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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.

Table of Contents


COVID-19 elections updates, Mass. Secretary of State.
Updated information about elections and voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

St.2020, c.115 Voting options in response to COVID-19

St.2020, c.255 Early voting by mail. Extended until June 30, 2021 by St.2021, c.5.

Goldstein v. Secretary of Commonwealth, 484 Mass. 516 (2020)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of required signatures is reduced by 50% for all candidates; the deadline for filing is extended, and subject to restrictions, candidates should be allowed to file nomination papers with electronic rather than wet-ink original signatures.

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, § 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
Amended by:

  • § 25B Early voting
  • § 89 Applications for absentee ballot
  • § 91B Delivery of ballots
  • § 92 Method of voting

MGL c. 55, Campaign finance and disclosure

MGL c.149, § 178 Time off to vote

Massachusetts regulations

950 CMR 46-60 Elections & voting

970 CMR Campaign finance

Federal laws

U.S. Code, Title 52 Voting and elections

Federal regulations

CFR, Title 11. Federal elections

Selected case law

1A Auto, Inc. v. Director of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, 480 Mass. 423 (2018)
Under G.L. c. 55, § 8, corporations may not make contributions to political candidates or their campaigns.

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.

Chiafalo v. Washington, ___ U.S. ___ 140 S.Ct. 2316 (July 6, 2020) 
States can require members of the electoral college to support the winner of the popular vote, and can punish "faithless electors," who do not.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010)
"The Government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker's corporate identity. No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations."

Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 US 181, 128 S.Ct. 1610 (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 185 (2014). Removes cap on total amount an individual can contribute to federal candidates.

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, 138 S. Ct. 1876 (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

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

Massachusetts, national popular vote compact, St.2010 c. 229. An  agreement among a group of U.S. states and the District of Columbia to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia if and when the signatories have more than 270 electoral votes combined.

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 § 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."

Registering to vote, Mass. Secretary of State Elections Division

If you are a U.S. citizen 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 Connecter, you will be automatically registered to vote, unless you opt out of registering.

State ballot question petitions, Mass. Secretary of State Elections Division, March 2021
How to get a question on the ballot.

State felon voting laws,
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."

Voting and elections law and history, 
Presidential election process, Voting and election history, Voter ID requirements, Voting and election laws.

Voting as an ex-offender, Nonprofit
"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, 2020.

Election law in a nutshell, West Group, 2017.
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, 2020

Principles of the law, election administration, non-precinct voting and resolution of ballot-counting disputes / as adopted and promulgated by the American Law Institute at Washington, D.C., May 16, 2016; May 22, 2017.  St. Paul, MN : American Law Institute Publishers, 2019



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Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: April 12, 2021