House of Representatives Passes the VOTES Act

Last week, I voted in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass legislation to expand participation in our elections by making permanent several voting changes that were in effect in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes were tried, tested, and shown to securely expand access to the right to vote. They include:

  • reducing the voter registration deadline from 20 to 10 days before an election,
  • providing for secure early in person and mail-in voting for state and federal elections and primaries, and
  • giving municipalities an option to opt-in to early voting for municipal elections.

These options were crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic and now, under this legislation, would continue to provide citizens of Massachusetts with greater access to the ability to securely cast their ballots. They supplement a number of changes undertaken in recent years by the House to expand access to the right to vote. These include:

  • voter pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds,
  • secure automatic voter registration,
  • online voter registration,
  • mail-in voting and ballot tracking, and
  • early voting.

All of these reforms have helped to build a more inclusive, transparent, and secure election process in Massachusetts, which the House expanded on last week by making the permanent changes in this legislation.

The House adopted an amendment to the bill to require the Secretary of the Commonwealth to gather more information on the impact of same-day voter registration. The secretary would be required to file a report of all impacts of same-day registration, fiscal or otherwise, for the Commonwealth and its cities and towns. It would also require the secretary to identify the specific challenges cities and towns would face if same-day registration were implemented. These include, but are not limited to:

  • equitable access to same-day registration for rural communities,
  • access to same-day registration for English language learners by having interpreters available, and
  • the impact on municipal clerks and the local election process, including staffing, training, and potential bottlenecks at polling places, such as between those seeking to register and those seeking to vote, during high turnout elections.

In a climate when our democracy is under attack and the voting process is constantly challenged by election deniers, our voting system must be working efficiently, equitably, and transparently. While I am in favor of same-day registration, I believe these challenges necessitate this in-depth examination of same-day voter registration to make sure that when it is implemented, it is done equitably, securely, and correctly.

I am proud to have voted in favor of this legislation to permanently expand access for citizens to securely cast their votes in our elections.