Massachusetts Resources for Voters with Disabilities

What are my rights as a voter with a disability in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, you have the right to the following as protected by federal law. Election staff must be trained on and respect these rights:

  • Accessible voter registration
  • Accessible polling places 
  • Policies and procedures that do not discriminate against you based on your disability
  • Accessible, available, and operational voting systems, features
  • Your service animal to accompany you inside the polling place
  • The right to vote privately and independently or with assistance, if needed
  • Assistance from a person of choice, who can be a friend, family member, or poll worker (but not your boss, union agent or someone who has authority over you at work)

Massachusetts also has a Voter Bill of Rights, which includes the following:  

  • You have the right to vote if you are a qualified registered voter.
  • You have the right to cast your ballot in a manner that ensures privacy. You have the right to vote without any person trying to influence your vote, and to vote in a booth that prevents others from watching you mark your ballot.
  • You have the right to remain in the voting booth for five (5) minutes if there are other voters waiting, and for ten (10) minutes if there are no other voters waiting.
  • You have the right to receive up to two (2) replacement ballots if you make a mistake and spoil your ballot.
  • You have the right to request assistance when voting from anyone of your choice. If you do not bring someone with you, you have the right to have two (2) poll workers assist you.
  • You have the right to vote if you are disabled. The polling place must be accessible, and there must be an accessible voting booth.
  • You have the right to vote if you cannot read or write or cannot read or write English.
  • You have the right to vote but must show identification if: you are a first-time voter who registered to vote by mail and did not submit identification with the voter registration form; or your name is on the inactive voter list; or your vote is being challenged; or if requested by a poll worker. Acceptable forms of identification are: Massachusetts driver’s license, other printed documentation containing your name and address such as a recent utility bill, rent receipt on landlord’s letterhead, lease, or a copy of a voter registration acknowledgment or receipt.
  • You have the right to vote by absentee ballot if: you will be absent from your city or town on Election Day; or if you have a physical disability that prevents your voting at the polling place; or if you cannot vote at the polls due to religious belief.
  • You have the right to cast a provisional ballot if you believe you are a qualified registered voter but a poll worker tells you that you are ineligible to vote.
  • You have the right to follow up any challenge to your right to vote through the complaint process.
  • You have the right to vote if you are not currently incarcerated for a felony conviction and have registered as a voter after your release.
  • You have the right to take this Voters’ Bill of Rights or any other papers, including a sample ballot, voter guide or campaign material into the voting booth with you. Please remember to remove all papers when you leave the booth.
  • You have the right to vote at your polling place any time between 7am and 8pm for state and federal elections—hours may vary for local elections. If you are in line at your polling place when the polls close at 8 pm, you have the right to vote.
  • You have the right to bring your children into the voting booth with you.
Who can register to vote in Massachusetts?

To register to vote in Massachusetts, you must be: 

  • A citizen of the United States of America
  • At least 16
  • A resident of Massachusetts

If you are a student, unhoused, a survivor of intimate partner violence with related concerns, or living with a mental or physical impairment, you may still register and vote.

In Massachusetts, you may not register or vote if you:

  • Have been declared mentally incompetent, unless your right has been restored 
  • Are currently incarcerated for a felony conviction. If you are on probation or parole, you may register to vote.  
  • You claim the right to vote elsewhere

Register to vote now if you are eligible!

What are my rights when registering to vote in Massachusetts?

Federal law requires assistance in registering to vote from offices that provide public assistance or state-funded programs serving people with disabilities. Responsibilities of these offices include:

  • Providing voter registration forms
  • Assisting voters in completing the forms
  • Transmitting completed forms to the appropriate election official
  • All aspects of voter registration must be accessible
What are the different ways to vote in Massachusetts?
  • In person on Election Day
  • Provisional ballot at a polling place
  • Early Voting
    • In person
    • By mail (this is not an “Absentee Ballot”)
      • You do not need an excuse for early vote by mail
      • Ballot can only be sent to the address you used when registering to vote
  • Absentee with excuse (this is not an “early Vote by Mail ballot”)
    • Your ballot can be sent to a location that is not the address you used when registering to vote
What are the ways to request a Vote by Mail Ballot in Massachusetts?

All registered voters in Massachusetts can vote early by mail. Submit your Vote by Mail application to your local election office:

  • Online
  • By mail
    • To apply, you may use the application postcard sent to you by the Elections Division. Application postcards are pre-addressed to your local election office and postage is prepaid.
    • The Vote by Mail application can also be downloaded or printed online.
    • Any written request with your signature is an acceptable application. You can write a signed letter to your local election office to apply for your ballot.
  • By email
  • By fax

Applications submitted through mail, email, or fax must include a signature. Electronic signatures, scanned applications, and photos of applications are acceptable.

Typed signatures are only accepted if you require accommodations. Visit Massachusetts Voting for Persons with Disabilities for information on how to request an accessible vote by mail ballot.

What are the ways to request an Absentee Ballot in Massachusetts?

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

Note: Most voters who qualify for an absentee ballot can choose to apply for an early Vote by Mail ballot. You should fill out an absentee ballot application if:

  • 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.

Request an absentee ballot now, or contact your local election official to find out how to get an accessible ballot.

How is the Massachusetts mail-in or absentee ballot process made accessible for voters with print disabilities?

To access the Accessible Vote by Mail system, you must first submit a complete Vote by Mail application to your local election official.

You can apply for an accessible vote by mail ballot using the online mail-in ballot portal

  • Make sure to check the appropriate boxes to request an accommodation
  • The local election official will send access information for your electronic ballot to the email address you provide.

 
You can also use the Accessible Vote by Mail Application to apply for your ballot. You need the following information for your application:

  • Voter Information – Provide your name, date of birth, email address, and the address where you are registered to vote, 
  • Ballot Information – Select the ballot(s) you want to receive by mail, and provide your ballot mailing address if you want to return your ballot by mail, drop box, or in person.
    • For an electronic ballot, access information for your ballot will be sent to the email address you list on your application.    
       
  • Accommodations – Check the boxes for the accommodations you wish to receive.
  • Assistance – If someone is requesting a ballot or for a family member or if someone is helping you complete the application they should fill out this section.
  • You must sign the application. If you cannot independently insert a hand-drawn signature, you may type your name in the signature line.

You can submit the completed application to your local election office:

  • By mail
  • Dropped off at a secure ballot box
  • In person
  • By email (save the application as a pdf)

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader to complete the Accessible Vote by Mail Application. Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded here. You may need to disable Protected View in Acrobat Reader. Below are instructions for doing this using a screen reader program.

  • Open Acrobat Reader, press Alt to open the menus, right arrow once to edit, up arrow to Preferences and press Enter.
  • First letter navigate to Security Enhanced.
  • Tab once to the Enable protected view checkbox and uncheck it. You get a confirmation message, so confirm.
  • Tab to the OK button and press Enter.

 
If you need an alternative ballot, please contact your local election official.

What accommodations are available for voters with disabilities at polling locations in Massachusetts?

Federal law requires polling places to meet minimum compliance standards for individuals with special needs 

  • The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA) requires accessible polling places in federal elections for elderly individuals and people with disabilities. Where no accessible location is available to serve as a polling place, voters must be provided an alternate means of voting in person on Election Day.
     
  • The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires at least one accessible voting system for persons with disabilities at each polling place in federal elections.  The accessible voting system must provide the same opportunity for access and participation, including privacy and independence, that other voters receive. 

If you want to check that your polling location meets these standards or find an alternative polling location, contact your local election official.

What are the rules of assistance for disabled voters in Massachusetts?
  • You may request assistance from a poll worker or receive assistance from a person of your choice with the following exceptions:  
    • your employer, an agent of your employer
    • an officer or agent of your union
       
  • A poll worker cannot force you to accept assistance.
How can I prepare to use accessible voting equipment prior to Election Day?

Massachusetts uses The AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminals. These terminals:

  • Have audio cue capacity for visually impaired voters
  • Can magnify the ballot or display the ballot high-contrast for voters that have a visual impairment
  • Can repeat out loud the choices you selected before printing the ballot

An AutoMARK Video Guide is also available. 

Contact your local election official for more assistance or information on the AutoMARK terminal.

Who do I contact if I have problems when voting in Massachusetts?

If you feel that your right to vote has been violated in any way, call the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Elections Division at 1-800-462-VOTE (8683). This call is free within Massachusetts.

You can also fill out a Violation of Civil Rights Complaint Form and submit it to the US Department of Justice by one of the following methods:

  • Online, through the form’s submission process - this is the fastest method.
  • By fax at (202) 616-9881. You MUST include “ATTN: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Complaints" at the top of your fax submission for it to be processed correctly.
  • By mailing your form to: 

                 U.S. Department of Justice
                 Office of the Inspector General Investigations Division
                 ATTN: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Complaints
                 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
                 Washington, DC 20530

For additional assistance, The National Network of ADA Centers can provide local contact information for other organizations you may wish to contact, including your Regional ADA Center or ADA Knowledge Translation Center, or Federal Agencies and Resources.