Currently, MA voters must register twenty days before an election in order to participate. Removing this barrier, and allowing eligible voters to register up to, and on, election day would allow more Massachusetts voters to make their voices heard – a critical aspect of a healthy democracy. Currently, twenty-two states allow SDR in some form. In those states, voter turnout has increased considerably. Demos, a non-partisan public policy organization found in a 2009 survey that implementing SDR created “minimal” costs, as legislators merely reallocated existing resources, and actually reduced the need for provisional ballots – saving the time and expense of processing those ballots. Voters registering on election day would still be required to provide proof of identity and proof of residence, making the process of registration no different from that of the current process.
Representative democracy is stronger when more constituents participate in elections, and turnout is highest when participation is made easy. Massachusetts participation rates in the most recent elections indicate it was a success – which stems largely from the emergency acts smartly passed by the Legislature in response to COVID-19 (see St.2020 c.115 and St.2020 c.255). Among the temporary changes made to our election systems was a relaxing of vote-by-mail (absentee ballot) restrictions, allowing individuals from across the state to vote early and by absentee ballot. 42% of registered voters in the Commonwealth took advantage of the relatively easy means to vote and would likely do so again if given the opportunity. Massachusetts should retain these improved voting mechanisms.
We urge the elected officials of Massachusetts to reinstitute public funding for the elections of qualifying state legislators. Under Common Cause’s citizen-funded election proposal, candidates who meet small donor and fundraising benchmarks will receive matching public funding. This additional funding will allow individuals without large coffers and wealthy private backers to run competitive campaigns. The people of Massachusetts deserve legislators who spend less time fundraising and spend more time talking to their constituents and passing laws on their behalf. Publicly financed elections level the playing field, allowing for broader participation in public office, and ultimately lead to laws that better reflect the policy preferences of voters.