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Voting Rights Advocates Urge Governor Baker to sign the VOTES Act into Law
Boston, MA — With the VOTES Act now on Governor Baker’s desk, after the Massachusetts House and Senate voted today to enact the comprehensive election reform measure, groups are calling for the Governor’s swift signature. Voting rights advocates, public interest groups and a network of state and local organizations praised the legislation advanced by the House and Senate. The bill, An Act Fostering Voting Opportunities, Trust, Equity, and Security or the VOTES Act, is the largest expansion of voting access in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in years.
The VOTES Act will make permanent a number of emergency changes to Massachusetts’ election laws made in 2020 to deal with the pandemic, including allowing voters to vote by mail without an excuse and expanding early voting options. The bill also assures that eligible voters who are incarcerated are helped to register, request a ballot, and vote, and requires the Commonwealth to join the 30-state Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to keep voter registration rolls up-to-date. The bill reduces the deadline for voter registration prior to an election from 20 days to 10.
The bill, sponsored by State Representative John Lawn and Senator Cindy Creem, is strongly supported by the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition, a coalition of advocacy organizations working to modernize the Commonwealth’s election laws.
“We are excited that the VOTES Act is one step away from making Massachusetts a national leader in election administration and voter access,” said Geoff Foster, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “We urge the Governor to quickly sign this bill into law, to speed up implementation of the changes before this year’s primary election.”
“Voters embraced mail-in voting and expanded early voting in 2020,” said Beth Huang, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table. “Once the VOTES Act becomes law, we will educate voters, especially in communities of color and working-class neighborhoods, about these permanent expansions of voting rights.”
“We applaud the legislature for moving these crucial election reforms forward, and call on Governor Baker to swiftly sign the VOTES Act into law,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “At a time when so many other rights are under attack nationwide, Massachusetts must do all it can to strengthen our democracy and improve access to the ballot box so all eligible Bay Staters can participate in the electoral process.”
“We are proud Massachusetts is actively supporting voters and look forward to the Governor signing this bill,” said Patricia Comfort, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “We expect voters to use the mail and early voting options as soon as the Sept. 6 primary election.”
“We are thrilled that both the House and Senate have voted in support of the VOTES Act,” said Vanessa Snow, Policy and Organizing Director at MassVOTE. “Even though this version of the VOTES Act does lack a provision we have long supported – Election Day Registration – we are very glad to see that popular pro-voter policies like mail-in voting, expanded early voting, and jail-based voting are included, and will soon become law. We urge Governor Baker to sign the VOTES Act as quickly as possible.”
“Whatever sport you’re following right now, signing this bill is either a home run, a slam dunk, or a hole in one. All of us win when voting is made more accessible and that’s what the VOTES Act will accomplish,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.
Nationwide, some state legislatures are creating barriers to their residents’ right to vote. Since the beginning of 2021, 18 states have passed laws to limit voting access – laws that can disproportionately affect voters of color. Another 574 bills that restrict voter access or election administration are currently pending.
Governor Baker has ten days to sign the bill, veto it, or return it to the legislature with recommended amendments. Any veto by the governor can be overridden with a two-thirds vote in both legislative branches.
The Election Modernization Coalition is made up of Common Cause Massachusetts, ACLU of Massachusetts, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, MASSPIRG, and Lawyers for Civil Rights.