Widespread mail-in voting is officially here to stay in Massachusetts.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday signed into law a landmark elections reform bill that allows all voters to cast ballots by mail for presidential, state and municipal elections and offers in-person early voting for two weeks before biennial state elections and one week ahead of presidential or state primaries.
Both of those options proved popular and mostly successful as temporary options during the COVID-19 pandemic, with supporters touting substantial voter turnout and engagement despite the public health threats the virus posed.
The new law also moves the deadline for prospective voters to register from 20 days before Election Day to 10 days out, a reform lawmakers embraced after the House snubbed the Senate's push to allow voters to register and cast a ballot on Election Day itself.
Every Republican in the Legislature voted against the bill (S 2924), which landed on Baker's desk with a 37-3 vote in the Senate and a 126-29 vote in the House. The GOP governor opted to sign the bill in its entirety rather than veto it or send it back with proposed amendments.
"At a time when many states are making it harder to vote, this new law will modernize our elections and make our democracy more accessible and equitable," said Common Cause Massachusetts Executive Director Geoff Foster, whose group spent much of the legislative session advocating for the reforms.
Baker on Wednesday also filed a $6 billion interim budget to keep state government services funded through July 31.
The new fiscal year starts July 1, and House and Senate negotiators have not yet produced a final fiscal 2023 budget accord reconciling differences in each branch's nearly $50 billion spending bill.
"In order to ensure that the Commonwealth will be able to meet its payment obligations without delays, I urge your favorable action on this bill no later than June 27, 2022," Baker wrote in his filing letter alongside the interim budget. Both branches are scheduled to meet Thursday.