By Bob Katzen
The Senate 38-0, approved a House-approved bill that would automatically register to vote a person who fills out an application with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) or MassHealth, unless the person opts out. Officials at the RMV and MassHealth would be required to explain to each person that the transaction automatically registers them to vote, unless they opt out; and also inform them that non-citizens are ineligible to vote.
Supporters said an estimated 680,000 eligible voters in the Bay State are not registered to vote.
“Automatic Voter Registration will make voting more accurate, more secure, and more available to all,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts which was part of the coalition pushing for the bill. “That’s good for democracy, for election security and for voters. It’s a win for democracy, it’s a win for security, and it’s a win for voters. Utilizing existing technology to modernize the voter registration process just is basic common sense.”
“I thank the Senate for acting so quickly in passing this important piece of legislation, which will allow us to add more citizens to our voter rolls and make the voter registration process even simpler and more convenient,” said Secretary of State Bill Galvin who endorsed the bill back in March. “My office is ready to begin preparing for implementation of this crucial voting reform as soon as this bill is signed into law. I am excited to have this new system in place in time for the 2020 presidential primaries.”
Although no senators voted against the bill, there were 20 representatives who voted against the bill when it was approved by the House last month.
“We need to preserve the integrity of our elections,” said Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) at that time. “This new law is riddled with major problems from creating another unfunded mandate on cities and towns to giving felons with stolen identities the right to vote.”
Only final approval in each branch is needed before the measure goes to Gov. Baker.