The following is an opinion piece from State Senator Katherine Clark:
Free and fair elections are a hallmark of American democracy. And ensuring the integrity of elections means continually examining ways to improve confidence in our system, increase efficiency, and facilitate the process of voting.
Last month the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a package of important election law reforms. I am working with my colleagues to get this done before the end of our current legislative session.
This election reform bill contains several provisions to improve the integrity of our system and facilitate voter registration.
First, it would require periodic post-election audits to help ensure that votes are properly counted. These audits would take the form of a hand-count audit of election results in 3% of Massachusetts precincts following each state and federal election. This would help to ensure that electronic voting machines are working correctly and improve confidence in our voting procedures. Twenty-six other states already conduct such audits, and Massachusetts should do the same.
In addition, the bill allows for pre-registration among 16 and 17 year-olds. Young Massachusetts residents could pre-register to vote when they get their drivers license, with their registration becoming active on their 18th birthday. As has been shown in other states, pre-registration can increase the number of young people who will actually vote when they turn 18 because they are already in the system.
The bill contains another important provision to improve the process of registering to vote: the introduction of downloadable voter registration forms online. These forms would still require individuals to fill them out, print them, sign them, and send them in. This change would simply allow the blank forms to be available, via a pdf file, online. In addition to facilitating the process by making the forms more widely and easily available, it would also reducing the number of forms the state would need to print each year.
This reform package also would require annual training of local election officers by the Secretary of State’s office to help keep them up-to-date and informed. And it would establish a task force to make recommendations on implementation, which would include local election officials from Massachusetts cities and towns, as well as representatives of the Secretary of State, the legislature, and several voting rights organizations.
Together these reforms represent a common-sense way to update our election laws, improve the public’s confidence in our system, and encourage more people to register to vote.