From ballot questions to U.S. senator to president, Massachusetts voters will soon get the opportunity to make their voices heard in the state primary on Sept. 3, and the general presidential election on Nov. 5. Here’s your step-by-step guide to exercise your civic duty.

Important dates

Mark these key dates on your calendar:

  • Aug. 24, 2024: Deadline to register to vote for Massachusetts primary
  • Aug. 26, 2024: Deadline to apply for vote by mail in the state primary
  • Sept. 3, 2024: Massachusetts primary. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 26, 2024: Deadline to register to vote for general election
  • Oct. 29, 2024: Deadline to apply for vote by mail for general election
  • Nov. 5, 2024: General election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Register to vote

The first step to vote in the 2024 Massachusetts primary or the presidential election is to make sure you are registered. If you’ve never registered before, recently became a citizen or if you’ve moved since the last time you voted, even if it’s within the same district, you need to register to vote.

You can register to vote online, by mail or in person. Learn more here to access the necessary forms, or check with your local election office. You’ll need to provide a license, state ID or social security number to register.

Did you know?

About 63% of voters in Massachusetts are not enrolled in a political party.

When you register to vote, you’ll be asked if you want to enroll in a party or stay unenrolled. If you want to switch parties, you will need to re-register.

Anyone can register, as long as you are:

  • 18 years old, or will be 18 by the time of the election (you can pre-register when you’re 16)
  • A U.S. citizen and resident of Massachusetts
  • Not incarcerated for a felony 

If you’re doing certain things at the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth, such as applying to renew your driver’s license or applying for MassHealth benefits, you may be automatically registered to vote. But if you’ve moved recently, you still need to re-register.

Deadlines: You must register by Aug. 24 to vote in Massachusetts’ primary and by Oct. 26 for the general election.

Research what’s on your ballot

In the September primary, you’ll be voting for each party’s nominee for U.S. senator, the seat currently held by Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking re-election. You’ll also see races depending on your district, such as U.S. representative, governor’s council, state representative, clerk court positions and several other offices.

Did you know?

According to a GBH News/CommonWealth Beacon poll released in April, Massachusetts voters say the top issue facing the state is immigration, followed by housing, and inflation and the cost of living.

Many of the Democratic candidates are running unopposed in the primary, including Warren. Republicans have several nominees on the ballot for senator, including Robert Antonellis, an engineer, Ian Cain, president of the Quincy City Council and John Deaton, a lawyer and cryptocurrency advocate.

In the general election, you’ll be voting on those same races as well as for president. Massachusetts voters will also weigh in on several ballot questions — which could include a measure about wages for tipped workers, rights for gig economy workers like Uber and Lyft drivers, whether to remove MCAS requirements for graduation, and whether to legalize psychedelic drugs.

You can preview your ballot here.

Make a plan to vote

Once you’ve registered, done your research on the issues and candidates, it’s time to vote. Massachusetts has lots of options for you to decide what works best for you.

Any voter can vote in the primary as long as you’re registered, regardless of whether you’re registered with a specific party; same for the general election.

Absentee voting and vote by mail

If you won’t be home on Election Day, are serving in the military or living overseas, are currently incarcerated, or you have religious beliefs or a disability that prevent you from voting in person at your polling place, you may be eligible to vote with an absentee ballot. You can apply by mail, email or fax through your local election office. You’d be using the same ballots as voters who vote by mail and need to meet the same deadlines.

Did you know?

The VOTES Act was passed in 2022, aimed to make voting easier, including allowing voters with disabilities to vote electronically.
It also made mail-in voting permanent for all voters.

All other voters are entitled to vote by mail for any reason, as long as you’re already registered to vote. You should be sent an application in the mail before the election and you can also apply online.

Deadlines: You must apply to vote absentee or by mail by Aug. 26 to cast a ballot in the Massachusetts primary. For the general election, you must apply to vote absentee or by mail no later than Oct. 29.

Officials urge voters to apply as early as they can to allow enough time for the mail to arrive. While you’re waiting, you can use the online ballot tracker to follow the status of your ballot.

You can also choose to return your mail-in ballots in person at your city or town’s local election office or ballot drop boxes — but not your polling location on Election Day. View Boston’s locations around the city.

Early voting

If you prefer to vote in person, you can get a head start and vote early, no reason needed. Early voting for the primary will take place in Boston from Saturday, Aug. 24 to Friday, Aug. 30. You don’t need to vote at your designated polling location, unlike on Election Day. Locations will be announced soon.

Vote in person on Election Day

You can always vote in person on Election Day, Sept. 3 for the Massachusetts primary and Nov. 5 for the presidential election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find your polling location here and view your ballot. In most cases, you will not be asked to show an ID to vote.

How to vote if you’re a college student

If you’re a college student in Massachusetts, you have a choice on where you vote: At your permanent address in your home state, or at your student address, whether it’s an off-campus address or a dorm. Registering to vote on your campus address does not impact your financial aid or your parents’ tax dependent status. Just remember you can only be registered at one address, and you need to re-register every time you change addresses.

GBH News’ Politics IRL gives young voters to share their thoughts on the 2024 presidential election, and issues like abortion and the economy.

If you do want to vote at your college address, follow all of the above steps to register before Election Day. If you want to vote at your permanent address, you probably have to vote absentee, so check with your home election office and make sure you apply for a ballot early.

Many colleges in the state, including UMass, provide resources and host registration drives to help students get involved in the democratic process in the leadup to an election, so check with your school.

How to vote if you have a disability

Massachusetts requires that all polling locations are physically accessible, which should include accessible parking and entrances. Poll workers should be trained to assist voters with disabilities. Every location should have an AutoMARK voting machine for voters to cast their ballot independently. You also have the right to bring someone with you to help in any part of voting.

Voters with disabilities are entitled to request an accessible ballot when you fill out the application to vote by mail. Voters with disabilities also now have the option to submit their ballot electronically.