Front Page News, Improving Elections

House Passes VOTES Act, Does Not Include Same-Day Registration

On Jan. 27, the House passed, 124-34, a strong voting reform bill, H.4359, to match the Senate version, S.2554.  These two versions of the VOTES Act will now go to a conference committee to iron out the differences.  This voting reform bill, which the League with our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition was instrumental in drafting and getting through the legislature, does many, many good things:

  • Makes unrestricted voting by mail permanent
  • Requires the Secretary of State to send voters applications to vote by mail
  • Expands the in-person early voting period before general elections and adds in-person early voting for primaries
  • Reduces the deadline to register to vote from 20 to 10 days before an election
  • Encourages ballot dropboxes
  • Implements jail-based voting reforms
  • Allows election officials to process mailed ballots as received and includes other provisions to help election officials
  • Requires Massachusetts to join the ERIC voter clearing house by July 1, 2022

We salute all of you who emailed and called your state Representative to ask the House to add same-day voter registration (SDR) to its bill.  You were heard; minds were changed.  Thank you.

The Coalition offered a compromise amendment on SDR.  Rather than SDR that would have allowed people to register and vote during the early voting period, we suggested Election Day Registration (EDR), limiting to Election Day the ability to register and vote, a compromise supported by the town clerks’ association.

But House leadership is opposed to any form of SDR and submitted an amendment to our amendment that requires a report from the Secretary of State on SDR before any action.  The leadership amendment passed by a 93-64 vote (note that 64 votes is a very strong vote against leadership).  Therefore, the House version of the VOTES Act does not include any form of SDR .  You can see how your Representative voted here. Secretary Galvin’s office said that he knew nothing about the amendment or a report, and instead he urges the legislature to pass same-day or Election Day voter registration.

The House and Senate versions of the VOTES Act now go to a conference committee, yet to be formed.  So there’s still a chance the final version may include some form of SDR possibly on Election Day.  Stay tuned. In the meantime, celebrate the good voting reforms that will be passed in Massachusetts.