State Senate passes election reform bill

The State Senate last week passed legislation reforming election laws in Massachusetts.  The bill authorizes early voting for state and federal elections and primaries, allows residents to register to vote on election day and creates an online voter registration system.  It also allows 16 and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote.

“The goal here is to expand access,” says State Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington).  “When people can vote early and 16 and 17 year-olds can preregister, the process gets more convenient and more people can take part.  That’s a good thing.” 

Under the bill Massachusetts would join 32 other states and D.C. which allow early voting.  Early voting would begin 10 business days before the election and end two days prior.

In addition to building an online voter registration system, the Secretary of State would create a secure online portal allowing voters to easily check their registration status and polling place.

The bill also establishes an elections task force to review early voting and expanding technology, including costs, administrative requirements, reductions in wait times on election day, the feasibility of additional early voting sites and hours, voter turnout, election day mobile alerts and online voting. 

The Senate bill and House bill will now go to a conference committee to produce compromise legislation for final passage and consideration of the governor.

Next, Barrett says he wants to accelerate reporting and disclosure of political contributions.  “Citizens United has allowed our elections to be flooded by ads without letting us know who’s footing the bill,” Barrett says.  “We need to get as close as possible to real-time disclosure of political contributions.”

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