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Senate Passes Voting Access Amendment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 23, 2024

MEDIA CONTACT: Patricia Comfort, pcomfort@lwvma.org, 857.452.1712

BOSTON – Today the Massachusetts Senate passed an amendment that would make voting more accessible by ending the voting penalty for voters who don’t return the municipal census.

Senator Cindy Creem’s “Improving Voting Access” amendment is expected to be included in the final Senate budget and will be negotiated by House and Senate conferees. A nearly identical amendment received 81 cosponsors in the House budget — a majority of House members — but was not ultimately included in the House budget. 

As it stands today, if a voter does not respond to the annual municipal census, they are penalized by being placed on the inactive voter list. Inactive voters must provide a proof of residency to have their vote counted. Massachusetts is one of the only states to punish voters this way. The amendment passed today will end this penalty — and ensure clean voter rolls the way other states do. 

“Thanks to Sen. Creem and members of the Senate, the Senate budget seeks to make voting more accessible in the Bay State,” said Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “Our coalition looks forward to working with the budget conference committee to get these reforms signed into law.”

“Sincere thanks to the Senate, particularly Sen. Creem, for working to increase voter participation by removing barriers to voting through stopping the practice of unnecessary removals of active voters based on their failure to return the census postcard,” stated Barbara L’Italien, executive director of the Disability Law Center.

“We thank Sen. Creem and members of the Senate for their work to increase access to the ballot in Massachusetts, and look forward to working with the legislature to advance these reforms,” said Traci Griffith, Racial Justice program director at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “In 2024, we should be fighting voter suppression wherever we find it, and it’s essential that we end the disenfranchisement of voters who don’t return the municipal census – a legacy of 19th-century poll taxes.” 

“The League applauds the Senate and the leadership of Senator Creem in their efforts to ensure that voting rights remain rights. The current municipal census rule penalizes all registered voters in a household by removing them from the active voter list if no one in that household returns the census. This reform removes that penalty.” said Pattye Comfort, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.”

“We are grateful to the Senate and Sen. Creem for leading the charge on removing barriers to voting. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and we have seen historically that when there are barriers to the ballot box, it disproportionately impacts our most marginalized communities. In Massachusetts, we must lead in ensuring that in our Commonwealth the right to vote is equally accessible for everyone,” said Shanique Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table. 

“Taking down barriers to voting is a win for everyone,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director, MASSPIRG. “We look forward to these reforms getting over the finish line.” 

“We are heartened by the Senate’s leadership in their decision to pass this crucial amendment, which promises to enhance accessibility and fairness of our voting system,” said Marisol Santiago, Policy and Organizing Director at MassVOTE. “This achievement reflects the hard work and passion of countless individuals who raised their voices and the effective collaboration of the Election Modernization Coalition. 

We remain dedicated to ensuring that every Massachusetts voter can exercise their right to vote without undue hardship.” 

“At a time when democracy is under attack across the country, it is encouraging to see Massachusetts lawmakers, led by Sen. Creem, fight to remove barriers to voter participation. We thank her and the other cosponsors for spearheading the effort to ensure as many eligible Massachusetts residents as possible can participate in our elections,” said Rahsaan Hall, President & CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. “Inefficient and burdensome election administration have disproportionately impacted communities of color and other marginalized groups. It is time to remove these barriers for generations to come.”

“Lawyers for Civil Rights is thrilled that the Senate has adopted this critical amendment — addressing one  of the biggest remaining obstacles to voting in the Commonwealth,” said Jacob Love, Staff Attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights. “While there is still much work to be done, especially given that Massachusetts has yet to adopt today’s vote is worth celebrating.” 

More information on this amendment is available here.