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Massachusetts law about elections and voting

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on elections and voting law by the Trial Court Law Libraries.
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Table of Contents

Best bet

Elections Division, Mass. Secretary of State.
Everything you need to know about the elections process, including how to register to vote, how to vote by absentee ballot, how to run for office, and much more. Provides text of ballot questions.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.10, s.42, State Election Campaign Fund

MGL c. 50, Elections, General Provisions

MGL c. 51, Voters and Registration

MGL c. 52, Political Committees

MGL c. 53, Nominations, Primaries, Initiatives

MGL c. 54, Wards, Voting Districts and Voting

MGL c. 55, Campaign Finance and Disclosure

MGL c.149, s.178 Time off to vote

Massachusetts regulations

950 CMR 46-60 Elections & voting

970 CMR Campaign finance

Selected case law

Anderson v. Attorney General, 479 Mass. 780 (2018).
Ballot question proposing a tax on millionaires, the income from which would fund education or transportation, contained 2 separate topics and therefore could not be submitted to voters. In-depth discussion of the requirement that ballot questions address topics "which are related or which are mutually dependent." 

Chelsea Collaborative v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 480 Mass. 27 (2018)
20-day blackout period for voter registration is OK. Case details the history of voter registration laws in Massachusetts.

Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 US 181, 128 S.Ct. 1610 (April 28, 2008)
In a 6-3 split, the US Supreme Court upheld an Indiana requirement that voters show government-issued identification at the polls.

Libertarian Association of Mass. v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 462 Mass. 538 (2012)
Substitution of candidate. "This case involves the proper interpretation of a Massachusetts election law that governs the filling of a vacancy where a candidate nominated for "state, city or town office" withdraws, dies, or otherwise becomes ineligible prior to an election."

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 572 US __ (2014). Removes cap on total amount an individual can contribute to federal candidates.

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, __ U.S. __ (June 14, 2018)
Dress code for voters. Minnesota law prohibiting voters from wearing a  “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” inside a polling place on Election Day is unconstitutional. While speech may be limited in a polling place, "the State...must be able to articulate some sensible basis for distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out. The unmoored use of the term 'political' in the Minnesota law, combined with haphazard interpretations the State has provided in official guidance and representations to this Court, cause Minnesota’s restriction to fail this test."

Political parties

Massachusetts Directory of Political Parties and Designations

Web sources

Candidate's Guide to Special Elections, Mass. Secretary of State Elections Division
"This guide is intended for use by candidates running in special elections to fill vacancies in the U.S. House, Senate, state Senate and state House of Representatives."

Federal Election Commission. Administering and Enforcing Federal Campaign Finance Laws.
Includes a searchable database of who is giving what to whom and guidance in satisfying filing requirements

Mass. Office of Campaign and Political Finance
Includes forms and guidance for filing under the campaign finance law, as well as instructions for obtaining public documents from the office.

Must employees be given time off work to vote?

Look at MGL c.149 s.178 . This law was originally passed in 1887, and has been modified ten times, the most recent being in 1913.

The following is from Labor and Employment in Massachusetts: a guide to employment laws, regulations, and practices, 2nd edition, by Jeffrey L. Hirsch (Lexis, loose-leaf):

"Time Off to Vote

Massachusetts laws requires that employees who apply be granted a leave of absence to vote during the two hours after the polls open in their districts. Payment for voting time is at the discretion of the employer. Most employees have time to vote before or after work. One or two hours in most cases is the maximum time needed to vote. Employees should explain their reasons for needing more time and may also be requested to prove that they have voted by providing the name of the precinct where they cast their ballot."

State Felon Voting Laws, ProCon.org
Chart "provides links to each state's laws on felon voting and places each US state within one of five categories ranging from harshest (may lose vote permanently) to least restrictive (may vote while in prison). Applications for re-enfranchisement and clemency have been provided for the states which require them."

State Ballot Question Petitions, Mass. Secretary of State Elections Division, 2017
How to get a question on the ballot.

Voting as an Ex-Offender, Nonprofit Vote.org
"This is a short up-to-date state guide to voting for ex-offenders."

Where Do I Vote?, Mass. Secretary of State
Find your polling place in Massachusetts.

Print sources

America votes!: A guide to modern election law and voting rights, American Bar Association, 2008

Election law in a nutshell, West Group, 2013.
Perspectives on law and democracy -- The history of voting rights in the U.S. -- The constitutional right to vote -- Representation and districting -- Partisan gerrymandering -- Minority representation -- Election administration and remedies -- Direct democracy -- Political parties -- Campaign finance regulation.

Massachusetts Election Administration, Campaign Finance and Lobbying Law, MCLE, 2016

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: August 16, 2018

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