Policy and communications advisor at MassVOTE, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to voting rights; Franklin resident
On Jan. 27, the Massachusetts House voted in favor of the VOTES Act (H.4359). This bill would make permanent policies that were put in place during the pandemic, like mail-in and expanded early in-person voting. It would also ease ballot access for eligible incarcerated voters. However, the VOTES Act as passed by the House would leave out one critical reform.
The Senate version of the bill provides for same-day voter registration, which allows individuals to register and vote on the same day. That simple, yet incredibly important reform is not in the House bill. Allowing same-day registration on Election Day only — and not during the early voting period — is an excellent compromise that should be included in the final version of the bill.
Twenty states and Washington, D.C. currently practice same-day voter registration. In New England, only Rhode Island and Massachusetts don’t offer it. Maine has had it since 1973!
While research reveals how same-day registration boosts overall voter turnout, the policy especially empowers those that have traditionally faced the greatest barriers to the ballot box. According to research conducted by University of Massachusetts Amherst and the national think tank Demos, same-day registration is shown to increase turnout by as much as 17 percent for Black voters. One analysis found that same-day registration boosts voter turnout by as much as 10 percent for voters aged 18-24.
Beyond making our elections more equitable, same-day registration ensures that they prove secure and efficient too. Even as individuals may register and vote on the same day, technologies like e-poll books allow local election officials to track registration changes, making cases of voter fraud virtually impossible.
Voting rights advocates are not the only ones that back the policy. In a recent Massachusetts voter survey by UMass Amherst and WCVB, nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts respondents expressed support for Election-Day registration.
Overall, same-day registration makes our elections more equitable, efficient, and secure. It has the support of a large majority of Massachusetts residents, and has proven successful across the country. As a result, Massachusetts should waste no time in implementing this policy for Election Day. The longer we wait, the closer we come to emulating states restricting the rights of voters, like Georgia and Texas.
Plymouth County Commissioner, chair of Rockland Republican Town Committee
Election-Day voter registration is a solution in search of a problem.
In recent years it has never been easier to register to vote in Massachusetts. You can do it through a quick visit — or mailing an application to — your local city or town clerk’s office. When you obtain or renew your driver’s license or apply for insurance through the Health Connector, you are automatically registered unless you opt out. The state even lets you “pre-register” up to two years before you reach the voting age of 18. And through a Secretary of State website, you can go online to register and pre-register, update your name, address or party, and check your current registration. Simply put, we have all of the necessary tools in place right now to allow residents to sign up to vote.
Our elections depend on accurate voting rolls, and our city and town clerks do a fantastic job of keeping those as up to date as possible. Introducing Election-Day voter registration would cause confusion for poll workers, whose attention needs to be focused on conducting the actual election. Don’t forget that there is an existing mechanism already in place if there is any uncertainty about the registration status of someone who shows up at the polls: That individual can cast a provisional ballot. When the dust settles from Election Day — which is often a busy day — local election officials review provisional ballots to determine their validity. Allowing Election-Day registration may very well open the door for honest mistakes and errors to occur in our elections — again, a problem that would result from an unnecessary solution.
In Massachusetts, 84 percent of eligible Massachusetts residents aged 18 and over are registered to vote, based on US Census and state voter registration data. There is a chance — inconceivable as it might seem to those of us who vote — that many of the 16 percent of people who are not registered to vote may simply not want to participate in the voting process. But in the event they some day choose to register, it is a really easy, straightforward, and simple process. With the system we already have in place, we don’t need Election-Day registration — or the headaches it could cause.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact email@example.com.
This is not a scientific survey. Please only vote once.