A group of Massachusetts voters and voting rights organizations sued Secretary of State William Galvin on Monday, arguing he is violating the COVID-era elections reform law by hesitating to send out applications for mail-in ballots without first receiving funding to cover the costs.
While Galvin still has two more days to take action, seven nonwhite voters, who joined with Common Cause Massachusetts and MassVOTE, asked the Supreme Judicial Court Monday to order Galvin to mail the applications by the July 15 deadline set in the vote-by-mail expansion package Gov. Charlie Baker approved one week ago.
One day after Baker signed the bill, Galvin told reporters that his office does not have the money it needs to cover the costs of mailing applications to all 4.5 million registered voters, which the Senate previously estimated at about $8 million.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that, if the secretary does not meet the deadline, he will “undermine the rule of law and jeopardize the safety of Massachusetts voters” by effectively forcing them either to vote in person — with the COVID risks that carries — or give up their right to vote altogether.
Under the new law, mail-in, early voting, and in-person voting are options for voters for the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general election.
“Voters are expecting this mailing and it is required by the new law,” MassVOTE Executive Director Cheryl Clyburn Crawford said in a press release alongside the lawsuit. “A timely mailing is critical for voters who are elderly and/or low-income and do not have access to a computer and printer. Secretary Galvin’s inaction will hurt the most vulnerable communities in our state whose voices are most often ignored.”
Proponents of the law and some lawmakers have pushed Galvin to pay for postage using about $8.2 million Massachusetts received through the CARES Act for election planning amid the pandemic.
Galvin has argued he can use that money to mail physical ballots but not applications.
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