Gateway City Voters Overwhelming Support Voting ACCESS Act

Over the past week, the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition hosted three town hall meetings to discuss voters’ experiences at the polls.

Conversations in Brockton, Lawrence, and Springfield helped voting rights advocates to better understand and elevate the needs of communities of color and low-income communities. Over 100 voters turned out to discuss making elections more accessible for their communities. 

The Voting ACCESS Act, filed by Senator Cindy Creem as S.410, was a central topic of conversation. Voters and community-based organizations were enthusiastic about the components of the bill which includes Same-Day Registration, decoupling the annual municipal census from voter registration, improved oversight of accessibility at the polls for disabled voters and make forms for no-excuse voting by mail more straightforward.

“We are encouraged by the number of engaged, energized community members and organizations in gateway cities who joined us for meaningful conversations about voting access and to express support for reforms like Same Day Registration,” said Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “Structural barriers to voting are heavily felt in Boston and gateway cities. After our town hall series, we are beyond confident that the Voting ACCESS Act is the solution we need to make our elections more inclusive and equitable.”

“Even in cold, snowy January, people came, in person, on a weekday evening, in droves, to discuss how we can all work together to build a better democracy in Massachusetts,” said Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG. “It’s an exciting and important time to take down every barrier to voting and participation.”

“In an election year like this,” said Cheryl Crawford, executive director of MassVOTE, “It’s more important than ever to focus on making our electoral process as accessible as possible. The town hall discussions highlight the importance of ensuring voting access for every Massachusetts resident, especially in marginalized communities and among communities of color. They also helped us to make sure that we apply language justice and equitable voting practices.” 

“The Election Modernization Coalition’s three town halls were intentionally held in racially and linguistically diverse communities to capture and share the barriers those communities face when trying to access the ballot box,” said Sophia Hall, Lawyers for Civil Rights’ (LCR) deputy litigation director. “The Voting ACCESS Act is intended to reflect these real life experiences and the town halls highlight the need to bring these communities into the discussions about the future of voting in Massachusetts.” 

“Voters in Springfield, Brockton, and Lawrence made their voices heard: voting access is a key priority for 2024,” said Shanique Spalding, executive director of the MA Voter Table. “We heard countless stories from individuals in each community about being turned away on election day with provisional ballots or being marked inactive as a voter unbeknownst to them. The Voting ACCESS Act and Same Day Registration will lower the barriers to voting that community members at these town halls have encountered.”

“Including potential voters in Brockton, Lawrence and Springfield in the conversation is incredibly important to ensuring every voice is heard in our democracy,” said Barbara L’Italien, executive director of the Disability Law Center. “It is imperative that every citizen can exercise their right to vote free from unnecessary obstacles, and we must continue to advocate for breaking down those barriers for voters with disabilities.”

“The listening sessions held by the Election Modernization Coalition provided valuable information to the voting public as well as gathered information to help guide efforts at making voting free, fair and more accessible,” said Traci Griffith, director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The coalition work continues until every eligible citizen has the ability to cast their vote and make their voice heard.” 

“Our recent town hall series connected our advocacy efforts directly with voters in Brockton, Lawrence, and Springfield,” said Patricia Comfort, executive director of League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “One major takeaway from our events is that our work to remove barriers to voting — especially in gateway cities — remains unfinished.”

Analysis of provisional ballot data released in October by the Election Modernization Coalition suggested that 99% of those rejected provisional ballots might have been counted had Massachusetts had same-day voter registration. Data shows that Boston and gateway cities like Brockton, Lawrence, and Springfield use provisional ballots at a rate much higher than towns and cities in western Massachusetts. In the 2022 general election, 68% of provisional ballots were rejected in cities, whereas just 32% were rejected in towns despite the population being evenly split between cities and towns.

More information on the Voting ACCESS Act is available here.