Some Signs We Need Early Voting in Massachusetts

Massachusetts voters were among the many who arrived to their polling places on Tuesday to find long lines. Those lines would no doubt be shorter if we had rules, as some other states do, that allowed people to vote before Tuesday itself. The measures have been enacted in places like Ohio to allow people who can’t make it to polls on a weekday because of work, childcare, or whatever else, to have their voice heard. Here are some signs (apart from the lines themselves) that people are ready for a similar effort in Massachusetts:

  1. President Obama shouted out to the problem in his victory speech. He thanked those voters who “waited in line for a very long time” then added as an aside, “By the way, we have to fix that.” This is primetime.
  2. People are finding ways to vote early as it is.’s Mike Plaisance had a good story out of Springfield where absentee voter requests rose from 2300 in 2008 to 3000 or so in 2012. In other towns too, absentee voting is on the rise. That’s not because more people meet the criteria for voting absentee — law requires that you be out of town, you have a religious reason you can’t vote on election day, or you be disabled. “Do all these people meet the threshold? The answer’s likely not,” state Sen. Michael R. Knapik says. It’s because it’s convenient to get your vote in on your time.
  3. One of the greatest obstacles is usually partisan opposition and, well, there’s not much of that here. Parties often fight about how to implement early voting because if done poorly, it can give greater opportunity to vote to communities that traditionally vote for one party or another. “Any expansion of voting times in the Bay State would have to allow for no political advantages — access must be substantially equal in every community, whether urban, suburban, or rural,” says the Globe in an editorial calling for early voting. “Thankfully, Massachusetts has been free of the partisan football that goes on in some other states over voting rules.” Okay, so what’s stopping us?
  4. This.