Baker cites “complexity” in opposing same-day voter registration

Boston Statehouse

(Nexstar DC photo)

BOSTON (SHNS) – While senators prepare to debate an elections reform bill that will likely allow prospective voters to register and cast a ballot on the same day, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday he opposes the process in part because of “the complexity associated with it.”

Baker said in a radio interview that he is concerned the practice of same-day registration would add too much work for elections officials to manage while overseeing polling places and tabulating ballots. “We have lots and lots of opportunities for people to register right up until Election Day and a lot of processes that are pretty easy to use to get there,” the Republican governor told GBH’s “Boston Public Radio.” “But I want municipalities and the commonwealth on Election Day to focus on one thing and one thing only, which is counting the votes.”

Under current law, the deadline to register to vote falls 20 days before any election or regular town meeting and 10 days before any special town meeting. Since 2020, Massachusetts residents eligible to vote have been automatically registered while conducting several types of routine Registry of Motor Vehicles, MassHealth and Commonwealth Health Connector transactions unless they opt out.

Voting rights advocates say that allowing residents to register and cast a ballot on the same day will improve engagement, particularly among those who move residences frequently. Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat who serves as the state’s chief elections official, also filed his own bill authorizing Election Day registration.

Senate leaders have said they plan to take up an elections bill in “early fall,” and while legislative leaders have not said exactly what reforms they will pursue, the Election Laws Committee advanced legislation in July (S 459) that would make no-excuse mail-in voting a permanent option in all elections and legalize same-day voter registration.

Twenty other states and Washington, D.C. have implemented same-day voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. “There’s no complexity about it: Not implementing same-day registration disproportionately impacts Black + Latinx voter turnout,” Ben Downing, a Democrat running for governor, tweeted Thursday.

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