Absentee Voting FAQ

Can I vote absentee?

Procedures for obtaining absentee ballots are different for every state. In Massachusetts you may vote absentee if you will be absent from your city or town on Election Day, if you have a physical disability preventing you from voting at the polling place, or if your religious beliefs prevent you from voting on Election Day.

You must be a registered voter in order to vote absentee. Several exceptions exist: Those residing overseas and members of the armed forces or merchant marine, or their spouses or dependents, do not need to be registered in order to vote absentee.

How do I apply for an absentee ballot?

You must apply in writing to the city or town clerk or election commission, either in a letter or by filling out an application form. For an absentee ballot application in Spanish download this document.

If you write a letter requesting an absentee ballot, it should include your name, address as registered, ward or precinct if you know it, address where you want the absentee ballot sent, which party ballot you want if the election is a primary (you must be registered to vote in the party you request or you must be unenrolled in any party), and your signature.

Can someone else apply for me for an absentee ballot?

A family member of a person who is registered to vote in Massachusetts may apply to the city or town where that person is registered for an absentee ballot for that voter. The family member may apply by letter that includes name, address as registered, ward or precinct if you know it, address where you want the absentee ballot sent, which party ballot you want if the election is a primary (you must be registered to vote in the party you request or you must be unenrolled in any party), and your signature; or the family member may fill out an absentee ballot application which can be downloaded. Absentee ballot applications by family members are also available in Spanish.

What is the deadline for applying to vote absentee?

The deadline for applying for an absentee ballot is noon on the day before an election, if you are both applying and voting in person. Absentee ballots are generally available three weeks before an election. If you are planning to vote in the clerk's office, you may be able to apply for an absentee ballot and vote in the same visit.

How do I show my ID if I vote by absentee ballot?

If the state was able to verify the social security or drivers license number on your voter registration form you should receive a voter registration acknowledgment which indicates that you do not need to show identification when you vote.

If the social security or drivers license number on your voter registration form could not be verified then you’ll need to mail in a copy of suitable identification with your absentee ballot. If you don’t mail the identification with your absentee ballot, your ballot will be considered provisional. Your provisional ballot will only be counted if your identification arrives at the town/city clerk’s office before the polls close on Election Day.

Suitable identification has your current name and address:

  • current and valid drivers license
  • government check or document
  • current utility bill
  • pay check or stub
  • voter registration acknowledgment, or
  • rent receipt on landlord's letterhead.
Do I need to reapply for every election? No. The absentee ballot application asks you to designate which election(s) you are applying for. Absentee ballot applications may be made for all elections within a calendar year or for a single election.Note: If your address changes within a calendar year you must submit a new application for an absentee ballot. This is especially important for college students who are usually focused on an academic year not a calendar year.If you are permanently disabled, you may file a doctor’s letter with the local election office which states that you are permanently unable to vote at the polls due to a physical disability. The local 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 to your local election official.Are there special instructions for completing and returning the absentee ballot?Yes. Your absentee ballot must be sealed and returned in the brown envelope that was sent with the ballot. The voter must sign the brown envelope in the designated place and place it in the white envelope with green trim that also came with the absentee ballot.

Must my absentee ballot be witnessed?

No. With the implementation of the National Voter Registration Act, it is not necessary to have your absentee ballot witnessed.


Can someone help me fill out my absentee ballot?


Yes. You may ask someone to help you mark your ballot. The helper must print his or her name and the voter’s name in the designated place on the brown envelope that is sent with the absentee ballot, write the reason the voter needed help, and sign his or her name as the assisting person.