Negotiations between the House and Senate began in earnest on Wednesday over a package of election law reforms that could bring early voting and same-day voter registration to Massachusetts before the next presidential election. A six-member conference committee charged with seeking compromise between the branches on competing bills met for the first time, beginning a back-and-forth nearly two months after the committee was formed to resolve the disagreements. Led by Sen. Barry Finegold and Rep. James Murphy, the co-chairs of the Election Laws Committees, the committee voted 3-2 to close their deliberations to the public, a common but not required step. The two Republicans on the panel – Sen. Robert Hedlund and Rep. Shawn Dooley – voted against closing the meetings to the public.
Before shutting the doors, Murphy disseminated a chart to the panel outlining areas of agreement and disagreement between the House and Senate.
Both bills approved by their respective chambers include enhanced training for local clerks, online voter registration, online registration search tools and a principle commitment to early voting.
While the House bill calls for early voting to take place only in presidential election years, the Senate bill calls for early voting in all state elections every two years. The Senate bill, unlike the House bill, also allows for election-day voter registration.