by Lily Bohlke, Commonwealth News Service
Despite an attempt by some members of the Massachusetts GOP to block a new voting bill, good-government groups are raising awareness about the new options voters will have this election cycle.
The VOTES Act, signed into law and upheld by the courts, makes early in-person voting and no-excuse vote-by-mail permanent. The options were used in 2020 because of the pandemic, but ever since, groups have been calling to keep them, since they boosted voter participation to unprecedented levels.
Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, noted because the law was passed and signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker with an emergency preamble, it goes into effect immediately.
“We saw the majority of voters cast their ballot during the pandemic, by mail, there were over one and a half million ballots cast by mail, and it went very smoothly,” Foster pointed out. “We’re really, really excited about those provisions being made permanent here.”
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the law Monday after Massachusetts Republicans filed a lawsuit alleging early voting and no-excuse vote-by-mail lead to voter fraud. But evidence from 2020, when most states allowed both of those options, show they are safe and secure.
Every 10 years after the census, the most recent in 2020, voting district maps are redrawn to reflect changes in the population. Foster added it is important to make sure you know what district you are in, since each district has its own set of candidates.
“Folks may find that they were redistricted into a new state representative or state senator district,” Foster cautioned. “Folks should definitely go online on the state website, enter in their address to see who’s going to be on their ballot this fall.”
The bill also makes improvements to jail-based voting, and automatic voter registration to make it easier to update your information at the RMV. It also enrolls Massachusetts in a national nonprofit for maintaining voter lists, the Election Registration Information Center.
While the Senate wanted to include Election-Day registration in the bill, the House did not, so they compromised by moving the registration cutoff from 20 days before the election to 10 days.