BOSTON (AP) — Advocates are pressing House lawmakers to include in a voting rights bill up for debate Thursday a provision that would let voters register and cast ballots on the same day.
The House bill aims to write into Massachusetts law a series of early voting options that were temporarily adopted during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation would allow for the broad use of voting by mail and expand in-person early voting options. Communities would be required to allow early voting during business hours and all weekends during the early-voting period.
The bill would also mandate that the incarcerated be informed about their voting rights.
Amendments that would add same-day registration to the legislation are up for consideration when the House debates the bill.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley is among those calling for the House to allow same-day voter registration even as she praised lawmakers for moving forward with the other changes.
“Same-day registration is critical to boosting voter turnout, especially among Black, brown, low-income, and immigrant communities, and arbitrary voter registration deadlines should not be a barrier to exercising the right to vote,” Pressley said in a press release.
Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, whose office oversees elections, also supports the change.
Critics of the proposed changes have argued that the state should instead return to pre-pandemic voting rules with an emphasis on in-person voting.
Among those critics has been House Speaker Ron Mariano, who indicated as recently as Monday that he was still opposed to the idea, although he said, “I’ll listen to the debate and see if it changes my mind,” according to Commonwealth Magazine.
A voting rights bill approved by the Massachusetts Senate last year included a change allowing same-day registration.
The Senate bill would let individuals register to vote during early voting periods or on the day of a primary or election. Supporters said the change would bring Massachusetts in line with at least 20 other states and the District of Columbia that already allow same-day registration.
To expand in-person voting, the Senate bill would require two weeks — including two weekends — of early in-person voting for biennial state elections and any municipal elections held on the same day. It would allow one week — including one weekend — of early in-person voting for a presidential or state primary and any municipal elections held on the same day.
Under the Senate bill cities and towns would also be allowed to opt-in to early voting in person for any local election not held with another election.