The Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed comprehensive election modernization legislation by a vote of 147-4. The Senate followed suit, passing the bill unanimously the following day. The bill includes online voter registration, early voting, pre-registration for 16 year-olds, post-election audits of voting machines, and inactive voting reform.
On Monday, a conference committee charged with reconciling the differences between election reform bills passed by the House and Senate earlier this session unanimously approved the election modernization package. The bill now heads to the Governor's desk for final passage, likely next week.
"This bill is a huge step forward in modernizing our elections and expanding voting rights here in Massachusetts," said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. "We have been fighting for many of these reforms for a decade or more and are thrilled that it is almost over the finish line. This legislation encourages voter participation and makes Massachusetts' election laws more efficient and effective. It is the most substantial reform Massachusetts has passed in decades and will move our state from lagging behind the nation to being a leader in the area of election reform."
For example, a 2011 study by Rock the Vote, an organization that engages young people in voting, looked at voter registration and other election laws in all 50 states. The study ranked Massachusetts' voting system 42nd in the country. But once all the provisions of the conference committee bill are in effect, Massachusetts' ranking would improve dramatically to 10th in the nation.
"The law will have a real impact for everyday voters in our state," Wilmot added. "Because of early voting busy parents shuffling between work and their kids will have much greater flexibility in when they cast their ballots. Pre-registration will encourage more of our young voters to be active participants in our democracy. Online voter registration will help the thousands of unregistered citizens in our state make their voices heard on Election Day. And random audits of election equipment will help ensure that our votes are properly counted. The Governor should move quickly to sign it into law."