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A message from Commissioner McCosh: Voting in 2020


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Disabilities Commission

A weekly message from Commissioner McCosh in support of the local disability community.

Dear Disability Community Members,

This Monday kicked off National Disability Voter Registration Week, so my message today is focused on ensuring that people with disabilities understand the importance of casting their votes in the upcoming elections.

We talked last week about the 2020 U.S. Census, and the impact your responses can have on political representation and funding for your communities. Voting offers another opportunity for civic participation for those in the disability community.

This year, it is more important than ever that the voices of those in the disability community are heard! And now there are more ways to vote than ever before, including a new option which may be especially helpful for people with disabilities: voting by mail. You can also vote in the usual ways, either in person or by absentee ballot. Take a look at all the options that are available to voters this year:

Voting at the Polls

If you like to vote in person, you can still do so this year! All polling places are required to follow the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in terms of architectural and communication access, and all polling sites in the city of Boston are fully accessible. Poll workers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to voters upon request. In Boston, we go a step further than that - the Elections Department places specially trained “accessibility ambassadors” at polling sites to ensure there are no barriers that keep people with disabilities from voting.

As you know, COVID-19 has affected our ability to gather together in one place. This comes into play at polling sites, but the implementation of voting by mail should help to reduce crowd sizes at the polls. Additionally, there may be some changes inside polling sites this year - stay tuned for updates.

Absentee Voting

Absentee voting has always been available for registered voters to utilize. This method of voting allows residents to mail in a ballot instead of going out to vote at the polls on Election Day. You can only vote by absentee ballot under the following circumstances:

  • If you will be out of town on Election Day
  • If you cannot vote at the polls due to religious beliefs
  • If you have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polling place

The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is noon of the day before the Election.
Absentee ballots are available in the Election Department at Boston City
Hall, or you can download one from their website at:

Voting by Mail

This is the first time in Massachusetts history that all registered voters will have the opportunity to vote by mail in both the state primary and in the general election. Voting by mail will help to ensure that people with disabilities who are unable to go out to their polling place are able to make their voices heard in the next election.

Vote by Mail applications will be mailed to every person who was registered to vote by July 1st. A second mailing will be sent out in September to all voters who have not already applied for a Vote by Mail ballot for the November election.

Vote by Mail applications must be delivered to your local election office no later than 4 business days before the election. If you wish to vote by mail, you are strongly encouraged to return your application as early as possible, to make sure that you will receive your ballot in time to return it and have it be counted. Vote by Mail applications are available for download.

Early Voting

Early voting is back again this year! Voting will open for the state primary between August 22 – August 28. In-person early voting for the November general election will be held from October 17 to October 30. Since early voting offers more days for people to go to the polls, it will help to reduce crowd sizes and contain the spread of COVID-19.

Voter Registration

Massachusetts does not have same-day voter registration, so you need to be registered before the election. However, the deadline this year been shortened from 20 days ahead of each election to 10 days beforehand. So the deadlines this year are August 22nd for the state’s primary, and October 24th for the general election.

Remember - your vote affects so many important things. Election results impact your access to healthcare, education, transportation, employment, and more! My office advocates for accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in all civic institutions in Boston, but in the end, we need you to vote! For more information, please visit the Election Department

As always, please feel free to reach out to us if you need assistance. You can dial 311 to reach City Hall, or call us at 617-635-3682. Our email is, and the latest updates are available at

Until next week, please stay informed, stay cool, and stay healthy!


Commissioner Kristen McCosh