Massachusetts voters will be allowed to use the state’s expanded early and mail-in voting rules in the state’s September primary, the state’s highest court ruled Monday.
An order by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court effectively blocked an effort by Republicans in the state who had sought to stop the new voting rules — the main feature of a law enacted last month called the VOTES Act — from going into effect.
The short unsigned order Monday says the court will issue a “full opinion explaining the court’s reasoning” in “due course.”
Republican opponents of the VOTES Act — which Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law last month after it advanced through the Democratic-controlled Legislature — had claimed that the law violated the state’s constitution. Many also falsely claimed that expanded absentee voting is more susceptible to fraud — a disproven allegation frequently made by former President Donald Trump and his allies.
The law makes universal, no-excuse mail-in voting in the state permanent, giving millions of Massachusetts voters the ability to vote by mail without having to say why.
It also expands options for early voting. Before the law was enacted, voters casting absentee ballots could do so only if they were out of town on Election Day, had religion-related scheduling conflicts or had disabilities. Many of the new rules formalized by the law had taken effect temporarily during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
The state’s top elections official, Commonwealth Secretary William Galvin, a Democrat, called the ruling “a sign to the whole country at a time when false claims have been causing some states to roll back voter rights that we are moving forward.”
Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons, one of the plaintiffs, said he would appeal the order to the Supreme Court, according to The Associated Press.
The court issued the order less than two weeks before the July 23 deadline the new law created for elections officials to begin sending out mail-in ballot applications to registered voters. The decision also ensures that the expanded voting rules mandated under the law will remain in effect for the state’s Sept. 6 primary.
The order is the latest ruling by state courts over challenges to new state rules and policies about voting.
Last week, for example, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that voters casting absentee ballots will no longer be able to drop them in boxes located anywhere except the offices of election clerks — a setback for Democrats in the state, who had advocated to continue the more lenient rules about drop boxes that arose during the pandemic.