The 2018 statewide primary elections will be held Tuesday, Sept. 4 — the day after Labor Day — and Secretary of State William Galvin has asked legislative leaders to fund a five-day early voting period leading up to the primaries.
The date of the state primary is usually settled without much discussion or public attention, but this year Galvin was required by law to move the primary to an earlier date in September due to a conflict with a Jewish religious holiday. His choice, Sept. 4, is the earliest possible date Galvin could have set for the elections.
Galvin's office said his determination came after consultation with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler, and that it comes with a request that the Legislature pay for cities and towns to hold five days of voting before the Sept. 4 primaries.
"Given the interest we are already seeing in the primaries and the successful implementation of early voting in the 2016 State Election, I believe offering early voting for the State Primaries would provide a greater opportunity for voter participation," Galvin said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Galvin's office said the secretary is "also proposing legislation to allow five days of early voting" and "will be seeking funding" for local election officials. His office did not provide his proposed legislation.
The secretary's request comes one day after Auditor Suzanne Bump pegged the total unfunded early voting cost to municipalities for the 2016 general election at $1,063,978.14 and asked that the Legislature make municipalities whole in a supplemental budget.
Setting a date for the state primary this year became more of an issue than normal because the target date for the primary — 49 days before Election Day — is Tuesday, Sept. 18, but that date marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. One week earlier, Tuesday, Sept. 11, conflicts with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
State law requires Galvin to schedule the primary within seven days of the second Tuesday of September, this year Sept. 11, which left the secretary a window from Sept. 4 until Sept. 18 to hold the election.
Galvin held a two-week public comment period, including a public hearing at which one person showed up to testify, and received comments from about 50 people or organizations by email, his office said.
The secretary of state's office said nomination papers for the Sept. 4 primaries will be released by its elections division "as soon as possible, but before the end of January." Deadlines for submitting nominating papers have not changed, Galvin's office said.
Massachusetts had been the only state without a primary election date, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many states hold their primary election before September, the month when Massachusetts holds its primary.
Texas, which will hold its primary on March 6, has the earliest primary elections date this year. Forty-four states will have held their primaries by the end of August, NCSL said.