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Nonprofit urges Election Day voter registration for Mass.-Daily Hampshire Gazette

  1. By BERA DUNAU Staff Writer Published: 2/23/2020 11:43:57 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — In Massachusetts, if you want to vote in an election, you have to be properly registered no less than 20 days before that election takes place. That’s something that the nonprofit MassVOTE is making a push to change.“There’s really no reason why this is in place,” said Alex Psilakis, the policy and communications manager at MassVOTE, speaking at Mount Holyoke College on Sunday.Psilakis was addressing the College Democrats of Massachusetts at their winter leadership summit at the college. He made the pitch to get the assembled students involved in the campaign to bring Election Day voter registration to the Bay State, so residents can register to vote on the day of the election.“There are statistics that show hundreds if not thousands of voters are prevented from voting on Election Day because they are not registered,” he said.

He also said that Election Day registration would allow people to edit their registration if there is an error in it. He noted that communities of color and minority communities are often impacted by laws like the current registration law.

“This reform would make it easier for people just to show up and register to vote,” Psilakis said.

Election Day registration is already in effect in 21 different states and the District of Columbia, “and there hasn’t been a hitch,” Psilakis said.

“Around the country it’s working perfectly,” he said. “I think it’s about time that Massachusetts gets on board with it.”

Psilakis said that while the proposal has passed the Massachusetts Senate, it has yet to pass in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Responding to a question from one of the students, Psilakis said there have been concerns from some state representatives that college students might use the legislation to register in communities where they aren’t invested.

“That doesn’t matter,” Psilakis said. “These are educated, interested voters, people that want to make a difference. So, what we’re really trying to do is to show them that people are actually invested.”

Psilakis urged the assembled students to sign up to get involved in MassVOTE’s effort on the issue. He said there are two bills in the House and one in the Senate, and that state legislators respond to people who reach out to them. Additionally, he suggested using letters to the editor and op-eds to advocate for the cause.

MassVOTE is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with an electoral justice mission that was founded in 1999 with the goal of closing the voter turnout gap between white suburban areas and urban communities of color.

“We can never tell you who to vote for, but we’ll always tell you to vote,” said Psilakis.

Psilakis told the Gazette that the hope is to get legislation allowing for same-day registration out of committee by the end of April.

Psilakis said that MassVOTE was invited to address the summit, and that an effort is being made for him to address college Republicans in the state as well.

On why MassVOTE was enlisting the help of college students Psilakis said, “They’re young and they’re active.”

“They want to make a difference. And they’re going to go out there and they’re going to make that difference.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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