Massachusetts Senate Passes Landmark Bill Expanding Voting Access

UPDATE: On June 22, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed the VOTES Act into law. Same-day voter registration was removed by the state House in January, and did not make it into the final bill after the legislation went through a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Oct. 6, the Massachusetts Senate passed an election reform bill, Senate Bill 2545, known as the VOTES Act, which takes multiple steps to expand voter access. S.2545 codifies popular reforms that increased voting opportunities during the 2020 election, such as no-excuse mail-in voting and expanded early voting periods. S.2545 adopts same-day registration, joining 20 states already implementing this practice. S.2545 includes jail-based voting provisions, adding requirements to ensure that eligible, incarcerated voters (those serving misdemeanor convictions or being held pre-trial) have meaningful access to the ballot. The state Senate adopted even clearer guidelines for voting in jails by passing an amendment filed by state Sen. Adam Hinds (D). 

The bill also requires Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin (D) to join the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), improve his office’s online application portal and streamline some aspects of the automatic voter registration process, a reform adopted in 2018. “By passing this landmark bill into law, Massachusetts can show the rest of the country that democracy works best when we empower ALL eligible citizens to vote,” wrote state Sen. Cynthia Creem (D), an author of the bill.

The bill passed on a 36-3 party-line vote in the state Senate and now heads to the state House, which also has a Democratic supermajority. If approved by the House, S.2545 will go to the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker (R) to be signed into law. Baker has indicated his approval of vote by mail and other pandemic-era reforms, but opposes same-day registration. However, the Democratic-controlled Legislature can comfortably override any gubernatorial veto. 

Read S.2545 here.