Advisory: Massachusetts’ VOTES Act sets example for expanded voting rights

Media Contacts

BOSTON — After the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decisions this past month, court-watchers are looking ahead to the next session — especially a case that could dramatically change elections in every U.S. state. The case from North Carolina, Moore v. Harper, could give state legislatures the authority to set rules for federal elections. 

But while some states are cutting back — or seeking to cut back — on individual voting rights, others, including Massachusetts, are expanding them. The new VOTES Act, signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker on June 22, will permanently change several of Massachusetts’ election laws.

“There are so many problems which seem intractable in our state and our country at this moment, maybe the most pressing being the sense that our voices and our votes are in question,” said Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG. “That’s why this new law should give us hope—that there is the will to take down barriers to voting and bring everyone into the civic square.”

Moving forward, among other new policies, in the Bay State:

  • residents can vote by mail without an excuse

  • voters will have expanded early voting options

  • the voter registration deadline prior to an election will be 10 days rather than 20 

  • eligible incarcerated voters can request a mail ballot and vote

  • the Commonwealth will join the 30-state Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to keep voter registration rolls up-to-date 

The VOTES Act, sponsored by state Rep. John Lawn and state Sen. Cindy Creem, was a top priority of the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition, a coalition of advocacy organizations including MASSPIRG, Common Cause Massachusetts, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, ACLU of Massachusetts, MassVOTE, and the Massachusetts Voter Table, working to modernize the Commonwealth’s election laws. 

The Election Modernization Coalition, lawmakers and other advocates for the VOTES Act will hold a press availability/photo op with signs and a copy of the bill at Ashburton Park outside the Massachusetts State House (if raining, Grand Staircase) at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday 7/6. 

Janet and her coalition partners will be available to discuss the VOTES Act and other voting rights issues. If you are not based near Boston and can not attend, please feel to contact Janet directly at  [email protected] for any voting rights-related stories.