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BOSTON, MA - With a bipartisan vote of 130-20, the Massachusetts House today passed Automatic Voter Registration (H. 4320, formerly H.2091 and S.373). Teachers, veterans, environmentalists, immigrants, and union members were among those who came to the State House to show support for this crucial reform.
The AVR legislation, originally introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and the late Rep. Peter Kocot, would establish a system for eligible citizens to automatically register to vote when they interact with a state agency like the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth. Approximately 680,000 eligible Massachusetts voters are currently not registered.
“Automatic Voter Registration will make voting more accurate, more secure, and more available to all. It’s a win for democracy, it’s a win for security, and it’s a win for voters,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, which led the broad-based coalition pushing for the bill. “Utilizing existing technology to modernize the voter registration process just is basic common sense, and we are thrilled that 130 Representatives agreed with us. Many thanks to Speaker DeLeo for supporting this critical reform.”
The bill now advances to the Senate where it must be approved before the July 31st end of the legislative session. It has enjoyed broad support in both legislative chambers, with 85 House cosponsors, 23 Senate sponsors, and a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Election Laws. Attorney General Maura Healey and Secretary of State Bill Galvin are also supporters. The legislation is endorsed by 65 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have passed automatic voter registration: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. A report based on data from Oregon, Vermont, and Colorado concluded that the cost of implementing AVR in Massachusetts would be minimal.
"While voter suppression is on the rise nationally, we’re proud Massachusetts is leading the way forward to expand ballot access,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of
Massachusetts. “Voter registration should be simple, accessible, and secure, because increased voter participation makes our democracy stronger."
"We commend the legislature's passage of Automatic Voter Registration, a reform that will expand the electorate to those too frequently pushed to the margins," noted Beth Huang, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table.
"Our democracy is strongest when everyone's voice can be heard. This bill will help engage the almost 700,000 eligible but unregistered citizens in Massachusetts, strengthening democracy and setting a positive example for other states,” said Jonathan Cohn of Progressive
Meryl Kessler, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, added: "The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts applauds today's vote by the Massachusetts House. Bringing AVR to our state will remove real obstacles to political participation, ensuring that more voices can be heard."
“Today we thank the Massachusetts House for approving an Automatic Voting Registration (AVR) bill as a new avenue to increase voter participation and accessibility to Massachusetts’ most vulnerable communities,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, Executive Director of MassVOTE.
"Passing this bill is as good as July 4th fireworks. Automatic voter registration will make our democracy better, fairer, more robust, and what better way to celebrate than that?" said Executive Director of MASSPIRG Janet Domenitz.
The Election Modernization Coalition is led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters or Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and Progressive Massachusetts. A full list of member organizations can be found here, and more information about AVR can be found here.
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