the early voting process, which is separate from absentee voting.

“Mayor Walsh deserves tremendous credit for the great job he has done in Boston going above and beyond the 2014 law to prepare for early voting,” said state Rep. Dan Cullinane of the 12th Suffolk district, who voted for the 2014 bill that paved the way for early voting in Massachusetts.

“Boston has set systems in place that will increase access to early voting across the city,” Cullinane said to the Reporter, “especially with evening voting and Saturday voting in the community.”

Walsh said $670,000 has been allocated to early voting logistical planning, staff payroll, and infrastructure, including electronic booths to be used in these and future elections. Many communities across the state have struggled planning their logistics for the early voting period, according to an August report by the Massachusetts Election Modernization Commission, a conglomerate of election reform organizations.

The report said that as of July 20, 13 percent of the state’s municipalities hadn’t begun planning.
Dorchester and Mattapan residents, though, don’t have much to worry about, as Boston has managed to stay on track in its planning process. Officials and activists hope the early voting period will increase voter turnout and cut line lengths by distributing that turnout across a more expanded timeline.

“If communities have enough hours and locations, early voting promises to shorten long lines at busy polling places, improve the voting experience, and give Massachusetts citizens more opportunities to participate in democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, during a press conference at city hall in August.

In July, the mayor’s office announced that Boston’s board of election commissioners unanimously voted to open 27 “one-day early” voting sites, three in each of the city’s nine council districts.

“Representing the hardworking residents of Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park and Milton,” Rep. Cullinane said, “I know that a significant number of people work two, three jobs, and that there are nurses, police officers, firefighters and others whose job calls on them to work long shifts followed by possible overtime.”

He added, “There are also individuals who may have a hard time getting around and arranging transportation who want to participate yet do not have the time or ability to stand in a long line during high turnout presidential elections. Early voting gives everyone, regardless of circumstance, more of an opportunity to exercise their right to vote, and that is a good thing.”