Massachusetts Inches Toward Election-Day Voter Registration

BOSTON (CN) – Massachusetts is still fighting a ruling that struck down its voter-registration deadline of 20 days prior to an election, but the state on Thursday proposed same-day voter registration in the commonwealth.

Secretary of State William Galvin filed the bill on Jan. 25, six months after Suffolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins struck down the 20-day rule as unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts represented the challengers who brought the underlying suit, including voter Rafael Sanchez, and the groups Chelsea Collaborative and MassVote.

Despite his new bill proposal, Galvin is also appealing Wilkins’ decision to the Supreme Judicial Court, which is scheduled to hold arguments on March 6.

In their December brief to the SJC, the state Attorney General’s Office said that the challengers failed to show that shortening the registration deadline would statistically improve voter turnout.

“The 20-Day Rule does not impose a ‘severe’ burden on voting rights,” that brief said. “One registers to vote on a brief form that requires only a few minutes to fill out. Registration materials are widely available, and both the commonwealth and independent organizations undertake extensive publicity efforts to encourage eligible citizens to vote.”

The law Galvin proposed would take effect in time for the 2020 election, but the ACLU of Massachusetts says it should be changed in time for midterm elections this year.

“Now that a judge has agreed that the Voter Cutoff Law is unconstitutional, Massachusetts should move forward with the best possible plan to help every voter in every city, town, and precinct exercise their right to vote in the 2018 election, and in every election thereafter,” ACLU of Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose said in a statement. “We hope Secretary Galvin is beginning to actively prepare for the possibility of implementing same-day registration in November 2018, including requesting necessary appropriations in the state budget.”

Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, who is running against Galvin in the upcoming Democratic primary for secretary of state, challenged the legitimacy of Galvin’s bill.

“Secretary Galvin is again saying one thing and doing another,” Zakim said in a statement. “Although he purports to support enabling residents to register to vote on Election Day, he is actively trying to overturn a Superior Court decision that would allow for it. Likewise, he says on one hand he wants to increase voter turnout, but he schedules the primary for the day after Labor Day. Despite his best efforts, Bill Galvin won’t be able to pass himself off as a reformer when he has a 24-year record of upholding the status quo.”

%d bloggers like this: