A bill designed to overhaul Massachusetts voting laws — including allowing early voting up to 11 days before Election Day — is one step closer to winning approval. The legislation would also allow online voter registration and let 16- and 17-year-olds pre-register to vote. They would be automatically be registered once they turn 18. The compromise legislation reconciles separate bills already approved by the House and Senate. It was released Tuesday by a conference committee made up of members of both chambers. The legislation would also create an online portal to check voter registration status and provides for postelection audits of randomly selected precincts after presidential elections.
Voting rights groups have long pushed for the early voting provision arguing that it would help citizens better fit voting into increasingly busy personal schedules while easing ballot box bottlenecks, especially during peak times before and after typical work hours.
Early voting is already available in 32 states. Under the bill it would begin in Massachusetts in the 2016 elections.
“We’ve been behind the curve, but this marks a significant move toward Massachusetts becoming a voting rights leader,” Gavi Wolfe of the Massachusetts ACLU said in a written statement.
Gov. Deval Patrick has said he “loves the idea” of early voting.
Activists said online registration will encourage more people to register while also reducing processing time, cutting costs and limiting errors.