Massachusetts House Debates Voting Rights Legislation | Massachusetts News


By STEVE LEBLANC, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts House on Thursday rejected a proposed amendment to a sweeping voting rights bill that would have allowed voters to register and vote on the same day.

Supporters of the measure said it would make it easier for residents — especially immigrants, young people and people with busy lives — to vote.

Instead of approving or rejecting the registration amendment on the day, House lawmakers voted 93 to 64 to send it back for further study – a decision often used to avoid voting for an amendment. .

Representative Erika Uyterhoeven said Election Day registration would help increase the number of voters.

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“There is plenty of evidence that this will increase voter turnout,” she said. “This will have an overwhelming impact on Black, Brown, AAPI, Immigrant and Indigenous communities, low-income communities and youth.” (AAPI stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.)

Uyterhoeven, a Democrat representing Somerville, described the decision to send the matter for consideration as “procedural games.”

House Democratic leadership Michael Moran said same-day registration is too complicated to approve without further study.

“What this report would hopefully do is identify some of those challenges,” including staffing levels and training, Moran said, noting that the state has more than 1,200 polling places and nearly of 400 advance polling stations.

The voting rights bill seeks to enshrine in Massachusetts law a series of early voting options that were temporarily enacted during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation would allow wide use of mail-in voting and expand early in-person voting options. Communities would be required to allow early voting during business hours and every weekend during the early voting period.

The bill would also reduce the time before an election in which a resident can register to vote, from 20 to 10 days, and require those incarcerated to be informed of their right to vote.

Democratic U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley called on the House to allow same-day voter registration, saying in a press release that “arbitrary voter registration delays should not be a barrier to exercising the right to vote”.

Democratic Commonwealth Secretary William Galvin, whose office oversees the election, also backs the change. The Massachusetts Clerks Association is not supportive but supports other pieces of the legislation.

“We strongly oppose provisions that would allow same-election day registration for 10 consecutive days,” the group said in a statement, adding that it would be “almost impossible” to manage without compromising the integrity of the electoral process. .

Critics of the bill have argued that the state should instead revert to pre-pandemic voting rules with an emphasis on in-person voting.

Democratic Rep. Daniel Ryan, chairman of the House Joint Committee on Election Laws, defended the legislation, saying that overall it will help expand ballot access.

“Are we going to deliver a perfect invoice today? No,” Ryan said. “What we’re getting out of here today are permanent and now tested tools that made our recent state election turnout one of the highest in recent memory.”

A voting rights bill approved by the Massachusetts Senate last year included a change to allow same-day registration.

The Senate bill would allow individuals to register to vote during early voting periods or on the day of a primary or election. Supporters said the change would bring Massachusetts in line with at least 20 other states and the District of Columbia that already allow same-day check-in.

To expand in-person voting, the Senate bill would require two weeks — including two weekends — of early in-person voting for biennial national elections and all municipal elections held on the same day. That would allow a week — including a weekend — of in-person early voting for a presidential or state primary and any municipal elections held on the same day.

Under the Senate bill, cities and towns would also be allowed to opt in to early in-person voting for any local election not held with another election.

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