Vargas’ VOTES law amendment helps military members vote from abroad
A recently passed state voting rights bill includes an amendment co-sponsored by Rep. Andy X. Vargas that allows uniformed and foreign citizens to vote electronically through a mobile voting system.
The VOTES Act amendment by Haverhill’s Vargas and Beverly Rep. Jerry Parisella demands that the mobile system be approved by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. A similar provision allows voters with disabilities to request suitable accommodations, including an Application for Electronic Voting, Ballot, and Voter Affidavit that can be submitted electronically.
“Military service members face unnecessary challenges when they vote. We have learned from both conservative and liberal states that mobile voting provides us with the opportunity to give our active duty military and citizens with disabilities a fair chance to participate in our elections,” Vargas said. He added, “As other states seek to prevent people from voting, the passage of this bill demonstrates Massachusetts’ commitment to ensuring that all eligible voters have access to our most basic right as a than Americans, the right to vote”.
Described as a landmark law, it authorizes permanent mail-in voting, allowing all registered voters to vote by mail for any presidential, state or local election; expands the early voting period, mandating two weeks of in-person early voting for biennial state elections and one week for presidential or state primaries; reduced the voter registration deadline to 10 days before a preliminary, primary or electoral ballot; increases support for local election officials, and more. The bill was signed by Governor Charlie Baker.
Until the new law is passed, active duty military members vote by mail, fax or e-mail. Unfortunately, these voters often fear that mailed or faxed ballots may not be received on time or may not even be counted. As many as 300,000 U.S. voters overseas applied for ballots in the 2016 election but failed to submit them.
Parisella himself is a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves and now a member of the Massachusetts National Guard. He said he experienced the challenges of voting while serving overseas.