Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed automatic voter registration into law, but the new system won’t take effect until 2020. That means the initiative is still on Bay State residents to make sure they’re registered in this year’s elections. And for those planning to participate in next month’s state primaries, the deadline is this week.
Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office is reminding voters that they have until Wednesday to register or to change their party registration ahead of the Sept. 4 state primary elections, which include two-way races on both Republican and Democratic sides of the gubernatorial election as well as contested congressional primaries in the 1st, 3rd, and 7th districts.
Unlike some states, Massachusetts does not have same-day voter registration and residents must register 20 days prior to an election in order to be eligible to cast their ballot. Voters can find out if they’re already registered to vote by entering their name, date of birth, and zip code on Galvin’s website or by calling their local election official.
Voters already registered in one of the state’s three recognized political parties – Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian – are only allowed to vote in their own party’s primary. To vote in a different party primary, voters must unenroll from their party by the August 15 deadline.
Unenrolled or “independent” voters can choose which party’s primary to vote in when they arrive at their polling place on election day, while still maintaining their independent status.
For those who aren’t already registered to vote, there are several ways to fix that.
Voting-age citizens with identification issued by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, such as a driver’s license, can register by entering their information online.
However, those who don’t have an RMV-issued ID must either mail in their registration form or register in person at their local election office. Mail-in forms must be postmarked by Wednesday. City and town election offices will also be open until 8 p.m. Wednesday for voters to register in person.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, Massachusetts will begin automatically registering residents to vote through their transactions with the RMV and MassHealth. Under the new law, residents will have to opt out if they do not want to be registered.
With Baker’s signature last week, Massachusetts became the 14th state in the country with automatic voter registration.