BOSTON — The state’s top election official is urging voters in the municipal elections Tuesday not to return mail-in ballots if they haven’t done so already, citing post office delays and a likelihood their votes won’t be counted.
On Monday, Secretary of State Bill Galvin said voters who requested mail-in ballots but haven’t yet cast them should either submit those ballots at a drop box or consider casting a ballot in person Tuesday.
“If you’re still looking at the ballot, don’t mail it,” Galvin told reporters at a State House briefing.
Galvin said mailed ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on election night, but the U.S. Postal Service says it takes three to five business days to deliver them.
At least 15 cities — including Salem, Peabody, Gloucester, Haverhill and Lynn — hold preliminary elections Tuesday for mayors and city council members.
In Boston, a marquee race for mayor pits several Democrats — acting Mayor Kim Janey, City Councilors Annissa Essaibi George, Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu, and John Barros — hoping to replace former Mayor Marty Walsh, who was tapped to serve as labor secretary.
In Salem, voters will narrow a three-way preliminary mayoral race pitting incumbent Kim Driscoll against challengers Steve Dibble and Frank Perley. The election will also settle preliminary races for the City Council.
Gloucester voters will winnow a field of six running for mayor, including incumbent Mayor Sefatia Romeo and five challengers, to two.
In Lynn, three candidates are running for the office held by Mayor Thomas McGee, who is not seeking reelection after four years. The two top vote-getters will face off against each other in the general election Nov. 2.
Galvin said if voters have already cast mail ballots that have been received by a local election clerk, they cannot show up at the polls on Election Day to replace it.
“If the ballot has been received, that’s it,” he said. “The voter only gets one opportunity to participate.”
He citied concerns that uncounted mail ballots received after Election Day could cause headaches for local clerks if the vote is close in any mayoral races.
“If that’s the case, the last thing we want is ballots that were mailed in good faith not counted,” he said.
Massachusetts was one of dozens of states that temporarily changed its laws to expand mail-in voting options and avoid crowding at the polls as the pandemic raged. Until last year, the state allowed mail-in ballots only from voters who could provide an excuse, such as a disability.
Lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker extended the election rules allowing expanded early voting and mail-in voting through the end of this year.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are advancing a proposal that would make mail-in voting a permanent choice, authorize same-day voter registration, expand early in-person voting, and improve access to voting for eligible prisoners.
The state’s Republican Party has criticized the push to continue mail-in voting, as have some conservative groups, citing a potential for fraud.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.