MA Groups to Lawmakers: Keep Election-Day Voter Registration in VOTES Act
Monday, April 25, 2022
Massachusetts lawmakers are finalizing the VOTES Act, a bill aimed at increasing access to the ballot box. It includes mail-in voting and extended early voting, which were put in place just for 2020 and helped break turnout records.
The state House and Senate have passed two versions of the bill, which are now in conference committee for reconciliation.
Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said the key difference is same-day voter registration. The Senate bill includes it but the House one does not. Foster reported groups are now pushing for a compromise.
"What the Senate passed would allow for folks to both register and vote on Election Day or early-voting days," Foster explained. "We're asking for a compromise of Election-day registration, which is a little bit different. Election-Day registration would just be for Election Day. "
Foster noted 21 other states plus the District of Columbia allow eligible voters to register on Election Day, which has proved to increase voter turnout. He pointed to research showing turnout among Black and Latino voters in states with same-day registration is up to 17% higher.
Foster pointed out voters sometimes change addresses and forget to update their registration, or there is an error they missed or do not know about. Under current law, they get turned away at the polls. And he added 65% of Massachusetts voters in a recent survey supported the policy.
"This is a moment where we're looking at how to make democracy as strong as possible in the wake of all these attacks on our democracy," Foster asserted. "To leave Election-Day registration out of the VOTES Act would be really unfortunate."
Kareem Kibodya, senior policy co-lead for the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, noted Black and brown voters across the nation have longer average wait times to vote, and are more likely to have to call out of work because of it, which he noted affects individuals and the business community. He argued the VOTES Act would increase access for everyone.
"This is something that affects especially Black and brown voters, but it's also something that affects new voters as well," Kibodya contended. "Whether that's people that have just turned 18, or trying to vote for the first time, or people that have sat on the sidelines for most of their lives and are motivated to become active voters."
The bill would also make jail-based voting easier, for people who are incarcerated for non-felony convictions or pretrial and thus eligible to vote. It would make efficiency improvements to automatic voter registration, and also enroll Massachusetts in a voter roll-monitoring program.
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