Automatic Voter Registration Now Law in Massachusetts

August 9, 2018

Boston, MA – Massachusetts’ Republican governor signed a bill today to bring automatic voter registration to the Bay State. The reform — which recently passed the state’s Democratic legislature with bipartisan support — streamlines the voter registration process, increases the accuracy of voter rolls, and boosts voter participation. With Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature, Massachusetts joins Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington, which have also passed AVR bills since 2017.

“Today continues an incredible three-year run of success for AVR,” said Jonathan Brater, Counsel with the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The diverse group of organizations and supporters that formed around AVR in Massachusetts points to even more success in the years ahead.”

“We are thrilled that Massachusetts is joining the list of states to adopt automatic voter registration,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “Voting will be more accessible and more secure, which benefits voters, election officials, and democracy as a whole.”

Oregon, California, Vermont, West Virginia, Alaska, Colorado, and Georgia, along with Washington, D.C., have adopted AVR in the last three years. Under AVR, individuals are registered to vote when they interact with certain government agencies like a state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, unless they decline to be registered. The bill takes effect before the 2020 election and passed both houses of the legislature with broad support, including a unanimous vote in the Senate. It was introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and the late Rep. Peter Kocot.

Massachusetts will have automatic voter registration at the state Registry of Motor Vehicles as well as state healthcare agencies within the MassHealth program. Individuals who visit these agencies and are eligible to vote will be registered unless they decline. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law has long supported efforts to get this bill passed. In November 2016, the Brennan Center co-hosted a conference at Suffolk University with Common Cause at Suffolk University in Boston.

A wide range of groups worked to together to support the bill, including the Election Modernization Coalition, led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters or Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, ACLU of Massachusetts, and Progressive Massachusetts. Secretary of State Bill Galvin also supported the legislation.

For more information or to connect with an expert at the Brennan Center, contact Stephen Fee at stephen.fee@nyu.edu.