The House could take up a series of election law reforms this week before the close-out of formal sessions for the year. An aide to Speaker Robert DeLeo said the House is tentatively planning to take up a bill (H 3647) drafted by the Election Laws Committee, which calls for an “online portal” where citizens can register to vote, and allows early voting from 11 business days to two business days before a presidential primary or presidential election. Activists decrying long lines at polling stations and other hindrances to voting have called for reforms to ease access to ballots. A member of the committee staff said the bill was designed to address long lines, and voters would be able to cast ballots early for all races during a presidential year during the presidential primary or general election. Senate President Therese Murray has backed legislation (S 12) to amend the state constitution, allowing for state laws providing for early voting. Lawmakers meeting in a brief Constitutional Convention in October gave initial approval to the constitutional amendment.
Constitutional amendments must be approved by two successive Legislatures and then by the voters in order to take effect. The convention recessed until March 12, 2014. A member of the Election Laws staff said it is unclear whether Murray’s proposed amendment is required in order to commence early voting.
The bill that emerged from the Election Laws Committee in September was derided by the advocacy group Common Cause, which called the bill a “timid and disappointing election reform package.”
Common Cause bemoaned the lack of pre-registration for 16-year-olds so they can vote as soon as they turn 18, same-day voter registration on election day, and post-election audits to ensure the optical scanners that count ballots are working properly.