Elections Advocates Call for Protecting Public Health and the Integrity of Elections in Massachusetts
The outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 poses immediate and severe threats to not only public health, but also to the integrity of elections and democratic institutions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Election Modernization Coalition urges officials in Massachusetts to act quickly to adopt reforms that will protect the right to vote in the midst of a crisis of indeterminate duration where public health officials recommend that people remain in their homes as much as possible, practice social distancing, and limit gatherings to less than 10 people.
For both the integrity of our elections and to protect public health, it is imperative that all eligible voters be able to cast ballots from the safety of their own home. Massachusetts’ current absentee voting program limits that ability. Expanding absentee voting will require changes in the current procedure and law, as well as additional funding, some of which may come from the federal government.
In addition, for those that prefer to vote in person, the Commonwealth needs to implement voting options that create social distancing, such as longer early voting timeframes and procedures that limit contact between voters and poll workers, many of whom have traditionally been elderly and at-risk for infection. The Commonwealth should also consider drive-in voting.
The coronavirus may also affect residents’ ability to keep their voter registrations up-to-date. Therefore, we renew our call for Election Day Registration, so that no eligible voter who wants to cast a ballot is denied that right. The reform has already been adopted in 21 other states and acts as a failsafe when other registration systems are unavailable or not working optimally.
The coalition is preparing a COVID-19 response legislative package that will be released next week.
Gavi Wolf, Legislative Director, ACLU of Massachusetts,
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Janet Domenitz, Executive Director, MASSPIRG
Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, Executive Director, MassVOTE
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Beth Huang, Executive Director, Mass Voter Table
Jonathan Cohn, Chair of Issues Committee, Progressive Massachusetts
Patricia Comfort, Executive Director, League of Women Voters
The Election Modernization Coalition is comprised of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and Progressive Massachusetts.