Lead Sponsor: Senator Jamie Eldridge
Summary: This bill would modernize our voter registration systems to make it easier for eligible citizens to register to vote and to ensure the accuracy of our voter lists by allowing citizens to register to vote online, ensuring that our voting lists stay up to date when voters move, allowing 16 and 17 year old citizens to pre-register to vote, and allowing eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day.
Why This Matters: Two million eligible Massachusetts citizens didn’t vote in 2010. Some of these citizens wanted to vote, but they were turned away because their registration was out-of-date because they had moved, or wasn’t submitted early enough to be eligible for the 2010 election. Many more citizens would be more likely to vote if we made the first step in participating in the process — registering to vote — less difficult and bureaucratic.
By modernizing our voter registration systems, we can increase citizen participation, make our democracy stronger, ensure that our voting lists are accurate, and even save money for cities and towns by reducing processing costs.
What this Bill Would Do:
- Pre-registration: This bill would let 16 and 17 year-olds register ahead of time, and then have those registrations become automatically active when they become 18. It would also encourage all schools and training programs to register all juniors and seniors at the beginning of the year.
- Online registration: The bill would allow citizens to register to vote online if they have a signature in the Registry of Motor Vehicles database. Other states implementing online registration have found that processing an online registration form costs 95% less than entering hand-written forms.
- Permanent Registration: The bill would let our Central Voter Registry get updated the same way businesses update their mailing lists, using data from the US Postal Service and the Registry of Motor Vehicles to make sure people are registered where they actually live – saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual costs.
- Election Day Registration (EDR): Currently, the deadline for voters to register to vote is 20 days 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.
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.