Voters’ Rights and Responsibilities

Citizens who know both their voting rights and responsibilities are ensured that they can vote unimpeded. On October 13, 2006, Madhu Sridhar, President of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, and William Galvin, the Secretary of the Commonwealth, unveiled and signed the Massachusetts Voters’ Bill of Responsibilities. This document is a companion to the historic Massachusetts Voters’ Bill of Rights, drafted by the League in 2004. Both documents are posted at polling  stations across the state.

Massachusetts Voters’ Bill of Rights

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  1. You have the right to vote if you are a qualified registered voter.
  2. 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.
  3. You have the right to remain in the voting booth for five minutes if there are other voters waiting and for ten minutes if there are no other voters waiting.
  4. You have the right to receive up to two replacement ballots if you make a mistake and spoil your ballot.
  5. You have the right to request assistance when voting from a poll worker or anyone of your choice.
  6. You have the right to vote if you are disabled. The polling place must be accessible, and there must be an accessible voting booth.
  7. You have the right to vote if you cannot read or write or cannot read or write English.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. You have the right to follow up any challenge to your right to vote through the complaint process.
  12. 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.
  13. You have the right to take this Voters’ Bill of Rights or any other papers, including a checklist, voter’s guide or campaign material into the voting booth with you. Please remember to remove all papers when you leave the booth.
  14. You have the right to vote at your polling place any time between 7 am and 8 pm 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.
  15. You have the right to bring your children into the voting booth with you. Children may not mark the ballot.

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. Your voting rights are protected. These rights are guaranteed to qualified registered voters. Prepared by the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, October 2004

Massachusetts Voters’ Bill of Responsibilities

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  1. It is your responsibility to register to vote at least 20 days before an election. You can register in one of the following locations: at a voter registration drive, your city or town hall, by mail, at the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office (Boston, Fall River or Springfield), at the Registry of Motor Vehicles or another agency when applying for services.
  2. It is your responsibility to fill out the voter registration form truthfully, accurately and completely.
  3. It is your responsibility to return the annual local census form to keep your voter status active. If you are an inactive voter, you will be required to show ID at the polls.
  4. It is your responsibility to re-register to vote if you move to another community.
  5. It is your responsibility to notify your city or town hall if there are any changes in your address within your community or in your name or if you wish to change your political party enrollment.
  6. It is your responsibility to re-register to vote if you were convicted of a felony and have completed your jail sentence.
  7. It is your responsibility to bring acceptable identification to the polls if you are a firsttime voter and failed to provide your driver’s license number or the last four digits of your social security number with your voter registration form, or if you did provide these numbers, but they could not be verified. Your voter acknowledgement will state if you have to bring ID to the polls. If you are unsure, bring identification when you vote. Identification must include your name and current address, for example: a current and valid driver’s license, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other government document.
  8. It is your responsibility to know the hours and location of your polling place. Contact your city or town clerk, the Secretary of the Commonwealth, or the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.
  9. It is your responsibility to request an absentee ballot if you are unable to vote in person on Election Day and are eligible to do so. You are eligible to vote by absentee ballot in Massachusetts if you will be absent from your city or town on Election Day, have a physical disability that prevents your voting at the polling place or cannot vote at the polls due to religious beliefs. You must request an absentee ballot by noon the day before Election Day and return it by the time the polls close on Election Day (a different deadline applies to those overseas).
  10. It is your responsibility to check your ballot for accuracy before casting it. If you make a mistake on your ballot, ask a poll worker for a replacement. If you spoil the second ballot, you can ask for a third, which is your final ballot and will be counted.
  11. It is your responsibility to ask for assistance at the polling place if you need it. You can seek help from any person of your choice, including poll workers.
  12. It is your responsibility to respect the privacy of other voters.
  13. It is your responsibility to refrain from campaigning or influencing other voters within 150 feet of the polling place.
  14. It is your responsibility to report problems to a poll worker or to report election law violations to your city or town hall and/or the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

The League of Women Voters encourages all voters to be informed about the candidates and issues in all elections. If you have any questions, please call your local city or town clerk or the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Elections Division at 1-800-462-VOTE (8683). This call is free within Massachusetts. To fulfill your civic duties, exercise your right to vote in all elections responsibly and know your rights as a voter. Prepared by the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, October 2006