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I want to Vote by Absentee Ballot

Election Commission

All voters can vote early by mail with no excuse needed - Click Here

Absentee vs. Early Voting

The two systems overlap in many ways, but the most important difference is that absentee voters must have an excuse (listed below), while there is no excuse needed for early Vote by Mail. Most voters who qualify for an absentee ballot can choose to instead apply for an early Vote by Mail ballot. 

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 living in a designated health care facility;
  • A voter who has been admitted to the hospital within 1 week of the election;
  • A voter who is incarcerated. 

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. 


    How to Start

    • Absentee ballots must be requested in writing. The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is 5 p.m. on the 5th business day before an election.

      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.

      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. Attach the application as a pdf or jpg. Typed signatures are not acceptable.

      If you are blind or have a vision impairment, have a mobility or dexterity disability, or have another disability that makes it difficult for you to mark a paper ballot, you can request an accessible vote by mail ballot. You must include in your application or letter a statement saying that you need to use an accessible vote by mail ballot as an accommodation due to a disability that prevents you from marking a paper ballot. To access the accessible vote by mail system, you must provide an email address.


    • 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.
     To get an absentee ballot, you must be registered to vote or meet the criteria of a specially qualified voter. 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:
      • 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;
      • absent from the commonwealth; or
      • confined in a correctional facility or a jail, except if by reason of felony conviction. 


    Additional Information

    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 https://www.sec.state.ma.us/divisions/elections/voting-information/military-and-overseas-voters.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. For biennial general state elections, ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by the Election Commission Office by the third day after the election. Please make sure the absentee ballot envelope is signed and sealed. 


    Page was posted on 5/8/2018 5:06 PM
    Page was last modified on 5/23/2024 9:53 AM
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