Guest Op-Ed: Election Day Registration Would Be a Victory for MA Voters, Democracy

By the Boston Ward 4 Democratic Committee

The MA House and MA Senate have taken important steps to protect voting rights and modernize our elections by passing versions of the VOTES Act (An Act Fostering Voting Opportunities Trust, Equity, and Security). Both the House and Senate bills extend the popular recent expansions of mail-in voting and early voting and strengthen protections for the voting rights of those currently incarcerated.

But there is a major difference between the two bills: Same Day Registration. The Senate’s bill embraced this time-tested reform, which would enable voters to register or update their registration at the polls. The House, by contrast, blocked the inclusion of Same Day Registration or even a narrower compromise Election Day Registration (focused only on Election Day itself) from the bill. We urge the Conference Committee working on a final version of the bill to include this vital reform.

All four of the state senators currently (or soon-to-be) representing Beacon Hill, Back Bay, the Fenway, and the South End are supporters of Same Day Registration: Will Brownsberger, Sonia Chang-Díaz, Nick Collins, and Lydia Edwards. State Representatives Jay Livingstone, Jon Santiago, and Chynah Tyler have also voiced support. Their colleagues House Ways & Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz and Elections Committee Chairman Dan Ryan (who will soon represent much of the West Fens) have not, but they have a powerful role in determining whether or not Massachusetts voters will finally be able to register or update their registration at the polls.

The case for such reforms is clear. Last year’s municipal preliminary, for example, fell just two weeks after the city’s major move-in day, September 1. With our twenty-day voter registration cutoff, many voters were shut out of the election or forced to travel to their old polling locations. This situation will be repeated this fall, with a state primary falling the day after Labor Day.

The good news about these reforms is that they work. Studies have shown that allowing voters to register at the polls is among the best reforms for increasing voter turnout and participation in our democratic process. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already have such laws, including our neighbors in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont.

When voting rights are under attack across the country, the least we should expect out of our Legislature here in Massachusetts is to embrace the time-tested, well-researched policies to strengthen them.

Members of the Boston Ward 4 Democratic Committee: Jonathan Cohn, Carol Lasky, Ryan Hatcher, Gary Bailey, Mary Ann Brogan, Nina Garfinkle, Lisa Jeanne Graf, Timothy Mahoney, Suzie McGlone, Andrea Olmstead, Anne Renehan, Jacqueline Royce, Benjamin Siegel, Jane Siegel, Don Steinberg, Jacob Wessel

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