Automatic Voter Registration: We Have the Technology, What We Need Is the Will.

The following was testimony delivered before the Joint Committee on Election Laws on June 8, 2017, in favor of S.373/H.2091 (An Act Automatically Registering Eligible Voters and Enhancing Safeguards against Fraud) and S.371/H.2093 (An Act establishing Election Day registration).

Our democracy is strongest when everyone has the ability to participate, to make their voices heard. And one of the most fundamental ways citizens can engage in the democratic process is by voting.

Massachusetts prides itself in being a state routinely on the right side of history and a model for other states. However, when it comes to voting rights, we have often lagged behind our peers.

The 2014 election reform bill began the process of bringing our election administration into the twenty-first century by allowing online voter registration, pre-registration, and early voting, among other key reforms. It has been both popular and successful. And it is time to build on that progress. Automatic voter registration would do just that.

It increases the efficiency of election administration by integrating it seamlessly into standard government operations and by bringing Massachusetts into the Election Registration Information Center. It eliminates the need for constant re-registration when people move, and by digitizing the registration process, it can significantly cut down on the cost (and paperwork) involved, benefiting cities and towns. It improves the accuracy of the voter rolls. And it will reduce the number of eligible citizens who are left out of the democratic process—approximately 680,000 according to the US Census Bureau.

Two years ago, Oregon became the first state to adopt automatic voter registration. Since then, seven states and the District of Columbia (including our neighbors Connecticut and Vermont) have followed suit—with several more on the near horizon. And it has been a resounding success. According to a report from the Center for American Progress, Oregon’s bill increased voter registration, increased the number of actual people who voted, and made the voting population more representative of the state’s population.

I would also urge you to support H.2093/S.371, An Act establishing Election Day registration. States like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and our neighbor New Hampshire have had Election Day registration for decades, and it has helped to make sure that all eligible citizens can participate and have their votes counted.

We have the technology here in Massachusetts to embrace best practices and bring our elections into the twenty-first century. What we need is the will.

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