Policy

Massachusetts House of Representatives Passes Automatic Voter Registration Bill

If the legislation becomes law, eligible residents would be added to the state's voter database when they renew their driver's licenses at the RMV or apply for health care through MassHealth.


Boston Massachusetts State House Capitol Beacon Hill bright sunny day and blue sky with flag

Your reward for waiting in line at the RMV may soon get a whole lot bigger.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed an automatic voter registration bill, and if it’s signed into law, it will be much simpler to get a ballot in the Bay State.

Under the new legislation, eligible residents would be added to Massachusetts’ voter database as soon as they update their driver’s licenses at the RMV or apply for medical care through the state’s MassHealth program. Those who don’t want to vote will still be able to opt out, but the default option will be to register voters.

There are roughly 680,000 people in the Bay State who are eligible to cast a ballot but who aren’t registered, according to Common Cause Massachusetts. And though a record 75 percent of Bay State voters participated in the 2016 election, automatic voter registration could increase turnout by another 5 percent, Rep. John Mahoney, told MassLive.

“We should be encouraging everyone to register to vote, to participate in our electoral process,” Rep. Jay Livingstone, a Boston Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, told MassLive. “Automatic voter registration just makes it easier for them to register to vote, and hopefully that will increase citizen participation in our elections.”

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia already have some form of automatic voter registration on the books. The policy is lauded by supporters as a measure to increase electoral accuracy, efficiency, and inclusivity.

“This bill will make elections more accurate, more secure, and more participatory,” Pam Wilmot, the executive director of Common Cause of Massachusetts, told WBUR. “It involves more people in politics and being able to hold their government accountable, and that’s a win for everyone.”

If the bill is signed into law, it would go into effect on January 1, 2020, ahead of the next presidential election.