Massachusetts has launched a new voter registration system. People can now go online to sign up to vote, change their address for voting purposes, and switch party affiliation.
Massachusetts is the 21st state to offer online voter registration, a system Secretary of State William Galvin, the state’s top election official, said will remove one more administrative impediment to registering to vote.
The new system is available now to help people register for the first time, and allow people who have moved since the last general election to update their voter registration information. The website connects with the Registry of Motor Vehicles to verify the new voter’s information. If the person does not have a driver’s license they are directed to use a mail-in voter registration form.
Online voter registration is one in a series of election law changes approved by the state legislature last year that include early voting, allowing 16-and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and provide postelection audits of randomly selected polling places to assure the accuracy of voting machines.
" We should be ahead of the curve and not woefully behind like we have been," said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. She said voting rights groups pushed for years to make changes in the state’s election laws, before finally getting a bill through the legislature in 2014.
The changes are being implemented now in advance of the next presidential election. The Massachusetts primary is scheduled for March 1st.
Beginning with the 2016 election Massachusetts will join 32 other states that allow early voting. Voters will be able to cast ballots at city and town halls, or other designated places, up to 11 days before Election Day. Wilmot said this will take the strain off polling places during high turnout elections.
"There were huge lines in the last presidential election. Some voters waited up to 3 hours in Boston. Springfield had some two-hour lines. That is just unacceptable," said Wilmot. " I think this legislation will help that problem and many others."
Springfield Election Commissioner Gladys Oyola says the Massachusetts voting laws badly needed to catch up with what other states have been doing.
"As far as running the elections, I don't think there will be any challenges," she said.
The cost to implement the changes is expected to be low. Galvin’s office said the online voter registration website was mostly created in-house.
Reducing the number of paper voter registration applications should save the state money.