State election reform advocates are optimistic their longtime efforts to enact early voting, online voter registration and other changes at the polls could gain traction this year. MassVOTE and other voting rights groups said long lines at some polls in last year’s presidential election seem to have sparked renewed interest in such reforms. State Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Election Laws, filed a bill this year that bundles several measures that reformers have long supported. Some of these measures passed the House last year, but died in the Senate at the end of the legislative session, advocates said.
“It’s a suite of very practical and sensible and, frankly, very modest reforms,” said Gavi Wolfe, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.
Senate President Therese Murray also filed a constitutional amendment that would allow early voting and make it easier to obtain an absentee ballot.
The rules on absentee voting are written into the state constitution, but lawmakers still are hashing out whether early voting could be enacted through regular legislation, such as Finegold’s bill, according to Sara Brady, policy director at MassVOTE.
Finegold and Murray’s proposals are not the only ones of their kind. There are at least four other bills this year to allow early voting, about as many for online voter registration and three to require audits of election results. Other bills would allow people to register to vote on election days.