Can I still register to vote?
Sorry, In Massachusetts, you have to register 20 days prior to an election, so if you aren’t registered by now you can’t vote on Tuesday. The bright side? You have until mid-October to register for the general election.
Can I choose which party’s primary I want to vote in?
We have what’s called a “modified” primary here, which is neither a truly open nor a truly closed primary. If you’re registered with a party, you can only vote in that party’s primary. But if you are registered independent—or "Unenrolled"—you can choose whichever party you like. Here in Massachusetts, most voters are Unenrolled. About 2.2 million of the Bay State’s roughly 4 million registered voters, will have a choice.
Why are the ballots color-coded?
The ballots are color-coded by party to distinguish them from one another—allaying confusion and ensuring each voter gets the correct ballot. It's also the law, mandated by Chapter 53, section 33 of the General Laws of Massachusetts.
Do any towns still use paper ballots?
Actually, they all do, though most are then fed into a machine, which scans and tabulates the votes automatically. Optical scanning technology is the only kind used in the state, though the actual machines themselves vary. There are 67 Bay State communities who do not use machines at all, and still count their paper ballots by hand.
Will I be inundated at the polls by people pushing their candidate?
You shouldn’t be, at least not once you get close. Workers and representatives for the campaigns must remain at least 150 feet away from any polling location. According to the Secretary of Commonwealth's office, many polling locations actually draw a line in the sand (so to speak) by painting a boundary on the sidewalk.
Are the poll volunteers paid?
They are not poll "volunteers," they are poll "workers." They’re compensated for their work by the individual city or town—which also determines how much they get paid.
Will I be asked for Identification when I vote?
It depends. If you’ve been voting regularly and haven’t moved recently, you shouldn’t need to show an ID. If you registered to vote by mail or online, and you are voting for the first time since you registered, you will be asked to show an ID. If you are asked for an ID and don’t have one, you can cast a provisional ballot at your polling location and then head to your local city hall to prove your status as a registered voter.
If I haven't voted in years, will I have any trouble voting?
You could. If it’s been a while, you’ve likely been moved to the inactive voter list and you will be asked for proof of your address. Each January, cities and towns send out a street census. If you haven’t been filling that out and returning it, you could be off the rolls altogether. That said, if you’re a registered voter and haven’t moved, you are still eligible to vote. In this case, again, you should cast a provisional ballot and then go to city hall to iron things out to ensure your vote counts.
Are the primaries winner-take-all or proportional?
All primaries on the Democratic side are proportional, so that holds true here in the Bay State. On the GOP side, many primaries are winner take all—or winner takes most—but here in Massachusetts it’s also proportional.
In the grand scheme, how important is Massachusetts for the candidates as they seek their party's nomination?
We’re not really all that crucial for either party, but we have a little more influence on the Democratic side. In both parties, the importance of a state is determined by that state’s size—and its support of the party. For Republicans, support is rewarded in the form of bonus delegates. Massachusetts gets two bonus delegates this year: One because we have a GOP governor and one for electing a Republican senator in the past six years (Scott Brown). On the Democrats' side, support is rewarded mainly with superdelegates – for example, each of our nine Democratic congresspeople and both of our Democratic senators are superdelegates. The catch is, those superdelegates can vote for whomever they want, regardless of the vote of the people. Still, when races are tight, every delegate can matter.