Bill Galvin Unhappy Legislature Killed Same-Day Voter Registration

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By Michael P. Norton
State House News Service

The Massachusetts House voted Thursday night to punt voter registration reforms to Secretary of State William Galvin for further study, but Galvin doesn’t think the idea needs any further examination.

“Secretary Galvin does not think further study of Election Day registration is necessary, and he was not consulted on this requirement,” Galvin spokesman Deb O’Malley said in a statement to State House News Service in response to questions about his point of view. “He strongly supports moving forward as soon as possible with Election Day or same day registration, which is why he included it in his election reform proposal a year ago.”

In its version of the VOTES Act (S.2554), the Senate last year recommended a change in law that would scrap the 20-day registration blackout period prior to elections and replace it with a system in which eligible voters could register and cast ballots in-person in the days leading up to an election and on election day.

The House, which agreed to shrink the registration blackout period prior to elections to 10 days, voted to require Galvin to analyze the policy and fiscal impacts of same-day registration to the state and to each of its 351 cities and towns. The adopted study language did not include a reporting deadline, and will soon be among the topics that a voting reform conference committee will be charged with settling.

Asked how quickly Galvin, the state’s elections overseer, would be able to complete a study, O’Malley said “that will ultimately depend on whether the study is included in a final bill, when that bill is actually enacted, and what information the final legislation requires of the study.”

The voting reform bills approved in both branches would make permanent mail-in voting and early voting periods expanded during the pandemic, but with the 2022 election season growing nearer, the same-day registration reform looms as a matter in which one branch will need to give in.

While same-day registration has been adopted in some other states, supporters of the study approach, citing clerks who are concerned about their ability to implement the system, say an assessment of staffing requirements is necessary as well as a study of “other collateral consequences,” which are not specified in the study order.

While Galvin and the Senate are ready to move ahead, the study language states that same-day registration should not be implemented until the secretary of state weighs in with a report “including a recommendation on the necessity and advisability of the provisions of this section.”

Same-day and election day registration reforms have been discussed on Beacon Hill since the early 2000s.


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