January 16, 2014
Boston – Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) voted in support of a comprehensive election reform bill that will include early voting for state and federal elections, online voter registration, and preregistration for sixteen and seventeen year olds, among other unique measures. The legislation passed in the Senate.
“The election process is a central cornerstone of our nation’s government that deserves to be protected and upheld,” said Senator Ross. “This legislation provides many distinctive updates to the state’s voting system that I hope will resolve issues we have seen arise in recent elections. I was pleased to see the Senate pass several amendments that I filed to enhance certain elements of this legislation.”
Pursuant to this bill, early voting will be allowed in Massachusetts, beginning ten days before the election and ending two days before the election. The first early voting period would occur in 2016. The bill will also create an online voter registration system, as well as an online portal that allows voters to verify their voter registration status and polling place.
The bill will also designate voters as inactive only after not voting in two consecutive federal elections and failing to respond to a notice from the city or town. Voters will be removed from the voter list if they do not vote in two additional federal elections. Current law allows a voter to be placed on the inactive list for failing to complete an annual census.
The bill also does the following:
- Eliminates the requirement of a check-out desk at polling places;
- Requires municipal election officials to attend annual training given by the Secretary of State regarding applicable state and federal election laws; and
- 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 passed several amendments filed by Senator Ross that addressed the early voting process, the online portal, as well as the task force created by the bill. As a method of making the online portal more accessible to voters, Senator Ross amended the bill to mandate that the official website of each Massachusetts city and town include a link to the online portal. Additionally, an amendment filed by Senator Ross prohibits individuals from accessing full lists of active and inactive voters from that online portal. Such lists are available through city and town halls.
In order to protect the ballots cast during the early voting period, the Senate approved of a Ross amendment to establish a standard of care to be taken with early voting ballots. At the end of each day, an election official will be responsible for ensuring that all ballot boxes are sealed, locked and maintained securely.
Senator Ross also sought to supplement the issues to be studied by the task force created in the legislation. The task force will undertake an investigation into the feasibility of requiring all voters to present a valid photo identification during early voting periods and a valid form of identification during regular voting periods. Finally, in the interest of increasing government transparency, Senator Ross amended the bill to require that all reports of the task force be made available to the general public on the General Court website.
The Senate bill and the House bill will now be presented to a conference committee that will be charged with creating a compromise bill for final passage and consideration of the Governor.
Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.