An advocacy group is calling on the state’s top election official to extend the deadline for vote-by-mail ballots to be accepted by local clerks for the Sept. 1 state primaries.

MassVOTE, which pushed for the law that expanded vote-by-mail for 2020 election cycle, argued that allowing ballots to be postmarked by Sept. 1 and counting those delivered no later than Sept. 4 would line up with deadlines for the general election in November. This comes as the secretary of state’s office has mailed almost 1 million ballots to registered voters in advance of the primaries and about 149,000 ballots have been returned to local clerks. The current law stipulates local clerks must receive ballots by Sept. 1.

“Numerous delays have arisen in the vote by mail process over the past month that make extending this deadline crucial,” MassVOTE Executive Director Cheryl Clyburn Crawford said in a statement. “As a result, voters received vote-by-mail applications days, if not weeks, later than originally anticipated. This has impeded the ability for voters to request and receive their ballots, and consequently, cast their ballots in a timely manner.”

A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office said the deadline for ballots to be returned to local election officials is set by law and Galvin does not have the authority to extend it.

“Further, any extension of the ballot return deadline would harm voters, particularly those in the military, as it would delay the printing and mailing of November ballots,” the spokesperson said in a statement to the News Service. “Voters should be aware, however, that they are not required to return their ballots by mail. Voters also have the option of hand-delivering a ballot to their local election office, drop-box, or any early voting location.”

In recent weeks, the United States Postal Service faced increased scrutiny over whether it could deliver ballots on time for local clerks to count them. The Postal Service warned states, including Massachusetts, in late July that deadlines for requesting and casting ballots mail-in ballots are incongruous with their delivery standards.

The Postmaster General on Wednesday announced that planned organizational changes at the Postal Service would be delayed until after the November election.

(Copyright (c) 2024 State House News Service.

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