Legislative Briefing Informs Lawmakers of VOTES Act Benefits

Senator Cindy Creem and Representative John Lawn, filers of the legislation, say that the VOTES Act will strengthen equity, access, and security in Massachusetts elections.

BOSTON — State legislators and staff gathered virtually today for a briefing on “An Act Fostering Voter Opportunities Trust, Equity, and Security.” The briefing was hosted by Senator Cindy Creem and Representative John Lawn, who filed the legislation, and sponsored by advocacy organizations in the Election Modernization Coalition. Peg Perl, the Director of Elections for Arapahoe County in Colorado, discussed how reforms that are included in the VOTES Act work in practice in Colorado.

A full recording of the briefing is available here.

The bill has over 100 legislative sponsors. According to the filers and advocates, it is a priority for the 192nd General Court, and should be passed early in the session to ensure its reforms are available to voters in the fall 2021 municipal elections.

Mail-in voting, expanded early voting, and other provisions included in temporary legislation passed last session are set to expire at the end of June 2021.

“It’s critical that we ensure reforms that already worked for voters, and that voters expect will be available to them again, are in place for our upcoming municipal elections and future state election,” said Representative John Lawn.

Advocates and legislators pointed out that the VOTES Act, if passed, would not only make the previous temporary changes permanent, it would strengthen Massachusetts’ elections system in other ways.

“The VOTES Act takes a comprehensive look at the state of elections in Massachusetts,” said Senator Cindy Creem. “Even with mail-in voting, Bay Staters still face barriers to participation like our 20-day registration deadline. That’s why we include Same Day Registration. Incarcerated eligible voters – who are disproportionately Black or people of color – face undue barriers to casting a counted ballot. That’s why we include jail-based voting provisions. And our voter registration infrastructure needs work so the job of facilitating elections is easier on clerks, and our elections are more secure — that’s why we passed ERIC in 2018, and why our bill includes a deadline by which the Secretary of the Commonwealth must adopt ERIC.”

“In states like Georgia, we are seeing the next wave of voter suppression aimed at silencing the voices of ordinary Americans, and especially Black voters and voters of color,” said Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program, ACLU-MA. “If there has ever been a moment for Massachusetts to take stock of its election infrastructure, and do everything in our power to ensure all eligible voters can participate, that moment is now.”

“The VOTES Act is the best chance Massachusetts has to quickly move the needle closer to equitable and participatory elections,” said Beth Huang of the Massachusetts Voter Table, a civic engagement coalition, “but it’s imperative that the Legislature act quickly. We are urging members of the 192nd General Court to take this common sense, comprehensive elections bill up, and pass it, in time to ensure that voters in cities like Boston can make their voice heard in local government.”

“Since 2013, Colorado has implemented many reforms that Massachusetts is considering in the VOTES Act including permanent mail-in voting, early voting, same-day registration, risk-limiting audits and more,” said Peg Perl, the Director of Elections for Arapahoe County in Colorado. “These reforms have demonstrated an increase in voter turnout and public confidence in the administration of elections at all levels in Colorado. These reforms ARE a positive comprehensive response to systemic barriers to democracy and I’m excited to see Massachusetts consider these effective models.”

The Election Modernization Coalition is comprised of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, Lawyers for Civil Rights, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, and the Massachusetts Voter Table.