Massachusetts has launched a new voter registration system. People can now go online to sign up to vote, change their address for voting purposes, and switch party affiliation. Massachusetts is the 21st state to offer online voter registration, a system Secretary of State William Galvin, the state’s top election official, said will remove one more administrative impediment to registering to vote. The new system is available now to help people register for the first time, and allow people who have moved since the last general election to update their voter registration information.
A coalition of voting rights organizations has reached a settlement with the state, in which public assistance organizations including MassHealth will provide voter registration forms to their clients. The settlements with Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin and Director of the Office of Medicaid Daniel Tsai, signed on Tuesday, mark the conclusion of a lawsuit that was partially settled with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance in March.
Massachusetts: State partially settles lawsuit over voter registration for welfare recipients | MassLive
The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance has settled a 2012 lawsuit with voting rights organizations by agreeing to distribute voter registration forms to people applying for public assistance, to help people complete the forms and to provide oversight to ensure that public assistance workers abide by the requirements of a federal voting rights law. The Department of Transitional Assistance will also pay $675,000 in attorneys’ fees to the voting rights organizations. “We hope that this will make a huge improvement in the voting and registration opportunities for low-income Massachusetts citizens,” said Catherine Flanagan, senior election counsel for the Washington D.C.-based Project Vote and one of the lawyers trying the case. “The administration is pleased this matter was settled appropriately,” said Elizabeth Guyton, press secretary for Gov. Charlie Baker.
Massachusetts cannot afford to have a presidential primary in 2016 under Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposed budget, the state elections chief said Tuesday. In remarks to House and Senate budget writers, Secretary of State William Galvin flayed Baker’s proposed funding for elections in a year with no White House incumbent and an expected high voter turnout. “As you all know this country is scheduled to elect a new president next year. Apparently the governor only wants 49 states to vote, he doesn’t want this one, because he has drastically underfunded the elections budget,” said Galvin, a Brighton Democrat. Galvin’s office requested $8.1 million for elections, and Baker’s budget provides $5.7 million. Because fiscal year 2016 ends in June 2016, the outlay covers the costs of a presidential primary and his office ramping up for the fall elections. “I simply cannot run a credible election with those kind of numbers,” he said.
Massachusetts: From staffing to voting machines, election costs add up for cities and towns | The Patriot Ledger
A glance at any campaign finance report reveals the role money plays in state elections, as candidates, private donors and independent interest groups use cash to try to sway voters. But behind the scenes, Massachusetts cities and towns also funnel thousands of dollars into elections – as the price tags to prepare voting machines, staff polling locations and advertise big changes to election routines add up. The cost varies largely depending on the size of the community and how many precincts it has. Scituate Town Clerk Kathy Curran said a typical state election costs about $9,000. The town hires about 34 workers for its six precincts.There is one polling location for all 14,000 residents who are registered to vote. In Quincy, the same state election costs up to $80,000, City Clerk Joseph Shea said. The city operates more than two dozen polling locations for its 30 precincts, requiring about 200 election workers. The city has nearly 64,000 registered voters. “In a city election, we’re on our own, but in a state election, the state does step up to reimburse some of it,” Shea said. “The amount we get back changes from year to year.”
Republican candidate for state secretary David D’Arcangelo pledged Monday to bring electronic balloting to Massachusetts and make public records more readily available if elected. D’Arcangelo, standing outside the Massachusetts Statehouse with a life-size cardboard cutout of longtime incumbent William Galvin — said the Democrat is behind the times and has to embrace new technologies. He said secure computer terminals could be set up at local polling locations and even overseas to allow service members to vote without having to mail back paper ballots. “I envision every precinct across the commonwealth having a secure terminal, a secure kiosk where you can go in and vote electronically if you choose to,” D’Arcangelo said. “The technology is available. We need to embrace it. We need to come into 2014.”
Massachusetts voters will be able to cast their ballots early beginning in 2016, under a new law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday. “Whenever we have a law that expands access to the ballot and makes it easier for people to register and to vote, it makes our democracy better,” Patrick said moments after signing the law, surrounded by legislators and voting reform activists. The election reform law allows for early voting in biennial statewide elections, starting 11 business days before an election and ending two business days before Election Day. The law also establishes online voter registration and requires the Secretary of State’s office to develop a tool that lets voters check their registration status and their polling location online. The law allows 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, although they will not be allowed to cast a ballot until they turn 18.
Secretary of State William Galvin won’t say if he is ordering changes at the city’s 24 polling places on Tuesday to prevent a repeat of the “overall chaos” witnessed by an observer he sent to the Sept. 17 preliminary election. Among them, observer Ramon Trinidad reported seeing city poll workers pencil in the names of unregistered people to the voting list and then hand them ballots. Trinidad also said poll workers examined completed ballots and allowed candidates to walk around freely inside polling places. He said poll workers were sometimes hard to find while campaign workers were prolific, polling places were organized in a way that confused voters, machines that assist disabled voters were shut down and documents describing voters’ rights were not posted as required. “I believe that when a poll worker looks at a voter’s ballot for any reason, the voter loses trust in their expectation of the right to a secret ballot,” Trinidad said in his report, describing how poll workers took ballots from voters and examined them if scanners spit them back. “It can be considered a type of voter intimidation.”
During last week’s oral argument in Shelby County v. Holder – the challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – Chief Justice Roberts questioned the Solicitor General concerning the rationality of the VRA’s coverage formula (Section 4(b)) by comparing non-covered Massachusetts with Mississippi, which remains subject to federal preclearance based on registration and voting data from 1964. As the Chief Justice pointed out (page 32 of the transcript), Massachusetts has the “worst ratio of white voter turnout to African American voter turnout” while Mississippi “has the best.” Massachusetts likewise “has the greatest disparity in registration between white and African American” while Mississippi is third best in the nation, “where again the African American registration rate is higher than the white registration rate.” The Chief Justice’s remarks apparently angered the Massachusetts Secretary of State. According to a Politico story, Secretary William Galvin found it “just disturbing that the chief justice of the United States would spew this kind of misinformation” and that the “2010 numbers don’t support what Roberts is saying.” Galvin continued: “He’s wrong, and in fact what’s truly disturbing is not just the doctrinaire way he presented by the assertion, but when we went searching for an data that could substantiate what he was saying, the only thing we could find was a census survey pulled from 2010 … which speaks of noncitizen blacks … . We reached out to academics at many institutions … and they could find no record either, they were puzzled by [Roberts’s] reference.” But it’s Secretary Galvin who has his facts wrong—a mistake he could have avoided simply by reviewing the lower court decision that the Supreme Court is considering.
Massachusetts: Secretary of State Galvin challenges Chief Justice Roberts’ claim about voting | Boston.com
Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. certainly sounded authoritative when he made a striking, though unflattering, declaration about Massachusetts as the high court heard arguments over the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is designed to assure equal access across races to polling booths. “Do you know which state has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African-American voter turnout?” Roberts asked Donald Verrilli Jr., solicitor general for the Department of Justice, during Wednesday’s arguments. “I do not know that,” Verrilli answered. “Massachusetts,” Roberts responded, adding that even Mississippi has a narrower gap. Roberts later asked if Verrilli knew which state has the greatest disparity in registration. Again, Roberts said it was Massachusetts. The problem is, Roberts is woefully wrong on those points, according to Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who on Thursday branded Roberts’s assertion a slur and made a declaration of his own. “I’m calling him out,” Galvin said.
Massachusetts: Special election will cost Massachusetts at least $13.5 million, according to state officials | masslive.com
State officials say it is expected to cost Massachusetts at least $13.5 million to hold the special election to fill the U.S. Senate formerly held by Secretary of State John Kerry. State Auditor Suzanne Bump has estimated that it will cost cities and towns nearly $8.3 million to run the April 30 primary election and the June 25 final. The special election has been classified by the auditor’s office as an “unfunded local mandate,” meaning the state must reimburse local communities for the costs they incur.
A state lawmaker who agreed to plead guilty to casting invalid absentee ballots in elections in 2009 and 2010 has submitted his resignation letter. State Rep. Stephen Smith submitted the letter, dated Monday, to the state’s top election official, Secretary William Galvin. “I respectfully decline to accept this office,” Smith’s signed letter states, Galvin said Tuesday. A calendar has been prepared for a special election to fill the vacancy, with a primary in March and the election in April, Galvin said. Members of the state House will discuss the issue Wednesday, he said.
The state’s top election official says he’s asking federal prosecutors for more information about a lawmaker who agreed to plead guilty to casting invalid absentee ballots but he’s reluctant to recommend tightening access to the ballots. State Secretary William Galvin says he wants more details about the case of Rep. Stephen Smith before deciding if any other steps needs to be taken. Galvin said he’s most interested in finding out who might have helped Smith. “I’ve very interested in finding out if there was any kind of electoral misconduct,” Galvin said. “If I believe there is any involvement of any election officials, I’m going to take action.”