BOSTON – Rep. Josh Cutler joined his colleagues in the Legislature to pass a comprehensive election laws bill that will authorize early voting for biennial state elections starting in 2016. With the Governor’s final approval, Massachusetts will become the 33rd state in the nation to allow early voting. The bill also creates an online voter registration system and will allow 16 and 17-year olds to preregister to vote in the Commonwealth for the first time.
“By allowing early voting and implementing new technology in the voting process, we are taking important steps to modernize our election system,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “This bill will bring Massachusetts in line with the many other states that have already successfully implemented early voting.”
“Massachusetts has a rich history of civic involvement and I believe this legislation will foster a more vigorous, inclusive and just elections process,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “This bill improves voting efficiency and helps give citizens across the Commonwealth a voice. I thank Senate President Murray, Chairman Murphy, Chairman Finegold and my colleagues in the Legislature for their comprehensive and forward-thinking work on such an important topic.”
“Anytime we can increase access and voter participation it is a positive step towards greater electoral engagement.” Senator Barry R. Finegold (D-Andover) said. “I am proud of the bill the Legislature has passed to update our antiquated election laws and make voting more accessible to the modern Massachusetts family. Early voting, pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds and online voter registration are a few of the significant reforms passed today that will enhance voter access and increase participation in the electoral process.”
“Massachusetts has always been a leader, both in terms of our government and its people,” said Representative James Murphy (D – Weymouth), Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws. “This legislation will further encourage voter participation by allowing for online voter registration as well as early voting. This will alleviate long lines on Election Day as well as enable people to vote in this ever busy and changing world. Our nation’s history and our government are predicated upon voter participation. This legislation, simply put, will increase voter participation, election efficiency, and access to the ballot box.”
“This election reform bill will undoubtedly increase civic engagement and modernize voter registration,” said Senator Sal N. DiDomenico (D-Everett). “I was especially happy to see that the pre-registration provision, which I sponsored in the Senate, was included in the final bill. Pre-registration will serve as an important tool to engage and empower our young adults to take an active role in our communities and make a positive impact on society at every level. I want to thank Senate President Therese Murray for appointing me to the conference committee and allowing me to take part in shaping this important bill.”
“I was proud to have been appointed by Senate President Murray to serve as a member of the Election Laws Conference Committee,” said Assistant Minority Leader Robert L. Hedlund (D-Weymouth). “This bill provides incentive for civic engagement and flexibility to the average voter of the Commonwealth, which I am sure will increase voter participation.”
Early voting for biennial state elections will begin 11 business days before an election and end at the close of the polls two business days before the election. The Secretary of State will disseminate regulations regarding the process for establishing additional early voting locations and for applying for, receiving, separating, compiling, recording and securing early voter ballots.
The bill requires the Secretary to create an online voter registration system as well as an online tool where voters can check their voter registration status and inform them of their polling place. Any voter registered in a political designation that does not run a candidate on the ballot now will be considered unenrolled for the purposes of the primary and will receive a ballot of a political party of one’s choosing.