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Voting Rights Groups, Residents Overwhelmingly Support Voting ACCESS Act

BOSTON – Advocates and directly impacted citizens testified before the Joint Committee on Election Laws today in support of the Voting ACCESS Act, a comprehensive legislative proposal that would modernize Massachusetts’ election administration and eliminate remaining barriers to the ballot box. 

“Our work to make democracy more accessible remains unfinished,” said Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “The Voting ACCESS Act will remove long-standing barriers to voting by enacting same day registration, disability voting oversight, and other reforms to make voting easier for Bay Staters. It is important that this bill be passed and implemented in time for the 2024 presidential election.” 

“Same Day Voter Registration is a critical step towards eliminating barriers to voting, which disproportionately affect voters of color and low income voters,” said Shanique Spalding, executive director of the MA Voter Table. “By adopting the Voting ACCESS Act, our state will send a clear message that every eligible citizen’s voice matters and deserves to be heard.”

“The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts applauds the legislature for the steps taken a year ago to make voting easier and more accessible for registered voters. We urge the legislature to build on this progress by passing same-day voter registration and separating the municipal census from inactive voter status. These reforms will ensure eligible citizens can vote and will reduce problems at the polls on Election Day,” said Pattye Comfort, executive director.  

“We’re in the thick of primary season, with the future of local government on the line in communities around the Commonwealth. There’s no more pressing time to call for greater access to the ballot,” said Traci Griffith, Racial Justice program director at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Every barrier that keeps people of color, renters, seniors, people with disabilities – or, for that matter, any qualified voter – from casting their vote is a barrier that urgently needs to be dismantled. This is what democracy looks like.”

“Our country’s democracy is a work in progress,” said Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG. “That said, some states are going backwards — putting up barriers to people voting. Let’s be a state where things are moving forward — by passing the Voting Access Act.” 

“From malfunctioning automatic doors to improperly set up AutoMARK machines and inadequate signage, people with disabilities face far too many obstacles when exercising their fundamental right to vote. This bill is a crucial step toward making our elections truly accessible for all,” said Barbara L’Italien, executive director of the Disability Law Center. “Let’s remove these unnecessary barriers and enhance accessibility, ensuring that every voice is heard in our elections.”

“Guided by our values and our commitment to a pluralistic Commonwealth, where ballot access is fundamental, we encourage the Legislature to continue the good and important work of removing remaining barriers to voting”, said FayeRuth Fisher, senior director of public affairs at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. 

“Lawyers for Civil Rights demands the expansion of equitable access to the ballot box. The Voting ACCESS Act, true to its name, advances that goal,” said Jacob Love, staff attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights. “Through common sense policies like same-day voter registration, it eliminates many of the primary obstacles to voting for traditionally disenfranchised groups. We support this critical legislation and urge lawmakers to enact it.”

Sponsored by Senator Cindy Creem, this legislation contains four key elements:

  1. Same day voter registration, which is already in use in 22 states. (Also filed by Rep. Carmine Gentile)
  2. Decoupling voter registration from the municipal Census, which will ensure that not responding to the municipal census will no longer result in being dropped from the active voter rolls. (Also filed by Rep. Frank Moran)
  3. Uniform mail and absentee voting forms and ballots, which will reduce costs and workload for local election officials, and reduce confusion from voters. (Also filed by Rep. Shirley Arriaga)
  4. Strengthening accessible polling location oversight, which will require the Secretary of State to inspect all voting sites at least once every four years to ensure they comply with federal and state disability accessibility laws. (Also filed by Rep. Kay Khan)

More information on the ACCESS Act is available here. 

 

Today’s panelists are available for further comment on this legislation. Please contact Geoff Foster (gfoster@commoncause.org / 978-930-9436) for more information. 

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The Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition is a group of advocacy organizations working to modernize the Commonwealth’s election laws. The coalition is made up of Common Cause Massachusetts, ACLU of Massachusetts, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, MASSPIRG, Lawyers for Civil Rights, the Disability Law Center, and the Jewish Community Relations Council.