Same-day registration gets push with backing from Galvin
Galvin announced Thursday that he is proposing legislation that would allow Massachusetts residents who are otherwise eligible to vote to go to their local polling place on Election Day, complete a registration form, and vote immediately afterward. Current law requires voters to be registered at least 20 days before an election in which they plan to vote.
"Election Day registration has been shown to be one of the simplest and more effective ways of increasing voter participation, with administrative costs much lower than many other proposals to do the same thing, because it combines the act of registration and voting," Galvin said.
A Galvin spokeswoman said the secretary had presented his legislation to Election Laws Committee chairs Sen. Anne Gobi and Rep. John Mahoney and is "encouraging them to incorporate the language into" related bills that have already been filed.
Several other bills that would establish same-day registration are before the committee, including proposals from Sen. Joseph Boncore (S 367), Sen. Cynthia Creem (S 371), Rep. Jennifer Benson (H 353), and Rep. Liz Malia (H 2093).
Legislative committees face a Feb. 7 deadline to act on bills filed at the beginning of the session and can report them out favorably or unfavorably, pack them into dead-end study orders, or receive more time through an extension order.
Josh Zakim, a Boston city councilor challenging Galvin in the Democratic primary for secretary of state, said he has supported same-day voter registration "for quite some time" and was glad to see "Secretary Galvin showing up at the party." Zakim told the News Service he found it "a little incongruous" that Galvin would announce his proposal while the secretary's appeal is ongoing in a court case that struck down the 20-day voter registration deadline.
"It's something Secretary Galvin has had numerous opportunities to act on in the last two and a half decades that he has been secretary of state and has not done so," said Zakim, who said he has received a positive response from voters when talking about election-day registration on the campaign trail and believes it would reduce unnecessary barriers to participating in the democratic process.
Galvin's office said in a statement that he has "expressed support for Election Day registration in the past."
"Allowing voters to register on Election Day is the next step in our successful effort to expand access to the ballot," Galvin said. "Over the past few years, my office has worked to bring online voter registration, pre-registration and early voting to Massachusetts. This is yet another way to make it easier to cast a ballot for any eligible citizen who wants to vote."
Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., offer same-day voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Hawaii has also enacted same-day registration, set to take effect this year.
Registration deadlines in most other states fall between eight and 30 days before the election, according to NCSL. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the only two states in New England that do not have same-day registration.
Galvin's proposal would also have Massachusetts join the Electronic Registration Information Center, which his office says is "a group of states whose mission is ensuring the accuracy of voting lists and increasing voter participation."
The Senate in 2014 approved a same-day registration measure but it did not survive talks with the House over an election bill that was signed into law.
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