Voting Rights Groups Call To End The Disenfranchisement of Voters

The Massachusetts Senate adopted an amendment filed by Senator Cindy Creem in their FY25 budget that would make voting more accessible by ending the voting penalty for voters who don’t return the municipal census. A nearly identical amendment received 81 cosponsors in the House budget — a majority of House members — but was not ultimately included in the House budget. The reform is now being considered by the House and Senate budget conference committee.

As it stands, if a voter does not respond to the annual municipal census, they are penalized by being placed on the inactive voter list. Inactive voters must provide a proof of residency and fill out an affidavit form to restore their standing and to cast a ballot that counts. Massachusetts is one of the only states to punish voters this way. The Senate budget language will end this penalty — and ensure clean voter rolls the way other states do. 

The Election Modernization Coalition issued the following statement:

“Our coalition is encouraged to see the legislature considering such an important reform that would remove an unnecessary barrier to voting. Massachusetts is one of the only states that disenfranchises voters in an effort to compel residents to fill out the annual municipal census. There are more efficient ways to keep our voter rolls up to date which many other states use without issues. If the legislature wants to make our democracy more accessible in Massachusetts, they must send this reform to the Governor’s desk.”

Advocates argue that the annual street list (also known as the municipal census) is an ineffective tool for maintaining voter rolls. Massachusetts should have a system that correctly identifies if a voter moves or dies, not one that disenfranchises an entire household of voters who don’t return a single piece of mail.

The reform would finally end this penalty — and ensure clean voter rolls the way many other states do.