Friday, February 16, 2018

Governor Baker Approves Early Voting Funding

Massachusetts communities are one step closer to being compensated for some of the expenses they incurred during the 2016 state election cycle, the first to offer early voting.

Today, Governor Baker signed into law a $17.8 million supplemental budget that includes just over $1 million in early voting reimbursement for cities and towns.  Inserted through an amendment offered by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and his Republican leadership team, the funding has been allocated to cover expenses that State Auditor Suzanne Bump has determined constituted an unfunded state mandate.

“Communities across the state did a tremendous job implementing the early voting law and making sure the process ran smoothly in the days leading up to the election,” said Representative Jones.  “The funding contained in this supplemental budget will allow the state to fulfill a long-overdue financial obligation to our cities and towns.”

The state’s early voting law was approved by the Legislature in 2014 and was first implemented during the 2016 state election.  The law allows registered voters to cast a ballot as early as 11 business days prior to election day, and up to two business days before the election, during the biennial state election.

A ruling issued by Auditor Bump on February 14, 2017 determined that the state should reimburse communities for a portion of their early voting costs, citing the law’s “requirements that municipalities establish an early voting polling location that has sufficient staffing and privacy for voters.”

The early voting funding was initially inserted in the House version of the supplemental budget on January 31 through an amendment filed by Representative Jones.  The amendment was approved unanimously on a vote of 153-0.

Representative Jones had previously secured partial funding in the House version of the Fiscal Year 2017 final deficiency budget last October, but the final version of that bill omitted the funding and instead included language directing the state auditor to certify the actual costs for each municipality through her office’s Division of Local Mandates.  Auditor Bump recently certified a statewide total of $1,063,978.14 as being eligible for reimbursement.