A Suffolk Superior Court judge on Monday ruled unconstitutional a state law that forbids people from voting in an election unless they have registered 20 days beforehand. The law denies qualified citizens their right to vote, Judge Douglas Wilkins ruled. In a lawsuit filed last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Chelsea Collaborative, a social services nonprofit, and MassVOTE, a nonprofit that registers people to vote, argued that the law is “unnecessary and arbitrary” and that it excluded thousands of citizens from voting. Wilkins agreed, rejecting the state’s claim that removing the deadline would impose overly burdensome duties on local election officials.
Articles about voting issues in Massachusetts.
Foxboro Town Clerk Robert Cutler grimaces when asked about same-day voter registration. “We’d definitely need an updated computer system,” Cutler says, “and the state hasn’t gotten that ready yet.” Same-day voter registration — citizens not yet signed up to vote being able to walk in to a polling place on Election Day and cast a ballot — is a possibility in Attleboro area communities as a result of a lawsuit by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU claims that the 20-day deadline to register before the election is unconstitutional and unnecessary in these days of vastly improved technology.
Massachusetts: Suit challenging Massacusetts voter registration cutoff rule now in court | Associated Press
A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state requirement that eligible voters register at least 20 days ahead of an election is being heard in court this week, with critics saying the law disenfranchises thousands of potential voters every election. Opponents of the cutoff — including the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts — are urging the court to declare the law unconstitutional and to order the state to end its enforcement, saying the law arbitrarily denies citizens their right to vote. Opponents are trying to bolster their argument by pointing to the state’s adoption of early voting last year. That change allowed voters to begin casting ballots on Oct. 24, just five days after the Oct. 19 registration cutoff. They say that undercuts the rationale that the state needs to end the registration of voters 20 days before Election Day.
The Fourth of July celebration is over, but the legal fireworks are just getting started in a trial that got underway Wednesday focusing on a key concern of the founding fathers – the right to vote. Jessie Rossman, one of the lawyers handling the case for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says as early as 1887, the state Supreme Court ruled that the cut-off for voter registration should occur as close to Election Day as possible. Rossman argues the technology is available to allow for same-day registration, so she says the current system is arbitrary and unconstitutional. “Every year, thousands of people in Massachusetts are disenfranchised and unable to vote as a result of this 20-day registration cut-off,” she states.
Massachusetts: Trial begins in ACLU suit challenging Massachusetts deadlines for voter registration | MassLive
A trial in a civil lawsuit that challenges the legality of Massachusetts to set a voter registration deadline prior to elections is scheduled to begin Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court. The suit, filed last November by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, charges that the state laws requiring new voters to register with the local election office within 20 days of an election or primary is both unconstitutional and arbitrary. It charges that the deadline bars thousands of people from being able to vote each election. The trial is scheduled to open Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in the Suffolk County Courthouse. For now, the trial is scheduled to last three days although it could be extended.
Massachusetts residents could have their voter registration information automatically updated whenever they renew their drivers’ licenses or interact with other state agencies. A bill working its way through Beacon Hill would help ensure that more of the state’s nearly 700,000 eligible citizens who are not registered to vote are able to cast ballots on Election Day. “Massachusetts can lead the way toward giving all citizens a voice in their government,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, a backer of the bill, which was the subject of a public hearing Thursday.
Massachusetts: Automatic registration pitched as ‘next step’ to improve voting access | The Berkshire Eagle
Registering to vote in Massachusetts could become an automatic process for people who renew their driver’s license or otherwise interact with a state agency under legislation supporters pitched Thursday as a way to boost participation in the democratic process. The Joint Committee on Election Laws heard testimony Thursday on bills that would create an automatic voter registration system for eligible citizens. Instead of the current process where people wishing to vote must first fill out a registration form with their local elections officers, the system would call on state agencies to transmit a person’s name, age, residence and citizenship information to municipal boards of registrars within five days of collecting it.
A coalition of 13 Asian-American and Latino Lowell residents on Thursday filed a federal voting-rights lawsuit against the city, alleging that Lowell’s municipal election system discriminates against minorities. Plaintiffs say the use of citywide at-large elections for all seats on the City Council and School Committee dilutes the combined electoral strength of minority voters in Lowell, violating the federal Voting Rights Act, as well as the United States Constitution, according to a release from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice (LCCR), a Boston-based private, non-profit, non-partisan legal organization that provides pro bono legal representation to victims of discrimination based on race or national origin.
A year after establishing new anti-discrimination and access rights for transgender individuals, Massachusetts lawmakers are pushing to close the door on any initiative petitions that would restrict people’s “freedom and equality” rights. An amendment to restrict voter-led petitions was quietly endorsed by the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee last Wednesday and could in the next few days be placed on the Constitutional Convention calendar for this two-year session. The constitution already bars initiative petitions that are “inconsistent” with individuals’ rights set forth in the Declaration of Rights, which is similar to the Bill of Rights included in the U.S. Constitution, and disallows citizen-led ballot measures that appropriate money.
Republicans in the Massachusetts Senate want to reimburse cities and towns for the state-mandated costs of last year’s early voting program. Early voting in the 2016 election in Massachusetts cost the state’s municipalities an estimated $720,000 in expenses mandated by the state. Republican State Senator Don Humason of Westfield said legislation that is to be filed this week by the Senate’s minority party will allow cities and towns to seek some financial assurance following the introduction of early voting. “Now that the program has been implemented and was successful and we’ve had time to look back on it, I think it is a good idea our caucus files this bill,” he said Tuesday.