Since this session began, the election reform coalition has been pressing for passage of Senator Barry Finegold's bill - SB 327 - which included the pre-registration of 16 and 17 year-olds, online voter registration, early voting, updating inactive voting procedures, and post-election audits to ensure the accuracy of our voting machines. We felt strongly that the bill, while significant, did not go far enough to modernize our voting system - and that we needed to pass election day registration as well. (For more detail, check out our campaign - http://www.progressivemass.com/let-our-voices-be-heard-election-reform).
Massachusetts has been falling behind:
- Massachusetts is one of only 15 states that doesn't have any form of early voting.
- Twenty-two (22) states have some form of online registration.
- Eleven (11) states and the District of Columbia have enacted same day registration.
Massachusetts should be leading, not lagging.
Now, the Elections Committee has finally reported out a bill - and it is both surprising and disappointing.
The bill contains:
- Online registration and look up
- Early voting for Presidential years only. Not on Saturday or Sunday (or at least not the weekend immediately preceding Election Day). One polling location per municipality required, regardless of size. Doesn't go into effect until 2016
- Study committee on early voting, fraud, and turnout reporting out in 2017.
- Study committee on audits reporting out in 2014.
Early voting that is restricted to business hours is hardly early voting. It's the same as the over the counter provisions that exist today without requiring voters to provide a reason - and it only applies to Presidential years.
Audits - this actually passed the House in the last session - but now we have to study it? (A legislative euphemism for bill killing)
Nothing about pre-registration.
And certainly no election day registration - that is only the sole reform that has been proven to increase participation - we probably wouldn't want more voters, would we?
We are working to improve the bill in the House but we aren't optimistic.
Get ready to make some noise in the Senate.
Some opposition comes from the Secretary of State who has never been a leader on election reform. Most progressives have been deeply unhappy with him for many years.
Some opposition comes from the legislators themselves and comes in two forms. Many legislators are elected year after year by the same limited number of people – super voters – in their community. Making it easier to vote expands the voter pool and makes a challenge somewhat easier. As you may know, Massachusetts has one of the highest incumbent re-election rates in the nation.
Other legislators have embraced many of the repudiated Republican talking points re: voter fraud in the same way that they embrace the Herald’s talking points re: welfare fraud, etc. In general, our legislature is far more conservative than our residents – or our reputation at the national level.
Calling your legislators is critical since they listen to constituents.
Hope this answers your question. Happy to talk at any time.