Massachusetts lawmakers push to extend mail-in, early voting

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate approved a bill Thursday extending many of the policies adopted when the pandemic hit last year — including mail-in voting — through Dec. 15 of this year.

The bill was approved on a voice vote. Lawmakers are hoping to get the measure to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk quickly. The Republican on Tuesday plans to formally lift the pandemic state of emergency he declared about 15 months ago.

The bill would also let restaurants keep offering take-out cocktails until March 1, 2022, and allow virtual public hearings to continue on April 1, 2022.

MORE: Lawmakers work to extend several COVID-related measures set to expire

Remote town meetings would remain an option through Dec. 15, 2021. Nonprofits and public corporations would also be able to hold meetings remotely until the same date of this year.

During the debate, senators rejected a series of amendments. One would have extended a cap on fees that delivery services charge restaurants. Another would have required public bodies to meet in person while allowing the public to participate remotely.

Also Thursday, the Massachusetts House voted to make mail-in voting and early voting a permanent fixture in Massachusetts ahead of next year’s elections.

The measure would allow early voting and mail-in voting for state primaries, state elections, and any municipal elections held at the same time.

Many Massachusetts voters embraced mail-in and early voting during the pandemic.