It’s called a "midterm election” because the president of the United States is not on the ballot, but this fall’s election is important and will have a major impact in Massachusetts. Voters will decide the next governor, and weigh in on some high-profile ballot questions on Nov. 8. Here’s how you can make sure you are casting your vote.

What are the important deadlines?

  • Oct. 22: Early voting begins
  • Oct. 29: Last day to register to vote
  • Nov. 1: Last day to submit a vote by mail application (the Elections Division recommends applying no less than 2 weeks before the deadline “To ensure you receive your ballot with enough time to mail it back”)
  • Nov. 4: Last day to vote early
  • Nov. 8: Statewide general election. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Nov. 12: 5 p.m. deadline for votes by mail and absentee ballots to arrive at local elections offices. These must still be postmarked by Nov. 8 to be counted.

How do I register to vote, or change my voting information?

Massachusetts residents can register to vote, check if they are registered or update their personal information and party affiliation on the Secretary of the Commonwealth Elections Division’s Online Voter Registration System. You can also go in person to a local election office ormail a registration form.

If a 16- or 17-year-old pre-registers by filling out the form, they will be automatically enrolled when they reach the voting age of 18. Residents “applying for or renewing a driver's license or state ID at the RMV, or applying for health insurance through MassHealth or the Commonwealth Health Connector” will be automatically registered to vote, unless they opt out or their citizenship status is not verified, according to the Elections Division.

What will be on my ballot?

Every Massachusetts voter will be able to cast a ballot for statewide positions: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor and the Governor's Council.

There will also be candidates for offices based on your address. Those may include your representative in Congress, state senator, state representative, district attorney, sheriff and county commissioner.

There will also be four ballot questions on the general election ballot in November, on issues including a tax increase, dental insurance regulations, new laws for alcohol sales and licenses for immigrants.

What’s the difference between early, mail-in and absentee voting?

Early voting

You can cast your ballot in-person at certain polling places before the general election. Early voting will run from Oct. 22 to Nov. 4 for the general election.

Each city and town determines its own early voting locations and hours. Contact your local election office or check the Elections Division’s early voting site for your community’s plans.

Mail-in ballots

Universal “no-excuse” mail-in ballots are now permitted for all elections in Massachusetts, a change newly enacted as part of the VOTES Act election-reform law from June. Mail-in ballots can be returned by mail, handed in at your local elections office, dropped off at an open early voting location or placed into a ballot drop box. Once mailed, you can use Track My Ballot to make sure it gets to the right place.

Applications for mail-in voting were sent to every eligible voter in the state. You can also mail, fax or email a downloaded application or signed letter to your local election office to apply for your ballot, as “any written request with your signature is an acceptable application,” according to the Elections Division. If you are not registered with a party, you must indicate which party’s primary ballot you want upon application. Doing so will not affect your Independent status.

Absentee voting

Voters eligible for an absentee ballot must be away from their place of residence on Election Day, or have a disability or religious belief that keeps them from voting in person on Election Day.

Applications can be delivered by email, by mail or in-person to a local election office. Absentee voters use early voting ballots and have the same deadlines as early voters.

A person squats down to peer inside the slot of a ballot drop box as they put their ballot inside.
A voter makes sure his ballot falls into the ballot drop box outside the Boston Public Library, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Boston.
Elise Amendola AP

Where do I vote?

Input your address on the Secretary of the Commonwealth's website to find out where your local polling place and election offices are located, what district your address is in, and who your current elected officials are. Some polling sites change between elections.

What should I expect when I get to my polling place?

You will give your name and address to the poll worker at the check-in table. Bring your ballot to an open booth. It will have instructions on how to fill it out properly. You may bring a person into the booth to assist you in voting or request the help of poll workers.

Go to the check-out table with your filled-out ballot. You will again tell your name and address to the poll worker. Bring your ballot to the box or machine and insert it.

If your name is not on the registered voters list at your polling location, ask the poll worker to contact your local elections office and confirm your registration. If it cannot be confirmed, you may vote by provisional ballot.

The Elections Division has a comprehensive step-by-step guide on the voting process.

What are my rights at the polling place?

  • You cannot be intimidated or influenced at your polling place.
  • You can bring someone with you to help you, or you can request help from poll workers.
  • Your polling place must be accessible.
  • You can vote if you are unable to read or write in general or in English.
  • You can file a complaint if your right to vote is infringed.
  • You can bring any papers or pamphlets with you into the voting booth.
  • You have the right to stay in line to vote when the polls close at 8 p.m. for state and federal elections.

Contact the Elections Division at 1-800-462-8683 if you believe your rights have been violated. You can bring the complete Voters’ Bill of Rights with you to the polling place.

Can people who are incarcerated or on parole vote?

If you are incarcerated for a non-felony conviction, a misdemeanor or are being held for trial on any charge, you may vote.

If you are currently in prison for a felony conviction, you cannot vote. You will become eligible to vote immediately upon release and can vote while on parole.

How can voters with disabilities cast their ballot?

Every polling place in the state must be accessible so a person with a disability can vote in person. A voter is allowed to bring someone with them to every stage of the voting process for help.

Each polling place is required to have at least one AutoMARK voting machine to help voters with disabilities fill out their ballot privately and poll workers should be trained on how it works. The machines can provide an audio version of the ballot, magnify the text and provide a variety of ways for voters with physical disabilities to cast their votes.

Voters with disabilities who would like to vote at home can also request to use the Accessible Vote by Mail system and cast their ballots through a secure web portal.

Can new U.S. citizens vote?

If you are a new citizen, you can register to vote after your naturalization ceremony. There is no waiting period.

I want to post this whole democracy experience on Instagram. Can I?

You can! However, when you take that ballot selfie, be sure that you do it before you fill out your ballot. It’s illegal in Massachusetts to post images of filled-out ballots. State law says it’s illegal for your filled-out ballot “to be seen by any person for any purpose not authorized by law.”

About this guide

Information and links are sourced from the Elections Division of William Francis Galvin, secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Emancipation Initiative. For more, check the Election Divison’s Voter Information and Voter Resources and Emancipation Initiative’s voter eligibility guide for incarcerated people. All forms and applications linked are available in languages other than English.

This article will be updated as ballot questions are released and primary elections have concluded.

This story was updated to correct a couple incorrect deadlines and replace unclear language.