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Election Day Registration in Massachusetts: Welcome Aboard?

Damon L. Daniels

Could Massachusetts become the next state to enact Election Day Registration? If today’s passage by the Commonwealth’s Senate chamber of omnibus voting bill S.1975 serves as indication, it very well could.

S.1975 carries the torch from a similar election modernization package, H.3788, which the Massachusetts House passed last November. While H.3788’s provisions include the implementation of a 10‑day early voting period (which spans from the 11th business day until the second business day prior to Election Day, including the option of holding evening and weekend voting hours) and online voter registration, the Senate bill expands the menu of reforms by not only adding an Election Day Registration amendment, but moreover, a pre‑registration measure for 16- and 17‑year olds.

Pending successful reconciliation of the S.1975 and H.3788 in conference, and subsequently, Governor Deval Patrick’s signature, Massachusetts will become the 14th state to vote Election Day Registration into law, the 20th state to pass statewide online voter registration, the 33rd state to pass early voting, and the 36th state to allow some form of registration prior to the age of 18.

Not bad for the state that gave us the late great Senator Ted Kennedy, who during his heyday was not only a stalwart proponent of the original Voting Rights Act, but who also championed bringing more voters into the electorate by lowering the voter eligibility age.