Report: Democracy For The People

Online Voter Registration in Massachusetts

Bay Staters have rapidly adopted online voter registration
Released by: MASSPIRG Education Fund

Bay Staters have rapidly adopted online voter registration

 

Signed into law in May of 2014 and first available in 2015, online voter registration (OVR) has now been in effect for four years. In an age where so much of our life is lived online for speed, convenience and accuracy, it seemed only logical that we should be able to register to vote online. Since Massachusetts OVR is a reform that MASSPIRG worked for, we wanted to see how it has fared.

A review of voter registration data shows that, since its introduction, Bay Staters have adopted OVR in large numbers. From 2016 to 2018, OVR was the most popular method for voter registration in Massachusetts, accounting for more than half of voter registration forms the

state received. The usage of OVR over these four years can be analyzed with the data gathered by the The National Conference of State Legislators, “Online Voter Registration “ U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC collects data from all 50 states, and

breaks down voter registration by the method used (in person, written, electronic, etc.). The data is gathered in two-year periods, from one federal election to the next.

Massachusetts registration data reveals that Massachusetts voters have rapidly adopted OVR. There were nearly 500,000 forms filed online in the first election cycle it was introduced, 2014-2016, and that number almost doubled to 957,662 in the most recent election cycle,

2016-2018. This means that nearly a third of all registration forms from 2014-2016, and more than half of registration forms from 2016-2018, were submitted online. By making the process of voter registration faster and more convenient, OVR has helped modernize

Massachusetts elections, but there is still room for improvement. Important election reforms are currently before our legislators in the State House, including a bill that would allow residents to register to vote up until, and on, election day. Such proposals could build off of

the improvements that OVR has made to our democracy.

Conclusion

Online voter registration is good for Massachusetts’ democracy. It makes registering to vote easier and more convenient, and has been rapidly adopted by Massachusetts voters since its launch in 2015. Still, there is room for improvement in our elections. Every year, there are

about half a million eligible voters who are not enrolled to vote. To help more Massachusetts residents register to vote, state policymakers should increase public education and outreach for OVR, and should implement new policies to modernize Massachusetts elections,

including election day registration.

In addition, policymakers should seek solutions to increase voter turnout. In some recent elections, 90 percent of those registered to vote did not turn out. Structural improvements, like no-excuse absentee voting, expanded early voting, and election day registration, must

continue to be made to ensure our democracy accessible to all.

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