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Democracy Modernization Acts

In a time where there are those who wish to undermine our democratic institutions, we're championing legislation that preserves and strengthens our democracy. 

Primary Reform

HD788; SD1951: An Act to extend early voting for all elections

 

Representatives Vargas/Livingstone; Senator Chandler

Implements early voting in the primaries. This provision allows greater access and ease in primary voting for Massachusetts residents. In 2016, 30% of the general election votes were cast during early voting. In 2018, primary turnout exceeded 1 million voters in the 2018 primary—far higher than the expected 700,000. Expanding early voting will allow those who are keyed into the primary races greater access to the ballot, especially given recent scheduling issues with the primary and Jewish high holidays/Labor Day.


Allows registered 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 for the general election. This section will allow 17-year-olds to pick who will be on their final ballot when they cast their first vote as fully enfranchised adults. Under our current system, this provision is most applicable to those youth who have birthdays in late September or October. Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont all currently allow this practice.

EMPOWER Act

HD1132; SD1949: An Act ensuring municipal participation of the widest eligible range

Representatives Vargas/Fernandes; Senator Chandler

Creates an opt-in system for cities and towns that want to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections. Currently, municipalities must pass voting age changes through their locally elected legislative bodies and send a home rule petition to the State House. Instead, we want to flip this process on its head. This bill would allow cities and towns to opt in to a system allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in municipal elections only. Implementation would require local approval. Engagement in municipal elections can create early (key) buy in for later voting habits, and local adoption of the measure will require youth to advocate for their own enfranchisement--another opportunity for civic engagement. The language includes 16- and 17- year olds so all high schoolers see at least one opportunity to vote before graduation.

Ranked Choice Voting

HD815; SD768: An Act relative to ranked choice voting.

Representatives Vargas/Madaro; Senator Lewis

  • Implements rank choice voting for all federal and state elections. This legislation (“RCV State and Federal Bill”) would enact Ranked Choice Voting for every non-presidential federal and state contest in Massachusetts in both primaries and general elections. Ballots would be upgraded to allow voters to rank candidates in their order of choice -- 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on. Voters could rank as many or as few candidates as they prefer. The winner would be determined by first counting all voters’ 1st choices. If no candidate has a majority of first choice votes, an instant runoff process begins, eliminating the lowest vote-getter. The process is repeated until a candidate has a majority. RCV would go into effect for the September 2022 state primary.

Same Day Voter Registration

HD3068; SD1695: An Act relative to election day voter registration.

Representatives Malia/Vargas; Senator Creem

  • Implements same day voter registration. This measure allows voters to register on election day, making sure that deadlines to register don’t impede folks from ballot access. 17 states already offer this.

Supporting working parents who choose to run for public office.

HD530; SD304: An Act supporting working parents who choose to run for public office.

 

Representatives Meschino/Connolly; Senator Jehlen

  • Allows for child care to be written off as a campaign expense. Childcare is essential for parents running for office, but the cost of childcare remains a barrier to many mothers and fathers, creating a candidate pool that does not adequately represent the people of the Commonwealth. This bill would allow parents running for public office to expend campaign funds for childcare.

Access to the ballot for active duty service members

HD3278: An Act assisting active military voters by promoting mobile phone voting.

 

(Representative Vargas; Senator Chandler)

  • Pilots mobile phone voting for electronic absentee balloting for deployed service members. Taking a nod from the most recent statewide election in West Virginia, this measure urges the Secretary of State’s office to implement mobile absentee balloting for active duty servicemembers. Based on existing statute, this is already possible, but we can pass legislation to direct the Secretary to implement this measure. Voatz, the company that piloted this project in WV, is a Boston based company that uses blockchain technology, government-issued identification, and facial recognition software. 

Ensuring the integrity of the vote

HD3290; SD 1945: An Act relating to post election audits.

 

Representative Vargas; Senator Chandler

  • Increase the depth and frequency of election audits in Massachusetts. To ensure shorter wait times, more accurate use of technology, and integrity in our voting machines, this bill pushes for more mandatory auditing by the Secretary of State’s office.

Demystifying ballot questions

HD3087; SD1474: An Act to create a citizens' initiative review commission. 

 

Representatives Hecht/Hill; Senator Lewis

  • Creates a panel of randomly-selected Massachusetts citizens to study the content of proposed ballot questions. Citizens’ Initiative Review seeks to address the confusion and misinformation that often surround ballot questions. It puts voters back in control by providing them clear, trustworthy information prepared by their fellow voters. Under CIR, a citizen panel representative of the overall voter population conducts in-depth deliberations on a ballot question and issues a one-page Citizens’ Statement outlining the key facts and arguments on both sides. CIR has been successfully piloted twice in Massachusetts -- in 2016 on the marijuana legalization question and again in 2018 on nurse safe staffing. Independent evaluations of the two pilots, including their impact on voters, can be found at www.cirmass.org. This bill would institutionalize CIR as part of our biennial electoral process and require publication of the Citizens' Statement in the red voter guide.