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Press Release Auditor Bump Certifies State Must Pay Communities $3.17 Million for Next Year’s Elections

Bump calls on Legislature to address ongoing early voting unfunded mandate
For immediate release:
  • Office of the State Auditor
  • Division of Local Mandates

Media Contact for Auditor Bump Certifies State Must Pay Communities $3.17 Million for Next Year’s Elections

Noah Futterman

An image of people voting.

BostonIn a letter today to Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin, State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump certified that the state must pay communities $3,165,097.59 to cover the cost of extra mandated polling hours for the 2020 March presidential primary, September state primary, and November general election.

“Our democracy is strengthened when we make it more convenient for voters to cast their ballots,” Bump said. “Since 1984, the Uniform Polling Hours Law has expanded voter access and done so without placing additional financial burdens on cities and towns.”

In 1983, the Legislature passed the Uniform Polling Hours Law, which mandated that cities and towns open polling locations for at least 13 hours on primary and general election days. Recognizing that this would be an unfunded mandate on these communities, the Legislature also included language in the bill directing the State Auditor to certify the additional costs communities face to provide these extended polling hours. Based on this certification, the Secretary of the Commonwealth provides funding to communities to offset their expenses. Since 1984, the Office of the State Auditor has certified approximately $30 million for direct state payments to cities and towns for this mandate.

Bump certified $1,055,032.53 in extra costs for the March presidential primary and $2,110,065.06 for the fall elections. The City of Boston reported the highest anticipated costs, at $351,506.25, while the Town of Chilmark reported the lowest, at $270.

Bump also renewed her call for the Legislature to address the ongoing unfunded mandate caused by the Early Voting Law.

“Early voting has been a success in the Commonwealth, but the lack of a consistent and predictable method for funding this service has created uncertainty in local government budgets,” Bump said. “The state should create a permanent process to allocate funds to cities and towns to provide early voting, and it should be modeled after the success of the Uniform Polling Hours Law.”

In 2017, responding to petitions from Oxford and Woburn, Bump determined part of the Early Voting Law was an unfunded mandate on cities and towns. Since then, the Commonwealth has not put in place a permanent process to address this cost burden on communities. Instead, the state has relied on ad hoc legislation passed after the 2016 and 2018 elections to retroactively reimburse communities for their mandated expenses related to this service. Bump has developed draft legislation to create an early voting cost certification process.

Bump’s certification is available here.

Municipal breakdown of certified uniform polling hours costs

An interactive dashboard showing uniform polling hours certification data since 1984 is available here.


Media Contact for Auditor Bump Certifies State Must Pay Communities $3.17 Million for Next Year’s Elections

Office of the State Auditor 

The Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA) conducts audits, investigations, and studies to promote accountability and transparency, improve performance, and make government work better.

Division of Local Mandates 

DLM responds to requests from local government leaders to determine if a state law is an unfunded mandate on municipalities. In addition, we serve as a source of information on issues harming municipal budgets, and provide recommendations to address those issues.