TWENTY-TWO MASSACHUSETTS MAYORS signed onto a letter urging lawmakers to adopt some form of vote-by-mail system for the fall elections.
“Our constituents deserve the opportunity to exercise their right to vote without risk of exposure to a deadly virus,” the mayors wrote to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka.
Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin has come out in favor of expanding early voting by mail this year, and several legislative proposals are being considered. None of the proposals would completely eliminate in-person voting.
In the letter, circulated by Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, the mayors do not specify the details of what vote by mail would look like, but they say some form of vote by mail should be available for both the Sept. 1 primary and the Nov. 3 general election.
They write that several states have adopted vote by mail programs, such as Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii. “In recent years with many safeguards available, vote by mail has become the gold standard for voter access and participation,” the mayors wrote.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is not among the signers. The 22 mayors who signed the letter come from all regions of the state, including Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, and others.
DOC testing reports to high court under fire
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and a group representing the state’s public defenders on Wednesday filed a motion of contempt against the Department of Correction, alleging the agency is failing to comply with an earlier decision by the Supreme Judicial Court requiring the release of accurate information on the number of COVID-19 tests and outcomes.
The April 3 SJC decision focused mostly on the release of inmates awaiting trials to ease overcrowding and the potential for a COVID-19 outbreak. According to the latest report from the SJC’s special master on the case, more than 630 prisoners have been released.
The SJC decision also required the agency and each county sheriff to provide daily reports on COVID-19 tests and results. “According to our new filing, the DOC’s reports have been neither daily nor sufficient,” said Kate Lagreca, a spokeswoman for the ACLU.
The ACLU filing said the agency has often failed to break down data by facility, which, “during a growing pandemic, puts incarcerated people, prison staff, and the surrounding communities at greater risk from an outbreak.”
The Department of Correction announced on Wednesday that two more prisoners had died of COVID-19 at its facilities, bringing the total to seven.
The two men, both in their 70s, died while receiving treatment at hospitals outside of their respective prisons, Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater and MCI-Shirley.
As of Wednesday morning, 296 of the 8,000 inmates at the state prison system had been tested for COVID-19 and 127 had tested positive.
Statewide, 2,182 people have died from COVID-19 and 42,944 have tested positive.
Association: Limited data confirms COVID-19 racial inequities
Even though racial data on 56 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases is unknown, the Massachusetts Public Health Association said on Wednesday that it has enough data to say with a high degree of confidence that black and Latinx residents in Massachusetts are far more likely than whites to suffer from COVID-19 infections.
The association, a nonprofit organization advocating for the elimination of racial inequities in health care, said Latinx residents are three times more likely to suffer a COVID-19 infection than white residents and black residents 2.5 times more likely. Interestingly, the association said Asian residents have fewer COVID-19 infections than white residents.
“Although a considerable number of reported cases are missing race/ethnicity, the differences between the per capita rates for cases in which race/ethnicity is recorded reveal serious inequities that are likely to persist as additional data is collected,” the association said.