Top election official expects orderly end to voting in Massachusetts

Another 1.3 million people are projected to cast their ballots on Tuesday, and when added to the 2.3 million people who have already voted the anticpated turnout would set a new record during an intense and unusual presidential election cycle.

Secretary of State William Galvin on Monday forecast that total turnout would surpass the 3.3 million record set in the 2016 presidential election, by more than 300,000 people. He said polling places -- which will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday -- will be safe from a public health standpoint, with COVID-19 precautions in place, and that elections officials are expecting a "very orderly day."

More than 4.8 million people are now registered to vote in Massachusetts, according to Galvin, who said there has been "a consistent increase in voter registration" and a decline in the number of inactive voters.

"We've seen a lot of activity from voters who have not had particularly active histories," Galvin said. "We've seen a tremendous uptick in interest, even among people and areas of the state where we generally don't see that."

Each polling place will have a police officer present, and Galvin said political party chairs have been advised that while they may station observers at voting locations, those observers cannot interact with voters. The State Police plan to increase staffing on and after Election Day, and the department's head, Col. Christopher Mason, said they are not aware of any specific or credible threats to election sites.

"We believe that tomorrow we will see, as I said, a large turnout, but we believe it will be an orderly turnout," Galvin said. "We will insist on order. If, in fact, there is any effort to disrupt the polls tomorrow by any means, whether it's by drive-by caravans or anything else, we will insist that law enforcement take action immediately to make sure the polls remain accessible."

Galvin also pushed back against President Donald Trump's criticisms of the expanded vote-by-mail programs that many states, including Massachusetts, have adopted this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mail-in ballots received on or before Tuesday, ballots cast during the early voting period, and ballots cast on Election Day will be counted after polls close Tuesday night. Ballots postmarked by Tuesday that are received by 5 p.m. Friday will also be counted, and ballots mailed from overseas can be counted if they are postmarked by Tuesday and arrive by 5 p.m. on Nov. 13, according to Galvin's office.

Galvin, a Brighton Democrat, said he considers comments that Trump has made about counting mailed ballots after Election Day to be "appalling, disturbing and really criminal." On Friday, the president tweeted, "The Election should end on November 3rd., not weeks later!"

"Here in Massachusetts, it has been our practice for many, many years that members of the military, if they voted and had their ballot postmarked by the date of the election, their ballot would be counted even if it was received up to 10 days later," Galvin said. "To suggest that somehow this is criminal or this is improper or this is illegal is disgraceful and criminal. These are people who serve our country and to suggest that somehow they should be deprived of the right to vote because somehow, through no fault of their own, their ballot is not received by the close of the polls is simply unacceptable."

In addition to the presidential contest between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, all nine Congressional seats and all 200 seats in the state Legislature are on the ballot. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey is running for reelection against Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor, and two ballot questions to be decided address vehicle data access and ranked-choice voting for future elections.

Galvin said he expects results to be known in Massachusetts Tuesday night. The voting rights group MassVOTE also does not expect any issues with the tallying here, a spokesman said.

Alex Psilakis, MassVOTE's policy and communications manager, told the News Service that Question 2, the ranked-choice voting initiative, is "the only statewide issue in Massachusetts I could see taking a little bit longer" to know the definitive outcome.

"Polling seems to indicate a lot of races, at least statewide races, having a pretty clear winner in mind," he said.

Psilakis said his organization is also anticipating record turnout, and will be "working really hard" to get voters out in cities like Boston and Springfield, where the turnout so far has been lower than in suburban communities.

So far, 159,000 Bostonians have voted, for a turnout of more than 36.5 percent as of Monday, Mayor Martin Walsh said. He said the city "will at least meet if not shatter" its 2016 record of 66.75 percent turnout.

For those who are following results nationally, Walsh advised them to "be prepared for the process to take some time."

"I ask everyone to remain calm. Practice self care and focus on what we can do here in Boston to set a good example and a national example," Walsh said.

Galvin, who is among the Boston voters planning to cast a ballot on Tuesday, said the areas that participated most in early and mail-in voting were suburbs, and many larger and mid-sized cities "have not really participated" at the same level.

"In fact, in many of those places less than a quarter of the eligible voters have taken advantage of early voting or vote-by-mail," he said. "That means they'll be coming out tomorrow, and those places which we've looked closely at we've seen a high level of interest."

Colin A. Young contributed reporting.


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