Building a better democracy starts with lifting the voices of the people.
While voting is key to a healthy democracy, many citizens face insurmountable challenges when attempting to cast their ballot on Election Day.
- Young folks who are eager to participate may find it hard to miss valuable time in the classroom or at their new job.
- Single parents may be unable to afford the cost of additional childcare necessary to vote, especially if they expect to wait in line for an hour or two.
- People living in rural areas need to set aside extra time and money for transportation.
- The unfortunate result of this reality is that the voices of many hardworking citizens go unrepresented in our democracy.
To address this issue, Common Cause Massachusetts pushed the state legislature to pass a commonsense reform that would modernize the Commonwealth’s election laws: Early Voting. By expanding the period in which eligible Massachusetts residents could vote beyond a single day, Early Voting would allow more flexibility for people of all backgrounds to participate in elections.
Passed in 2014, the law requires that Early Voting begin 11 business days before a presidential election. Early Voting was first put to the test in Massachusetts during the 2016 elections.
In order to help ensure the program’s success, Common Cause Massachusetts completed a report detailing the best practices found in other states for implementing Early Voting. From that, the Election Modernization Coalition drew up a series of recommend standards for Massachusetts municipalities executing the law for the first time.
Common Cause Massachusetts then launched the Early Voting Challenge, a contest to encourage local officials to implement Early Voting so that it meets its goals: easing access to the ballot for Massachusetts voters, shortening lines at polling locations, and improving the voting experience. Many cities rose to the challenge—you can see how your town fared here.
During the October 24th to November 4th Early Voting period of that year, over 1 million ballots were cast across the Commonwealth. More than 22% of Massachusetts registered voters took advantage of Early Voting. It was lauded as a success by media outlets and state officials.
“The early voting period that preceded the November 2016 general election in Massachusetts was widely deemed a success, having engaged more than one in five registered voters in the state. That surely helped the lines at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8, during a contentious election that ultimately involved three-quarters of the state’s registered voters.”
Today, we’re working to expand Early Voting even further. We want to bring this reform to midterm elections, primary elections, and special elections across the state. No matter how big or small an election, it is essential that every eligible Massachusetts resident has a chance to cast a ballot and make their voice heard.