Last week, the Joint Committee on Election Laws released a timid and disappointing election reform package. H.3647 implements online voter registration and some early voting. Conspicuously missing are provisions to require post election audits and pre-registration for 16 year olds, two reforms passed by the full House in 2011-2012, as well as election day registration, the single best reform for increasing voter turnout.
It’s no secret that Massachusetts lags far behind much of the country in modernizing our laws to ensure that every vote counts, that registration is easy and accessible, and that no voter has to stand in line for hours like tens of thousands did in 2012.
The committee’s bill is a mere baby step in modernizing our elections for the 21st century, when what we need is a giant leap. Online voter registration and early voting can and should be implemented, but there is no reason to stop there. Moreover, early voting is most effective when made available on the weekends and when there are sufficient numbers of polling locations in cities with large numbers of voters. The early voting provision in H.3647 does not meet these standards, and will only be available for presidential elections.
The voters in Massachusetts deserve better. They deserve an electoral system with safeguards to ensure that ballots are accurately counted. They deserve an electoral system that encourages, not deters, eligible voters, especially young voters, to register to vote. And they deserve an electoral system that fosters easy access to the ballot box for ever voter—urban or rural, working or retired—alike. Post election audits, pre-registration, election day registration, and more expansive early voting, in addition to online voter registration, would move us much closer to this ideal than the committee’s proposed bill.