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Court rules mail-in ballots have to be in by the close of voting on Election Day

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled this afternoon that the Massachusetts requirement that mail-in primary ballots cannot reach local election officials after 8 p.m. on Sept. 1 is constitutional.

The ruling rejects a request by Becky Grossman, one of the candidates for the 4th District congressional seat Joe Kennedy III is leaving, and several voters, to require election registrars to accept ballots until Sept. 10 under the state's new mail-in ballot law, which expanded the number of people who could vote by mail from people with specific excuses to everybody who is registered to vote.

Other states with expansive mail-in voting have such policies, but the state's highest court said the way Massachusetts set up its system is not only legal but represents a significant enhancement in voting rights:

The new law does not significantly interfere with the constitutional right to vote in the September 1 primary election. Rather, the legislation enhances the right to vote in the primary, as well as the general, election, by providing multiple means of voting, including options to vote by mail that previously never existed. The September 1 deadline for the receipt of mail-in and other ballots for the primary election is also reasonably designed to account for a number of time-sensitive legal requirements that follow shortly after the primary election, including those that provide for recounts and challenges, as well as the timely mailing of ballots to military and overseas voters, which is required by Federal law. A time-defined primary election process, with reasonable deadlines, including the September 1 deadline at issue, is necessary to ensure not only compliance with Federal law but also full participation and a fair and orderly general election in November. Finally, for those who requested or received mail-in ballots very late in the process, there remain multiple alternatives to simply mailing back the ballots to ensure that one's vote is counted in the primary election. In sum, the new law enhances and does not diminish the means of voting in the primary election.

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