The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is supporting a bill, H.3937, to bring automatic voter registration to Massachusetts.
Automatic voter registration is a new election reform that automatically registers eligible citizens to vote unless they chose not to be registered. Under this bill, people would be registered when they get a driver’s license or identification card issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The bill also provides for some social services agencies which now offer voter registration to switch to automatic voter registration. City and town election officials would also use their annual census to identify and register eligible voters.
When the RMV and other agencies send the voter information to registrars of voters, those registrars would then notify citizens that they have been registered to vote and offer the options of taking their name off the voter rolls and of choosing a political party affiliation.
Automatic voter registration laws passed last year in Oregon and California with the support of the Leagues of Women Voters in those states. Similar laws are pending in 16 other states and the District of Columbia.
This election reform has the potential to register thousands of new voters; research has indicated about 25% of eligible citizens are not registered to vote.
LWVMA also testified in support Election Day registration at a Joint Committee on Election Laws hearing Jan. 19.
Election Day registration has been shown to increase voter turnout and eliminate the need for provisional ballots. Voters could register at the polls after showing identification and proof of residency.
The League testified in opposition to several bills that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls, arguing there is no evidence that in-person voter impersonation, the only issue such laws address, is a problem, and Massachusetts has better uses for the money such a system would cost.
The League also opposed bills allowing overseas voters to return voted ballots by email, fax or a secure website. The League does not object to sending blank ballots to overseas voters by those means, but argued that returning the voted ballots by any means other than mail does not have the guarantees of security and privacy that voting requires. The Department of Defense recommends that military personnel overseas return their ballots by mail only.