Election Reforms: When They Happen and What They Mean

We passed an election reform law last July!  Now what?

The 2014 Election Modernization Law calls for online voter registration, early voting, pre-registration of teens, post-election audits and a task force to evaluate these reforms and recommend additional changes.

The first three changes, in particular, will impact League voter service efforts, especially in voter registration. Here is the implementation schedule for the changes, and suggestions for ways your League can work with those changes.

Online voter registration went into effect in late June, ahead of the scheduled August start. Anyone with a driver’s license or Registry of Motor Vehicles-issued ID can register to vote online at the Secretary of State’s online voter registration site. As you plan voter registration efforts, take into account that you can offer to help voters register instantly on their phone or tablet, but it’s a good idea to have paper registration forms available if something goes wrong.

The step-by-step instructions for filling out the registration form are clear and easy to follow.  LWVMA has screen shots of the registration form on our website so you can review them before going out to register voters.  If you plan to bring a computer to do online voter registration, be sure to confirm availability of internet service at the venue in advance.

Early Voting takes effect with the Presidential election in November 2016. The law allows early voting only in the regularly-scheduled biennial state elections, i.e. November of even-numbered years. There is no provision allowing early voting to be expanded to primaries or town/municipal elections. The law allows early voting to start the Monday two weeks before the election and end on the Friday before the election, during normal business hours.  Any weekend early voting would have to be the weekend before the weekend before the election. The law permits more than one early voting location and hours beyond regular election office business hours at the discretion of towns and cities.

The Secretary of State’s office will issue its recommendations on implementing early voting in September for public comment.  LWVMA and the Election Modernization Coalition will be offering comments, particularly to encourage multiple early voting locations in larger cities and some evening and weekend early voting hours.

Your League can talk to your town or city election officials about their plans for early voting, and encourage them to include some night and weekend hours.  If it looks like a town meeting warrant article may be necessary to offer expanded hours or multiple locations, LWVMA will let local Leagues know.

Pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds goes into effect in August 2016. Teens can register to vote at the RMV or online and will receive notification and automatically go on the voter rolls when they turn 18.

This change will have a huge impact on the way local Leagues do high school voter registration.  Many more students will be eligible to register, and they will be able to register online with their phones and tablets, though it will be a good idea to have paper forms as backup.

Consider asking high schools if your League can make a presentation on pre-registration or publicize it some other way next year. You can also work with student government, Young Democrats, Young Republicans, and other groups to get the word out and pre-register students.

Now is a good time for local Leagues to plan ways to publicize all of these changes as they occur!