After Low-Turnout Election, Coalition Calls for Automatic Voter Registration in Massachusetts

Nov. 9, 2017/BOSTON, MA — Citing very low voter turnout in Tuesday’s municipal elections, advocates from the Election Modernization gathered at the State House in Boston today to urge the Massachusetts legislature to adopt Automatic Voter Registration. The coalition is led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and Progressive Massachusetts.

Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) would establish a system for eligible citizens to automatically register to vote when they interact with a state agency like the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth. The AVR legislation, introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Peter Kocot, has popular support in both legislative chambers, with 80 House co-sponsors and 22 Senate sponsors, and received a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Election Laws this summer.

“In this moment, when the health of our democracy is a great concern, and the security of elections is under scrutiny, our legislature can adopt a policy change that will make voting simpler, reduce government bureaucracy, and enhance democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “AVR could register nearly 700,000 eligible Massachusetts citizens into and give them an opportunity to have their voices heard. At the same time, it would update and modernize our election system by increasing its accuracy, security, and efficiency.”

The legislation is also endorsed by 53 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups (see list below).

In Oregon, the first state to implement AVR, 230,000 voters registered in its first six months, and more than 265,000 inaccurate registrations were updated. 97,000 voters participated in the 2016 election because of the reform. Ten states and the District of Columbia have already passed automatic voter registration, all in a bipartisan manner: Oregon, California, West Virginia, Alaska, Vermont, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

“The League strongly supports automatic voter registration as the next logical step in the modernization of the electoral process here in Massachusetts,” Meryl Kessler, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, said. “AVR will improve the accuracy of voter rolls, create a more efficient and reliable voting system, help control the costs of voter registration over time, and improve the voting process on Election Day.”

“Automatic voter registration is a step in the right direction,” added Cheryl Clyburn Crawford of MassVOTE. “It would remove one of the barriers that disproportionately affects our most disenfranchised communities. We strongly believe that automatic voter registration in Massachusetts will increase voter participation and turnout while continuing to modernize our electoral process.”

“This is a bipartisan, common sense, 21st century bill which will make voter registration more accessible, more secure and less costly in the Commonwealth,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “We have Republican and Democrat supporters in the Legislature, while the Republican Governor of Illinois signed a similar bill into law this summer. In a time of hyper-partisanship in this country, we’re inspired to call for this bill’s passage.”

Advocacy organizations behind the effort, including Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, Progressive Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice have worked together for many years to promote voting access and reform. They see automatic voter registration as a continuation of earlier efforts in the state, like early voting, to improve access to the ballot. Early voting was a resounding success; In its first debut, over one million voters cast their ballots early in October 2016, accounting for over 22% of registered voters and 35% of those that voted.

53 (and counting) endorsing organizations (alphabetical order):

Action Together Western Mass

American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts

AFSC – Cambridge

Berkshire Democratic Brigades

Berkshire Women’s Action Group

Black Directors Network

Boston Democratic Ward 4 Committee

Boston Teachers Union

Cambridge Democratic City Cmmtt

CAST (Cambridge Area Stronger Together)

Clean Water Action

Coalition for Social Justice

College Democrats of MA

Common Cause Massachusetts

Corporate Accountability International

Democracy for America

Democracy Matters

ELM Action Fund

ForwardMA

Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association

Green Tea Party

Indivisable Pittsfield

Jewish Association for Law and Social Action (JALSA)

Jewish Community Relations Council

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice

League of Women Voters MA

Lift Every Vote Berkshires

Mass Law Reform Institute

Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Organization

Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

Massachusetts Peace Action

Massachusetts Sierra Club

Massachusetts Teachers Association

Massachusetts Voter Table

MASSPIRG

Mass Affordable Housing Alliance

MassVOTE

NAACP Boston

National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter

Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts Education Fund

New England United for Justice

Our Revolution Cambridge

PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts)

Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts

Progressive Democrats of America Boston chapter

Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts

Progressive Massachusetts

SEIU Local 509

SEIU Massachusetts State Council

Sierra Club

Small Planet Institute

Union of Minority Neighborhoods

Young Democrats of Massachusetts