Massachusetts Legislature Passes Automatic Voter Registration

Today, the Massachusetts legislature became the latest state to successfully pass legislation to enable automatic voter registration (AVR). The bill, passed by both houses of the state legislature, will now head to Governor Charlie Baker following several other procedural votes, which are expected next week. Once he receives the bill, Governor Baker has ten days to sign, veto, or amend the bill. The legislation would allow eligible voters to automatically register to vote when they interact with the Registry of Motor Vehicles or the state’s MassHealth program, unless they choose to opt out.

Should Gov. Baker sign the bill, Massachusetts would the 14th state, plus the District of Columbia, to adopt AVR. Since 2015, states have passed or adopted similar measures that could add millions of eligible voters to the rolls include Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. AVR will also be on the November 2018 ballot in Nevada and possibly Michigan.

“Massachusetts is the latest of a growing number of states that have moved proactively to pass automatic voter registration measures to give more of their citizens a voice in selecting their representatives and the federal, state, and local level,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “Momentum continues to build in states from coast-to-coast to pass automatic voter registration measures in red and blue states alike. Common Cause members and staff have played key roles in moving these measures forward in numerous states, giving more Americans the chance to make their voices heard on Election Day and beyond.”

Advocates and activists hailed the bill’s passage as a positive step toward protecting access to the ballot, improving the accuracy of the voter rolls, and modernizing the state’s elections infrastructure in the face of growing threats.

“Automatic voter registration will make Massachusetts elections more accurate, more secure and more participatory,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “This legislation will involves more people in politics and enable them to hold their government accountable, and that’s a win for everyone.”

Massachusetts is one of a number of states where Common Cause has been working to advance automatic voter registration. Common Cause state offices are also leading AVR campaigns in New York, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Hawaii. In recent years, Common Cause has played a key role in passing or enacting AVR reforms in California, Oregon, Connecticut, Colorado, Rhode Island, Illinois Maryland, and Georgia.