In most elections in Massachusetts, voters can choose whether they would prefer to vote in person or by mail.
No-excuse early voting by mail is available in all state elections, state primaries, presidential primaries, and most local elections. These ballots are known as “Vote by Mail” ballots and can be requested using the Vote by Mail Application.
Excuse-required absentee voting by mail is available in all elections, to those who qualify. While early Vote by Mail ballots are more common, there are special circumstances where you may need to use the Absentee Ballot Application to apply for an absentee ballot instead. Find more information about absentee ballot eligibility under “Absentee Ballots,” below.
Applying for your Ballot
To request your Vote by Mail ballot, you will need to submit a Vote by Mail application.
You may submit your Vote by Mail application to your local election office:
- By mail
- By email
- In person
Vote by Mail application can be downloaded or printed from this website. Further, any written request with your signature is an acceptable application. You can simply write a signed letter to your local election office to apply for your ballot.
Applications can be submitted by mail, email, or in person, but they must include a signature that can be compared to your hand-written signature. Electronic signatures, scanned applications, and photos of applications are acceptable.
Typed signatures on applications cannot be accepted, unless you are a voter who requires accommodations due to physical disability. If you are unable to sign your application or mark your ballot by hand due to a disability, please visit our page on Voting for Persons with Disabilities for information on requesting an accommodation.
Absentee ballots can be requested in the same manner as early Vote by Mail ballots, using the Absentee Ballot Application.
Any mail-in ballot must be requested in writing by 5 p.m. on the 5th business day before the election. Your application can only be accepted if it has reached your local election office by the deadline.
Apply as early as possible, especially if your ballot will need to be mailed out of town. The U.S. Postal Service recommends allowing up to 7 days for mail delivery. To ensure you receive your ballot with enough time to mail it back, you should apply 2-3 weeks before Election Day.
To qualify for an absentee ballot, you must:
- Be away from your city/town on Election Day; or
- Have a disability that keeps you from voting at your polling place; or
- Have a religious belief that prevents you from voting at your polling place on Election Day
Absentee voters use the same ballots as early Vote by Mail voters and have the same deadlines for returning their ballots. Most voters who qualify for an absentee ballot can choose instead to apply for an early Vote by Mail ballot. There are some times that an absentee ballot application is needed. You should fill out an absentee ballot application if:
- You qualify for an absentee ballot and you are voting in a local election in a city or town that has opted out of Vote by Mail for that election; or
- You are a U.S. citizen residing overseas; or
- You are on active military duty; or
- You are currently incarcerated for a reason other than a felony conviction; or
- You are requesting an emergency absentee ballot due to hospitalization.
State law allows cities and towns to opt out of no-excuse early voting by mail in local elections. A city or town can only opt out of Vote by Mail for a local election after the city council or board of selectmen hold a public hearing and take a recorded vote to do so at least 45 days before the election.
If your community opts out of Vote by Mail for your local election, a Vote by Mail application will not be valid for that election. Check with your local election office about whether your community has opted out of Vote by Mail in an upcoming local election.
If you qualify for an absentee ballot and you would like to vote by mail in a local election without early Vote by Mail ballots, use the Absentee Ballot Application to apply for your ballot.
Emergency Absentee Ballots
If you have been admitted to a healthcare facility within 1 week of the election, you may use the absentee ballot application to designate someone of your choice to deliver a ballot to you. The person you designate to deliver your ballot will need to bring the signed application to your local election office, pick up your absentee ballot, bring it to you, and return it for you by the close of polls on Election Day. Emergency ballots may be requested up until the close of polls.
Military & Overseas Voters
If you are a U.S citizen residing out of the country or on active military duty, you may use the Federal Post Card Application or the Massachusetts Absentee Ballot Application to request your ballot. More information is available on our page for Voting for Military & Overseas Citizens.
Vote by Mail Accommodations
If you have a disability that prevents you from marking a paper ballot independently, you may qualify to use the Accessible Vote by Mail system. Visit our Accessible Vote by Mail page for more information and to find an Accessible Vote by Mail Application.
Returning your Ballot
There are several options for returning your ballot. You may return your ballot by:
Ballots cannot be dropped off at a polling place on Election Day, however, they can be brought to the Town Clerk's office.
Ballots must reach your local election office by the close of polls on Election Day in order to be counted.
Use our Track My Ballot tool to check the status of your ballot. The tracker will show you the date your ballot was mailed, the date it was returned, and whether your ballot was accepted or rejected.
Voting in Person
You can still vote in person if you’ve applied to vote by mail. You can vote at an early voting location or your polling place on Election Day.
You can’t vote in person if your ballot has been accepted by your local election office. You can’t take your ballot back or vote again.
Use our website to track your ballot status. If your ballot hasn’t been accepted by Election Day, you may vote in person at your polling place. If your ballot arrives at your local election office after you’ve voted, the mail-in ballot will be rejected.