Massachusetts’ top court on Monday unanimously upheld a state requirement that people must register to vote 20 days before an election, ruling in a case that could impact the ability of thousands of citizens to cast ballots. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the state’s top election official by reversing a lower court judge’s 2017 ruling that concluded the registration cut-off violated the state’s constitution. The 7-0 ruling by the top court came in a lawsuit filed in 2016 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts on behalf of two organizations, Chelsea Collaborative and MassVote, and several individual qualified voters.
The ACLU contended the 20-day restriction disenfranchises thousands of otherwise qualified voters. According to a brief filed by Massachusetts, 34 states have deadlines requiring voters to register seven to 30 days before elections.
Justice Kimberly Budd wrote that while a registration blackout period could be so far from election day that it would interfere with voters’ rights, the state had a rational basis to say it needed the 20 days to prepare for orderly elections.