Updated: Aug 26, 2019
June 19th on Beacon Hill marked the date for the state hearing on Election Day Registration (EDR). A measure said by Secretary of State William F. Galvin to be “the final step we need to take to make sure voters have every opportunity to participate in every election.”
Currently, voters must register 20 days before election day to cast a ballot. By allowing for Election Day Registration, lawmakers and community leaders hope to increase voter turnout and create a more efficient form of political participation. The initiative would allow prospective voters to register at the polls and or fix errors in their current registration on Election Day by providing proof of residency.
EDR aims to ensure an individual’s access to the ballot in case there is an error in the registration. These errors include but are not limited to a range of scenarios such as of a misspelled name, a missing apartment number, or not updating a new address. EDR has the support of Massachusetts’ Attorney General, Maura Healey, who called the right to vote “the heart of our democracy.” Testifying in favor of the bill, Healey assured, “We need to do all we can to reduce barriers to participation in our elections and ensure the ballot is fully accessible to all eligible voters.” Healey, highlighting the socioeconomic disparity in voter turnout. Emphasizing that this measure would specifically help, and encourage, people of color, low-income residents, renters, and young people. All being demographics who have historically felt disenfranchised from the political process, be encouraged to vote.
MassVOTE’s own Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, the Executive Director of MassVOTE, testified saying “EDR is an effective means to extend the vote to the millions of Americans who suffer from disenfranchisement due to the simple fact that they missed an unnecessarily early voter registration deadline. Requiring voters to register well in advance of an election does not work for many citizens. Allowing voters the ability to register and vote on Election Day and during the early voting period is the single reform that most effective remedies the problems we witness every election”. Since MassVOTEs’ inception in 1998, the organization has been at the forefront of public advocacy for Election Day Registration.
Additional testimony included fellow Election Modernization Coalition members; Rashan Hall, the Director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, Mary Ann Ashton, the president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Pam Wilmot, the Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, Jonathan Cohn, the Issues Chair at Progressive Massachusetts, Janet Domenitz, the Executive Director of MassPIRG, Sophia Hall, the Supervising Attorney of Lawyers for Civil Rights, and Beth Huang, the Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table.
Massachusetts has made strides in creating a more efficient voting process. The EDR hearing comes on the heels of Governor Baker’s decision last August to sign into law Automatic Voter Registration (AVR). The new law automatically registers eligible voters when they interact with the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth. For those who do engage with state agencies or have not completed a voter registration form, EDR would allow them to register on Election Day and cast their ballot. EDR and AVR together simplify, modernize our election systems, and keep the costs of our elections contained.
If you support #EDRinMA and believe that no voter should be left behind, we encourage you to contact your elected representatives and voice your support. If you are an organization interested in formally endorsing EDR, please contact Policy Manager Ian Kea (ikea@MassVOTE.org).