Absentee Voting

Voting by Mail in 2021

Under a state law passed in July 2021, voting by mail will be allowed in all local and state elections through December 15, 2021. You do not need to have an excuse to cast an early ballot by mail for the November 2, 2021 Municipal Election. For more information on no-excuse vote-by-mail, please visit our Early Voting by Mail page.

Absentee Ballot Eligibility

You can vote by absentee ballot if any of the following applies:

  • You will be absent from Cambridge on election day during polling hours;
  • You have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polling place;
  • You cannot vote at the polls due to religious belief.

Early Vote by Mail ballots are available to those who do not qualify for absentee ballots for any election held on or before December 15, 2021. 

Absentee vs. Early Voting

In Massachusetts, absentee voting is available for all elections, while early voting is only available for certain elections. The two systems overlap in many ways, but the most important difference is that absentee voters must have an excuse (listed above), while there is no excuse needed for early voting. 

In elections in which early voting is available, there may still be certain circumstances when it would be appropriate to apply for an absentee ballot instead of an early ballot. You should complete an absentee ballot application if you are:

  • A military voter on active duty;
  • A Massachusetts citizen residing outside of the United States;
  • A voter who has been admitted to the hospital within 1 week of the election;
  • A voter who is incarcerated.

Voting Absentee By Mail

Absentee ballots must be requested in writing. The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is 5 p.m. on the 4th business day before an election. For the November 2, 2021 Municipal Election, the deadline is Wednesday, October 27th at 5:00 p.m. The U.S. Postal Service recommends applying by Tuesday, October 19th, allowing up to 7 days for ballot delivery in each direction.

You can request a ballot by either filling out the application form or by sending a signed request to the Election Office that includes:

  • Your name;
  • The address where you are registered to vote;
  • The address where you want the ballot to be sent;
  • The election(s) for which you need an Absentee Ballot.
  • YOUR SIGNATURE

If you are an unenrolled voter seeking to vote in a primary, you must indicate the party ballot that you want to vote. 

A family member of a person qualified to vote by Absentee Ballot may apply for that person. In addition to the above information, family members must also include their name and relationship to the voter.

Click here for absentee ballot application  

You can send your application or request to the Election Commission by mail, fax, or by scanning and emailing it (the application/request must be signed):

Election Commission
51 Inman Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Fax: 617-349-4366

Email: elections2@cambridgema.gov

If you are emailing your application, you may either scan or take a photo of your signed application, or you may sign your application using a mouse, finger, or stylus. Attached the application as a pdf or jpg. Typed signatures are not acceptable. 

Voting Absentee in Person

Absentee Ballots are available for over-the-counter voting at the Cambridge Election Office at least twenty days before each election. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot voted over-the-counter is noon the day before the election. If the day before the election is a holiday, the deadline is 5 pm the business day before the election. Please call the election commission at 617-349-4361 to find out if absentee ballots are available in the Election Commission Office. Please note that during the Early Voting Period, voters can vote in-person at Early Voting Locations

Voting by Military and Overseas Citizens

To apply for an absentee ballot from overseas, please use the federal postcard application. You will need to apply once every calendar year that you are interested in voting. Ballots are available by email for federal elections. Local election ballots are available only by mail. 

Members of the Uniformed Services and U.S. Citizens who reside overseas are covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).  In Massachusetts, UOCAVA citizens are considered “specially qualified voters” and voter registration is waived.  UOCAVA citizens are eligible to vote in all elections in Massachusetts by requesting absentee ballots. For more information, please visit http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elemil/milidx.htm

Emergency Absentee Ballots

If you have been admitted to a healthcare facility or you are instructed to quarantine in your home 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 the Election Commission Office at 51 Inman Street, 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. 

Returning your Ballot

Ballots may be returned by mail, in person to the Election Commission Office, or to a designated ballot drop box. Ballot drop box locations will be posted online for each election. Ballots must reach the Election Commission Office at 51 Inman Street by the close of polls on Election Day in order to be counted. Please make sure the absentee ballot envelope is signed and sealed. 

 

Tips and FAQs

What is the difference between absentee voting and early voting?

Early voting is a process by which a registered voter can vote before Election Day during a designated period. Voters can vote early by mail or in-person and the ballot will be cast on Election Day. 

Early voting is different from absentee voting because you do not need an excuse or reason to vote early!  It is not available for all elections so please check our early voting site for information about upcoming elections.

Who can vote by absentee Ballot?

You can vote by absentee Ballot if any of the following applies:

  • You will be absent from Cambridge on election day during polling hours;
  • You have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polling place;
  • You cannot vote at the polls due to religious belief. 

Any voter taking precautions relating to COVID-19 shall be deemed to qualify for an absentee ballot by reason of disability for any election held on or before December 15, 2021.

How do I vote absentee by mail?

To vote absentee by mail, you first have to apply for an Absentee Ballot.  You can do this by either filling out the application form below or by sending a signed request to the Election Office that includes:

  • Your name;
  • The address where you are registered to vote;
  • The address where you want the ballot to be sent;
  • The election(s) for which you need an Absentee Ballot.
  • YOUR SIGNATURE

If you are an unenrolled voter seeking to vote in a primary, you must indicate the party ballot that you prefer.

A family member of a person qualified to vote by Absentee Ballot may apply for that person.  In addition to the above information, family members must also include their name and relationship to the voter.

Click here for absentee ballot application  

Do I need to be registered to vote to get an Absentee Ballot?

Yes, unless you are a “specially qualified voter” you must be registered to vote to apply for an Absentee Ballot.

A specially qualified voter is a person:

  • who is otherwise eligible to register as a voter and
  • whose present domicile is outside the United States and whose last domicile in the United States was Massachusetts or whose present domicile is Massachusetts and who is:
    (a) absent from the city or town of residence and in the active service of the armed forces or in the merchant marine of the United States or a spouse or dependent of such person;
    (b) absent from the commonwealth; or
    (c) confined in a correctional facility or a jail, except if by reason of felony conviction.

What is the deadline for applying to vote absentee?

By Mail:

  • You can apply any time within the calendar year until 5 pm on the 4th business day before the election. 
  • Make sure to apply with enough time to get the ballot and mail it back by Election day
  • If you are going to vote absentee in more than one election, you can apply for all elections within a calendar year with one application

In Person:

  • You can apply any time until noon on the day before the election. If the day before the election is a holiday, the deadline is 5 p.m. on the last business day that the office is open. 
  • You can go to the Election Commission office and apply at the same time as you vote. 
  • During the Early Voting Period, you can vote at a designated Early Voting Location without needing an application. 

What is the deadline for mailing back the ballot?

The Election Office must receive your ballot by the close of polls on Election Day.  In a general election, an Absentee Ballot that has been mailed from outside the United States on or before Election Day must be counted if the Election Office receives it on or before the tenth day after the election.

How do I vote absentee in person?

Absentee Ballots are available for over-the-counter voting at the Cambridge Election Office at least twenty days before each election. Please call the Election Commission Office at 617-349-4361 to find out if Absentee Ballots are available. 

People with disabilities

If you are permanently disabled, you may apply to vote from home.  Send a letter to the Election Office from your doctor, stating that you are permanently unable to cast your ballot at the polling place due to a physical disability. The Election Office will automatically mail you an application for an Absentee Ballot for all elections in a calendar year. You must sign the application and send it back.

Designated Health Care Facilities

A person who has been admitted to a hospital or other health care facility after twelve o'clock noon of the 7th day before a primary/election can request an absentee ballot up until the close of polls on Election Day. The ballot can be delivered by an election official or the voter can designate a person to deliver the ballot in person and then return it to the Election Commission. 

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