BOSTON (CBS) — Early voting begins across Massachusetts on Saturday, Oct. 17 and will run through Oct. 30. Every community must have voting sessions available during the two weekends of that time period, as well as sessions during the regular business hours throughout the week.

Secretary of State William Galvin said they’re taking every precaution to keep voters safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We’ve given [local officials] very specific guidelines. They need to have enough space in the polling places, they can’t have lines that are out of control, anything like that. So we want to make sure that they have enough space to do that. We’re giving them the protective equipment to make sure they protect voters, we’re also making sure to the extent we can that voters recognize they have this extra opportunity to vote in person early at multiple sites which will no doubt be less crowded than the voting places they would go to on November 3rd,” he said.

In 2016, one-third of voters voted early.

“The reality of November 3 is it’s a 13-hour period, many voters just can’t vote early for whatever reason, employment, recent registration, whatever it might be, they need to go there on that day. And we also know that most likely they’re going to go early in the morning or late at night so it’s going to be very hard to avoid large groups of people being there,” Galvin said.

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He voiced concern about the recent uptick in coronavirus cases. “I think we’re at that critical point right now, three weeks out, that we can’t assume that the COVID numbers are going to go down. We have to assume that they are either going to stay constant or unfortunately could go even higher. And if they do, what does that mean? The contingency planning has to be done now,” he said.

Voters have the option to vote by mail as well. Anyone doing so can choose to drop off their ballot at an early-voting site.

As of Monday morning, 1,351,000 ballots have been mailed to Massachusetts voters.

“We want no one to decide not to vote because of their concern about their health. We want everyone to have that opportunity,” Galvin said.

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To view the early voting schedule in your community, visit www.MassEarlyVote.com.