With the recent one-year anniversary of the signing of the VOTES Act, voting rights advocates celebrate the transformational legislation that made Massachusetts elections more accessible and equitable.
The VOTES Act made permanent several covid-era election law changes. Thanks to the VOTES Act, Massachusetts voters can now:
- Vote by mail without an excuse;
- Utilize expanded early voting options;
- Register to vote 10 days before an election instead of 20 days;
- Request a mail ballot and vote even if they are incarcerated pre-trial or for a non-felony conviction;
- Vote via an accessible electronic vote by mail system as an accommodation for disabilities that impair their ability to vote independently using standard print ballots.
The VOTES Act also ensured that the Commonwealth joined the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to keep voter registration rolls up-to-date.
“We’re grateful that a year ago, our leaders took crucial steps toward a more accessible and equitable democracy,” said Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “This session, we have the opportunity to build on the success of the VOTES Act and further modernize our elections through the Voting ACCESS Act. We’re hopeful that the legislature will eliminate remaining barriers and renew their commitment to protecting voting rights this session and before the upcoming presidential primary election.”
“The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts applauds the legislature for the steps taken a year ago to make voting easier and more accessible for registered voters. We hope this progress continues, with the legislature passing same-day voter registration and separating the municipal census from inactive voter status. These reforms will ensure eligible citizens can vote and will reduce problems at the polls on Election Day,” said Pattye Comfort, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.
“Every barrier to voting keeps us from realizing what our democracy can become,” said Janet Domenitz, director of MASSPIRG. “We celebrate the steps the Legislature took a year ago to remove some of the barriers; here’s to more progress this session.”
“By implementing policies like permanent mail-in voting, expanded early voting, and jail-based voting reforms, the VOTES Act has proven critical to making our elections more accessible, equitable, and efficient. Reducing barriers to registration and turnout ensures that voters’ voices are heard, notably in traditionally-underserved communities like Black and brown, low income, and immigrant populations. We thank the legislature for passing the VOTES Act last year, and hope they will build off of it in the years ahead,” said Cheryl Crawford, executive director, MassVOTE.
“Since the legislature passed the VOTES Act, voters in communities of color and working-class neighborhoods have had better access to exercise their right to vote with permanent mail-in voting,” said Shanique Spalding, executive director of the MA Voter Table. “Our communities are fired up to vote, and we are working hard this year to pass Same Day Registration through the Voter ACCESS Bill to increase voter participation and provide even greater access to voting.”
“One year later, the VOTES Act still represents a major victory in the fight for open and equitable elections in Massachusetts,” said Jacob Love, staff attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights. “But that fight is not over. To expand access to the ballot box, and protect traditionally disenfranchised groups, the Commonwealth must enact pro-voter policies like same-day voter registration. That is why LCR endorses the Voting ACCESS Act and urges its swift adoption by the legislature. Democracy must always be the highest priority.”
More information on the ACCESS Act is available here.