Joan B. Lovely
State senator, Salem Democrat
Elections have the potential to substantially impact the day-to-day lives of all residents of the Commonwealth, in areas from schools to health care to public safety. As a result, access to the polls is incredibly important in ensuring that residents have a voice in how their local, state, and federal governments operate.
The 2016 General Election was the first that offered Massachusetts residents the chance to participate in early voting. According to the secretary of state, an astounding 22 percent of registered voters took advantage of early voting. This was an important step for Massachusetts to increase access to our democracy. It’s also proof that if we continue to increase access to voting, our residents will respond.
The need to protect the fundamental right of every citizen to vote on Election Day and to continue Massachusetts’ position as a leader in providing an open and accessible democracy are the main reasons I support and am cosponsoring legislation to establish same-day voting in the state, allowing people to register and vote at the same time through election day.
Our democracy relies on the public’s engagement in the democratic process and on all voices being heard. In order to ensure that all eligible citizens are registered to vote, making the process to register as convenient as possible is critical. And while increasing access to voting is a goal we all should be focused on, ensuring the accuracy of the voter lists is equally as important. That’s why the legislation requires all citizens registering on the same day to provide proof of residence.
About 15 states and Washington, D.C., offer same-day voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures; Hawaii will be added later this year. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are currently the only states in New England that do not offer the benefit of same-day registration. The Massachusetts Senate adopted a similar same-day voter registration initiative in 2014, which I was proud to support, but unfortunately was not signed into law.
It’s time that Massachusetts takes this important step to continue our much-needed progress and maintain our position as a leader in the areas of voter rights and voter access.
Beverly Republican City Committee chairman
I oppose the proposal to open Massachusetts to same-day voter registration. The benefit to a few voters who didn’t care enough to plan their voting on an election day ought not outweigh the loss of transparency, the overwhelming of local election officials by same-day registrants, and the potential for voter fraud.
In neighboring New Hampshire, which has same-day voter registration, 6,540 people registered to vote using an out-of-state driver’s license as identification on election day in 2016, according to a report from the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office.
As of Aug. 31, 2017, 5,313 of those new voters had yet to acquire a New Hampshire driver’s license or register a vehicle in the state. Election officials cannot determine how many of these people currently reside in New Hampshire. Kelley Ayotte lost her US Senate seat that year to Maggie Hassan by 1,017 votes.
That simple example can be more than enough evidence that people who want public trust in our elections should oppose the system.
If Massachusetts were to to adopt same-day voter registration, curtailing the inevitable abuse might require increasing the number of local elections officials, cross-checking voter registration data with other states, designating funds for investigative staff, and granting new prosecutorial authority to administrative bodies. These arduous and increasingly costly requirements would be an albatross. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It would be a serious mistake for the Massachusetts Legislature to damage the integrity of our elections, as has been the case in New Hampshire. Same-day registration makes a charade out of the seriousness of electing our representatives there and also of the debates our citizens have in weighing ballot questions. Governor Charles Baker is cool to the idea, and he’s right.
My concerns about same-day registration are shared by a number of friends from the North Shore who helped me research the issue, especially Michael Gendre, Joe Orlando Jr.. Stephanie Peach, Janet Aldrich, Abigail Bertelson, Bukia Chalvire, and Mary Garland. We know it is causing consternation and significant opposition among our neighbors north of the border. Let’s hope Massachusetts does not follow New Hampshire’s example in adopting this unneeded change.
This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.