With the 124-34 House vote last week, both branches of the Legislative Assembly have now passed bills making permanent the mail-in and early voting options used in Massachusetts during the 2020 election cycle. .
These are measures temporarily adopted during what we thought was the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation would allow wide use of mail-in voting and expand in-person voting options on pre-election day. Communities would be required to allow early voting during business hours and every weekend during the designated period.
The House bill would also reduce the time before an election – from 20 days to 10 – when a resident can register to vote; mandate that the prison population be informed of their right to vote; and requiring the Secretary of State to conduct an extensive public education campaign to publicize the new voting and registration options.
The Senate has already approved a version of the bill that includes same-day registration, which allows people to register and vote on the same day.
The House iteration does not include this provision.
And that is the essential difference between the two bills.
Proponents of the same-day registration measure say it would make it easier for certain groups to vote — especially immigrants, young people and people with busy lives — and bring Massachusetts in line with at least 20 other states and the district. from Columbia that allow same-day registration.
Instead of approving or rejecting the registration amendment on the day, House lawmakers wisely voted 93 to 64 to table it pending further study.
That did not sit well with some of the more liberal members of the state House Democratic caucus — and the congressional delegation.
Democratic U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley called on the House to allow same-day voter registration, saying in a press release that “arbitrary voter registration delays should not be a barrier to exercising the right to vote”.
Far from being arbitrary, a member of the House Democratic leadership said such an immediate change would place an impossible burden on community election officials.
Representative Michael Moran said same-day registration is too complicated to approve without further study. “What this report would hopefully do is identify some of those challenges,” including staffing levels and training, said Moran, a Brighton Democrat.
That sentiment is shared by the Massachusetts Town Clerks’ Association, which supports other pieces of the legislation. “We strongly oppose provisions that would allow same-election day registration for 10 consecutive days,” the group said in a statement, adding that it would be “almost impossible” to manage without compromising the integrity of the electoral process. .
Presidential elections, which have historically attracted higher turnouts, are not a reliable indicator of voter turnout in non-presidential years, as paltry turnouts in last spring’s municipal elections indicated.
And incentives like early voting periods didn’t increase overall turnout, but simply lengthened the process.
And if life prevents voting for many people, as day-to-day supporters suggest, it’s a conscious choice made, which more than likely indicates indifference, not commitment, to this show of participatory democracy.
We have previously urged the Legislative Assembly to give long and serious thought to the temporary voting changes it intends to codify permanently.
By taking a more deliberate course than the Senate, House members crafted a bill more in line with the thinking of their constituents, not the more liberal elements of the Democratic Party.