The foundation of any democracy is the votes of its people, and obstacles to that process should be removed, not legislated into existence. With so many states determined to prevent people -- certain people -- from voting, it is satisfying to see Massachusetts doing the opposite.

Gov. Deval Patrick Thursday signed a law allowing early voting up to 11 days before Election Day, as well as letting 16- and 17-year-olds preregister to vote. These provisions will encourage young people to vote and should increase turnout by giving people flexibility in when they cast their ballots.

Governors and legislatures in a variety of states have been eliminating early voting, reducing voting precincts and introducing ID laws designed to discourage voting by those who are poor and/or live in cities. This disproportionately affects minorities, who tend to vote Democratic. The excuse is always the elimination of voter "fraud," although examples of this menace cannot be cited.

Courts regularly overturn these transparently political laws, most recently last month in Wisconsin, where federal Judge Lynn Adelman dispatched the voter fraud argument by observing that in the last four elections in the state going back to 2004 there was only one lone example of voter identity fraud. These laws are all about disenfranchising voters who don’t vote the "right" way, and Massachusetts should be proud that it is encouraging voting rather than discouraging it.

Massachusetts will be even prouder if an updated bottle bill finally gets passed into law after being stalled for more than a decade. A bill adding non-carbonated beverages like water and sports drinks to the antiquated law passed the Senate Thursday for the second year in a row, but its fate is uncertain in the House.

According to MASSPIRG, a majority of House members support the law, but leadership has refused to provide that opportunity to the rank-and-file. The Massachusetts Food Association, beverage companies and chain stores all oppose it because they find the measure inconvenient, and their money talks.

An expanded returnable law will generate revenue and reduce roadside pollution. If it fails again, voters are likely to pass such a law with a referendum on the November ballot. Beacon Hill should take the initiative and turn a well-crafted expanded bottle bill into law.