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PNS Daily Newscast - November 17, 2017 


The Keystone oil pipeline spills big time in South Dakota; a look at the GOP tax plan and it’s impact on the most vulnerable Americans; and renewed hope for Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters national monument.

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Legal Fireworks Begin in Trial Over Voting Rights

A trial began Wednesday in a case that challenges the state's requirement that voter registration be cut off 20 days prior to an election. (J. Slobotnik/Flckr)
A trial began Wednesday in a case that challenges the state's requirement that voter registration be cut off 20 days prior to an election. (J. Slobotnik/Flckr)
July 6, 2017

BOSTON – The Fourth of July celebration is over, but the legal fireworks are just getting started in a trial that got underway Wednesday focusing on a key concern of the founding fathers – the right to vote.

Jessie Rossman, one of the lawyers handling the case for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says as early as 1887, the state Supreme Court ruled that the cut-off for voter registration should occur as close to Election Day as possible.

Rossman argues the technology is available to allow for same-day registration, so she says the current system is arbitrary and unconstitutional.

"Every year, thousands of people in Massachusetts are disenfranchised and unable to vote as a result of this 20-day registration cut-off," she states.

The state argues that the deadline is rational and falls within its authority to assure orderly elections.

Rossman says 15 states, including more than half of New England states, currently allow same-day registration for voters on Election Day.

Rossman says low-income people, elderly people, students, younger people and people of color are most impacted by the cut-off date.

She says one clear hardship imposed by the current law is that voters can't get involved in the process at the very time they are learning the most about what's at stake in a given election.

"Campaigns make vigorous use of those last two-and-a-half weeks,” she points out. “The media increases its coverage.

“Right now, the only people who can't take advantage of those final 20 days are voters. That turns the constitutional right to vote on its head."

On the day before last year's presidential election, the Suffolk Superior Court issued an order permitting three plaintiffs to cast provisional ballots in the 2016 election.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA