The Election Modernization Coalition, comprised of 45 advocacy groups and led by ACLU Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, League of Women Voters Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the MIRA Coalition, and Progressive Massachusetts, sent the following letter to the Massachusetts Senate regarding the comprehensive elections bill it will consider Thursday January 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm.
In November 2012, Massachusetts voters in cities across the Commonwealth waited in lines of up to two hours to cast their votes. Others understandably could not wait that long and went home. Still others were turned away because of issues around inactive voting lists, registration glitches, and their inability to legally obtain an absentee ballot. Massachusetts should be a leader in dealing with these and other problems that put unnecessary roadblocks in front of legitimate voters. Indeed, Massachusetts lags behind much of the country in election modernization" even those states that recently rolled back their laws have often made advances that have never been law here.
The Elections Reform bill (S. 1975), scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Thursday, makes great strides towards a modern voting system. It includes online voter registration (currently adopted in 19 states), early voting (adopted in 32 states), pre-registration of 16-year olds (14 states), inactive voting reform, and training for election officials.
The addition of two provisions" post-election audits of voting machines and Election Day voter registration" to the bill released Tuesday by Ways and Means will make a very good bill a great one. We urge the Senate to support the amendments that would add them to the bill. We also urge the Senate to oppose amendments that would require photo-ID to vote.
Post-election audit amendment should be adopted. (Senator Petruccelli and others)
Post-election audits ensure that vote counts are accurate and that voting machines are working properly. Twenty-six other states perform post-election audits including California which has conducted post-election audits for more than 30 years. Audits have uncovered errors that flipped the results of elections, malfunctions in voting machines that significantly change vote-totals, and other problems that affect election results. Audits are a common-sense business practice that, for very little money and no negative impact, will instill greater voter confidence in the integrity of our elections and improve voting procedures. Based on other states' experience, the 3% random audit proposed in the bill (63 precincts in the entire state) would cost an estimated $400-600/precinct for two or three tally clerks for a day or day and a half. For 63 precincts that's under $40,000. Some or all of the cost can be funded with federal dollars through the Help America Vote Act which have already been allocated to Massachusetts.
Election Day Voter Registration amendment should be adopted. (Senators Petrucelli, Creem, Eldridge and others)
No other reform would be as effective in fixing administrative problems or increasing voter participation. On average, states with Election Day Registration have turnout rates that are 10-12% higher than the national average. According to a 2009 report, Massachusetts would see approximately a 4.9% increase in turnout if it was enacted here. In addition, Election Day voter registration allows voters to fix any problems that have arisen regarding their registration. Costs have been very minimal. New Hampshire and Maine spend between $125-250 per precinct to administer Election Day registration. States that have passed Election Day Registration include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington DC.
Amendments to require mandatory photo identification should be rejected.
The Joint Committee on Election Laws has given unfavorable reports to these proposals for many years and for good reason. Requiring mandatory photo ID would cause greater delays in voting, would be burdensome on vulnerable populations, would cost a lot, and has not been shown to be necessary or effective in preventing alleged fraud. The Bush administration spent considerable time and money trying to find in-person voter fraud and came up empty-handed. Yet in states that have implemented such laws, voters that have gone to the polls for decades, many of whom are elderly, have been prevented from voting. Currently, voters must present a form of ID if they are voting for the first time or if they have been challenged. There currently are also substantial penalties for voter fraud. These measures have protected the integrity of the voting process. We believe that preventing thousands of legitimate voters from casting their ballot by requiring them to obtain a government issued photo ID is a much greater threat to the legitimacy of our voting system than is the virtually non-existent threat of in-person voter fraud.
Thank you for your consideration. We appreciate your support of this important legislation and these two amendments.
Gavi Wolfe, ACLU of Massachusetts
Pam Wilmot, Common Cause Massachusetts
Anne Borg and Marilyn Peterson, League of Women Voters MA
Shannon Erwin, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
Tony Mack, Massachusetts Voter Table
Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG
Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, MassVOTE
Deborah Shah, Progressive Massachusetts