Summary: This bill comprehensively and fundamentally updates and improves voting in Massachusetts, and if enacted, would give Massachusetts some of the strongest voting laws anywhere in the United States.
Why This Matters: Fair, open elections and citizen participation through voting are two of the hallmarks of a strong democracy – and yet too often, we make it harder, rather than easier, for citizens to exercise their right to vote. Massachusetts is the birthplace of American democracy, and we should ensure that every qualified citizen has the ability to exercise their freedom to vote.
What this Bill Would Do: This bill is full of common-sense measures to help increase voter participation and prevent voter disenfranchisement:
- Election Day Registration (EDR): Currently, the deadline for voters to register to vote is weeks before Election Day – an unnecessary hardship for busy Americans who simply forget to register or re-register after moving, and find themselves unable to vote on Election Day.
o This bill would allow people with identification to register and vote on Election Day on regular ballots, removing a substantial barrier to participation and, as studies of other states with EDR have consistently shown, increasing turnout.
o In addition, EDR would protect against voter disenfranchisement, by dramatically cutting down on the number of “provisional” ballots and allowing eligible voters who may have been mistakenly purged from the voting rolls to cast their vote.
- Early Voting: This bill would let registered voters who wish to do so vote at their city or town hall (or designated alternative location) during the Tuesday through Friday of the week before the election – another way to help remove obstacles to voting for busy citizens.
- Let registered voters in the military or overseas request and receive absentee ballots via email. They will still need to mail them back, but this will cut a significant amount of time from the process, increasing their ability to vote.
- Require employers to give 1 hour of unpaid leave or flex-time for voting and up to 2 days for poll workers.
- Let 16 and 17 year-olds register ahead of time, and then have those registrations become automatically active when they become 18. Encourage all schools and training programs to register all juniors and seniors at the beginning of the year.
- Require Closed Captioning of Broadcast Campaign Commercials. Campaigns and Independent Expenditures that purchase broadcast media time for campaign commercials must close caption their advertisements for the hearing impaired.
This bill also includes measures to insure the fair, accurate accounting of all votes cast while simplifying the process:
- Guarantee paper ballots: Require that all voting in the Commonwealth use paper ballots so there is a record of every vote.
- Mandate regular, random audits of voting totals. Require that election results of statewide and congressional races be randomly, publicly audited for accuracy.
- Require the collection of election data such as electronic voting machine problems and numbers of provisional ballots.
- Remove the exit table. Instead of having voters check out, simply have one person at the ballot box to make sure that all ballots that check-in table workers give to voters are eventually place in the box and that none leave the polling place. This will save cities and towns up to $500,000 per election.
- Remove the requirement that a police officer constable be at every polling place. Give cities and towns the option not to use police if they wish. This will save cities and towns up to $2 million per year.
- Prohibit deceptive election practices and increase fines for illegal challenges of voters: This would make it a crime to try and prevent, delay, dissuade or interfere with a person’s right to vote by distributing false information about voting and elections or other deceptive practices.