Aside from a Kennedy losing, election night in Massachusetts on Tuesday felt almost normal.
Despite the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, results for a hotly contested statewide race trickled in throughout the night, with a winner called around 10:30 p.m. Nearly one million absentee ballots were counted by midnight. There were even timely victory and concession speeches.
For those looking to Massachusetts as a possible model for how to successfully hold the November general election, voting rights groups and election experts said the state’s primary provided a mix of smart policies and harsh deadlines — which possibly disenfranchised numerous voters.
Indeed, Massachusetts may have offered the country a model for how to count votes, but casting ballots wasn’t always as seamless. And certain factors helped the state: The type of partisan vitriol that has led to last-minute litigation over voting in other places was mostly absent, and coronavirus rates have been under control.
As in other states’ primaries, there were anecdotal reports of voters never receiving their ballots, not receiving the privacy envelope for returning a ballot, or receiving ballots too close to the deadline to mail them back. A court decision ruled that all ballots had to be received by 8 p.m. on Tuesday to be counted, regardless of whether they had been mailed by Election Day and simply suffered from postal delays.
But the state still shattered its record for primary participation, with more than 1.6 million ballots cast. Though interest in the Democratic Senate primary, in which Senator Edward J. Markey fended off a challenge from Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, was high, election officials said that a law signed this summer by Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, that expanded mail-in voting and early voting had been essential to voting during the pandemic.