Voters will be able to cast their ballots more than week before an election starting in 2016 under new early-voting rules recommended by a House-Senate panel that reached a deal late Monday afternoon on broad new election reforms. The pact would also authorize online voter registration and allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, but excludes a Senate-backed provision to allow same-day voter registration at the polls. It also recommends random post-presidential election audits of select precincts to verify the accuracy of vote counts. “I think it’s a great bill and I’m very proud,” said Sen. Barry Finegold, co-chairman of the Election Laws Committee and the lead Senate conferee negotiating the final bill. “I think it’s going to give more opportunities to the electorate to participate and the fact that we’re going to be able to get younger voters to pre-register will be huge. It’s a big step in the right direction for more people to participate in the electoral process.”
Finegold negotiated the compromise bill (H 4072) with Rep. Jamie Murphy, a Weymouth Democrat and co-chair of the Election Laws Committee. Reps. Michael Moran, D-Brighton, and Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) and Sens. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, and Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, also sat on the conference committee. “It’s a bill that the average person will like. It will make it easier for people to vote, to register to vote and we want to encourage young people to vote,” Murphy said.
If adopted by the House and Senate, Massachusetts would join at least 32 other states with early voting. The report calls for early voting to start in time for the 2016 presidential election and would allow voters to cast their ballot up to 11 business days before the date of the election.
Murphy said he was not sure when the bill would come up for a vote, but suggested it could happen as soon as Wednesday when the House plans to meet.