The Massachusetts House last week passed H 3772 or “An Act relative to election laws”. This bill does 3 important things relevant to Massachusetts elections laws that are well overdue. First, it would allow people to register to vote online who are already in the Registry of Motor Vehicles database. It would also let voters check if they are registered online. Massachusetts would become one of 19 states who either currently have or are implementing online voting registration.
Second, the bill allows for a period of early voting. Currently, Massachusetts only allows excuse only absentee voting along with 21 other states. 18 states along with Massachusetts do not have early voting. The bill would allow early voting from the 11th business day before the primary or the election to the 2nd business day before the primary or the election. For example, the 2014 elections are on November 4th. 11-2 business days before that election would be October 20th-24th and then October 27th-October 31st. The bill also allows for early voting on weekends and non business hours, but that is up to the specific cities and towns. The bill requires that cities and towns post the early voting hours in newspapers. This would go into effect January of 2015 and be implemented by the 2016 election.
Finally, the bill a task force that would study “(1) the state and local costs of providing early voting; (2) the administrative requirements of implementing and providing early voting, including their impact on municipal clerks offices during the early voting period; (3) any instance of fraudulent voting or voter impersonation; (4) success in reducing the length of lines, waiting therein, and congestion at polling places on election day; and (5) success in increasing voter turnout.” It would also study pre registration for 17 year olds and same day voter registration (this was added via an amendment). The task force would submit its recommendations and draft legislation by April of 2017.
The bill will now move to the Senate in 2014 (the last day of their formal session was November 20th.
Between this and the minimum wage bill that just passed the Senate, the Massachusetts legislature is passing some great legislation recently, especially with all the voter ID and other changes restricting voting passed recently in other parts of the country.