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From its very beginning, Massachusetts was supposed to be a “city upon a hill,” a shining example of what could be. And as lawmakers in too many other states use their powers to suppress voting rights, to strike at the heart of democratic values, those who serve on Beacon Hill should use this moment to set an example, to make good on that long-ago promise.

In the midst of a pandemic, Massachusetts legislators stepped up to make voting easier, safer, and more accessible. And yet now that the pandemic has eased — with that temporary law extended once so that municipal elections could also benefit from those expanded voting rights — the Legislature has returned to its dysfunctional, it’ll-wait-till-next-year ways.


The Massachusetts voting reforms that have gone mainstream — like no-excuse mail-in voting and days of early voting even before primary elections — hang by a slender thread, due to expire Dec. 15. But lawmakers are scheduled to wrap up business at midnight Wednesday, and there’s been no move to extend the voting reform package that would make those advances permanent since its passage by the Senate on Oct. 6.

Now, it’s true the Senate went beyond the original election reform basics by adding same-day voter registration during early voting days and on election days (both for primaries and general elections). That advance in voting rights is already used by 20 other states and the District of Columbia. The Senate bill also aims to ensure that those who are incarcerated but remain eligible to vote are provided the materials that will allow them to do so.

And while the House had earlier approved extensions to mail-in voting and early voting, it has not taken up the broader Senate voting bill.


“We’re looking for a vehicle,” House Speaker Ronald Mariano said earlier this month when asked about what the House might do to make the reforms permanent.

But time is running out.

Any thought that a bill could pass during informal sessions of the House and Senate, which will continue through the end of the year, were dispelled by the handful of Trump-devoted Republicans who had already voted against the measure. Passage of legislation during informal sessions requires unanimous consent.

Secretary of State Bill Galvin, who supported the Senate proposal, remains frustrated at the inability of lawmakers to agree on a permanent fix.

“In light of the national situation, we should be leading the pack,” Galvin said in an interview. “This isn’t a partisan issue here.”

And there could be immediate consequences should the temporary law actually be allowed to expire. The special primary election to fill the seat of Senator Joseph Boncore, who left to head up the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, gets in just under the wire, on Dec. 14. But if there were a contested general election (currently there is no Republican candidate), it would be Jan. 11. Municipal votes on budget override issues are another possibility, and by March town elections begin.

As the state’s top election official, Galvin has been sounding the alarm bell for weeks but has failed to get any traction — at least on the House side.

“Clearly the comprehensive bill [passed by the Senate] just isn’t happening,” Galvin said.


And so he’s going for Plan B in an effort to at least buy time — again.

The secretary said Monday he’s circulating a stop-gap measure that would extend the existing law one more time — this time to June 30. At least that would give lawmakers a chance to work out their differences early next year.

Except that giving lawmakers more time is like putting out a bowl of those leftover Halloween treats at a meeting of Overeaters Anonymous — it simply enables their dysfunction.

But Galvin is right. The Legislature, which has enacted its own entirely arbitrary deadline for legislating — because heaven forbid they should work through the holiday season — will be going home Thursday, leaving a good deal of unfinished business on the table. There are consequences to that.

A retrenchment on voting rights should not be one of those consequences.

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.