Yesterday was the first day of early voting in Massachusetts. Not just the first day this year, but the first day ever, as I understand it. In Lowell, you can vote at the Election Office in City Hall, Monday through Friday this week and next, during normal City Hall hours of operation. Each night this week and next, and on the intervening Saturday and Sunday, the Lowell Election Office will also take to the field, partnering with a different community organization each day to provide an early voting site.
After work yesterday, I went to Temple Emanuel on West Forrest Street to vote. It happens to be in my neighborhood, but any city voter can vote at any one of these early voting sites. The process worked well: upon entering the room, I gave my name to a poll worker who entered it into a tablet device. That pulled up my voter record. I was asked to look at the record and click on a button that acknowledged I was there person shown in the record. That caused an attached label printer to produce a sticky label with my name, ward and precinct printed upon it. The label was affixed to an envelope which I was given along with my ballot. There were several portable but private voting booths available for filling out your ballot. Once that was done, you inserted the ballot into your envelope, sealed the envelope, and handed it to a poll worker who then gave you an "I voted" sticker. That was it. At the end of the evening, all of those sealed envelopes were taken to city hall and locked in the election office's safe. On election day, they will be distributed to the appropriate precinct and will be counted in the same way that absentee ballots are tallied.
Early voting was well-organized. It was also an interesting experience. The knowledge that you've already voted two weeks before election day is both comforting and, because it's a change from the norm, a little discomforting. I do think it's a great idea and hope that it is extended to all elections.