Election reform package passes in the State House

Banner Staff | 6/6/2012, 8:14 a.m.

The Massachusetts State House recently passed an election modernization bill that will make it easier for people to register to vote, increase the security and integrity of the vote counting process and welcome new young voters in Massachusetts.  

“This is a big victory. If this bill is passed by the Senate and signed into law by the governor, it will be the most significant reform to strengthen the vote-counting and voter registration processes in Massachusetts in 20 years,” said Avi Green, co-Director of MassVOTE.      

There are five main components of the Election Laws Reform Act. The first is mandatory training for local election officials. Municipal election officials must attend annual training given by the Secretary of State to keep current with state and federal election laws.  

Second, election audits will be performed in three percent of precincts, which will be randomly chosen after each election.  

The third part is preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds. Pre-registration, already in place in several other states, including Florida and Rhode Island, allows 16- and 17-year-olds to sign up to vote when they apply for their drivers’ license or when they fill out a voter registration form. They are then automatically added to the voter list on their 18th birthday.  

The fourth piece of the legislation is a provision to let voters fill out voter registration forms online and then print, sign and mail them in.  

The final piece is a task force to ensure smooth implementation of the legislation. The task force will be made up of representatives from Massachusetts cities and towns of varying populations as well as the Secretary of the Commonwealth and voting rights groups such as MassVOTE, Common Cause, and others.  

“This bill matters,” Green explained. “Audits are a long-overdue, common-sense fail-safe to protect the integrity of [the] vote. Preregistration will help 20,000 teens get ready to vote every year. The online PDF of the voter registration form will make registering more convenient for everyone. Together, these reforms mark the biggest step forward to modernize elections since the Motor Voter law was implemented in 1994.”

Rep. Mike Moran (D–Brighton), former House Chairman of the committee, was the original sponsor of preregistration and audit bills in the State House. “The goal was to improve upon the electoral system we have in place, and I believe the bill does just that,” he said.  

Material from MassVOTE contributed to this report.