Will Democrats Keep 3 Massachusetts Special Election Seats In 9 Days-- Or Will The State Shut Down Voting? Anyone Ever Hear Of Absentee Voting?

In the 2018 election, Democrats increased their majorities in the Massachusetts state legislature, picking up 3 seats in the state Senate and 10 in the state House. There are 4 special elections on March 31, a week from Tuesday. Tomorrow the state legislature will decide whether or not to postpone the elections. My bet is that they will. These are the vacant seats being contested:

Hampden and Hampshire state Senate District. Republican Donald Humason, who had no opponent in 2018, resigned after being elected mayor of Westfield. Democratic state Rep. John Velis, a self-described "fiscal conservative," will face off against Republican businessman John Cain. Neither had a primary opponent. 20,848 Democrats voted, as did just 5,586 Republicans.
Plymouth and Barnstable state Senate District (Bourne, Falmouth, Kingston, Plymouth, Pembroke and Sandwich). Republican Vinny deMacedo resigned to take a non-governmental job. Democratic selectwoman Susan Moran will face Republican James McMahon III, the losing GOP candidate for Attorney General in 2018. 32,858 Democrats voted in the primary but just 14,755 Republicans.
Bristol House District 3. Republican Shaunna O'Connell after being elected mayor of Taunton. Democrat Carol Doherty won her primary and will face Kelly Dooner, who was unopposed in the GOP primary. 4,994 Democrats voted in the primary, as did 1,614 Republicans.
Middlesex House Distict 37. Democrat Jennifer Benson resigned to take a job outside of government. Democrat Danillo Sena won her primary and will face Catherine Clark, who won the Republican primary. 9,544 Democrats and 2,451 Republicans voted in the primaries.

Why did so many more Democrats vote in the primaries in these districts, three of which are red? Primaries were held on the same day as the Massachusetts presidential primary which attracted far more Democrats than Republicans.

The DLCC wrote that "Flipping even one seat like these would be a huge victory for Democrats everywhere. They all [the 3 who elected Republican legislators] lean Republican at the local level-- one has been in GOP hands for more than a quarter-century!-- but revulsion against Trump has finally given Democrats an opening to flip them blue."

States have been postponing elections. "Postponing" is absurd in the early stages of a deadly pandemic expected to rage for the rest of the year or possibly close to 2 years. Organizations and governments that say anything other "until further notice" are either stupid or lying. It's time to start mail-only voting as a way for preparing for November. Polling places are death traps, especially for polling workers but for long lines of voters included. Governors cancelling primaries and special elections are doing the right thing. But legislatures must immediately-- as in before they are told to stay home the way Georgia's state legislature has-- pass laws allowing for mail-in voting. Republicans oppose this since he makes it easier for people to vote, something conservatives oppose with all their might and ugliness.

Vote-by-mail is favored by a majority of Americans-- 55% to 25% who oppose the idea, mostly Republicans naturally.

Do you want some good news? Here's a Snopes page the checked out that viral list of good things from around the world that's been circulating widely online. Most of it is true or partially true. Here in California, Governor Newsom issued an executive order on Friday to permit vote-by-mail n all upcoming election. And the same day, the Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit aimed at increasing access to vote by mail.

The plaintiffs are “demanding a declaratory judgment that allows all eligible voters, who believe their health is in danger under the threat of COVID-19, the ability to cast their ballot by mail if they so choose," according to a press release.

The lawsuit was filed in Travis County District Court against the Texas secretary of state and Travis County Elections.

Texas has one of the most restrictive vote-by-mail programs in the country. Voters must be older than 65, disabled, out of the county or in jail to vote by mail in the state.

“We must do everything we can to guarantee access to the ballot box for individuals who are practicing social distancing and self-quarantining,” Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “Current law says you can vote-by-mail if you are disabled and we believe COVID-19 puts the health of all of us at risk. This lawsuit will.”

Mike Siegel, who was the City Attorney of Austin before he decided to run for Congress, has been super-concerned about Texas voting restrictions for long before COVID-19. "This crisis," he told us this morning, "shows how important representative government is, and we must condemn any policy that weakens our democracy. In Texas, vote by mail is restricted to the elderly, to travelers, and to persons with a disability. Disability is defined as having a 'physical condition' such that going to the polls represents a risk of injury. Of course, in this coronavirus pandemic, every person is at risk by going to the polls, not to mention poll workers themselves. Universal access to vote by mail is thus essential to protect both democracy and public health. Unfortunately, the Texas Republican Party fears opening the door to 'no excuse' vote by mail, because once open it will be hard to close. More participation means a faster decline for a GOP that clings to an anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-choice and anti-justice agenda. The public sees that vote by mail is the obvious choice. Hopefully we can continue to build pressure to force progress to occur."

Last week, in a Washington Post OpEd Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden advocated for a bill they introduced to allow every American to vote by mail. "The best way to ensure that this virus doesn’t keep people from the ballot box is to bring the ballot box to them," they wrote. "We must allow every American the ability to vote by mail." And then they added something that seems oxymoronic (although ACLU voting Rights Project director, Dale Ho, explains it in the video below): "And we must expand early voting so that voters who are not able to vote by mail are not exposed to the elevated infection risks of long lines and crowded polling locations."

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