Today Governor Deval Patrick signed into law significant reforms to modernize our elections and expand voting rights here in Massachusetts. For the first time in decades Massachusetts can now call itself a national leader in ensuring free, fair and accessible elections. The law H.3788 enacts online voter registration, early voting, pre-registration of 16 year olds, post-election audits of voting equipment, and reforms to inactive voters. This is a proud day for democracy in Massachusetts.
With so many other states repealing voting rights reforms and passing new restrictive voting laws, the legislature and the Governor should be commended for taking a strong stand to protect and expand voting rights here in Massachusetts.
Pre-registration and online voter registration will help thousands of unregistered citizens in Massachusetts make their voices heard on Election Day. Massachusetts joins seven other states that allows 16 year-olds to pre-register to vote and 23 states that have passed online voter registration. Early voting will make exercising the franchise that much easier for so many voters whose busy work schedules make voting during regular hours difficult or impossible. Thirty three other states allow in-person voting before Election Day. And random audits of election equipment will help ensure that all of our votes are properly counted. Twenty-five other states have post-election audit requirements.
A 2011 study by Rock the Vote, an organization that engages young people in voting, looked at voter registration and other election laws in all 50 states. The study ranked Massachusetts’ voting system 42nd in the country. But once all the provisions of this law are in effect, Massachusetts’ ranking will improve dramatically to 10th in the nation.
And yet, there is still even more we can do to reduce voter disenfranchisement. Two critical reforms – Election Day registration and permanent or portable registration – will not become law this year. These reforms have proven to be the most effective policies we have to increase voter participation on Election Day.