Massachusetts lawmakers proposed an amendment on Wednesday that would give residents 10 additional days to vote before a scheduled election.
Currently, voters who are unable to participate in a scheduled election are able to request ballots, but must give a reason for why they are doing so. With the proposed amendment, residents would no longer need to provide a reason for why they may need to vote on a date earlier than Election Day.
Michael Tolley, political science professor at Northeastern University, said the amendment is sensible reform because early voting leads to turnout increase and shorter lines.
“Massachusetts joins the 30 or so states that have already given voters the opportunity to vote on the Saturday before if that is more convenient than voting on Election Day,” he said. “I predict that the [residents] of Massachusetts would be more inclined to adopt measures that improve voter turnout than some other states that are moving toward voter IDs and other barriers to voting.”
In order to pass, lawmakers must approve the amendment in the current session of the Legislature as well as the next session in 2015. Residents of Massachusetts will be able to vote early beginning in 2020, as long as the amendment continues to move forward and is ratified by the Commonwealth’s voters.
Mass. Sen. Sal DiDomenico said he supports the amendment.
“I think it’s a good amendment,” he said, “It encourages people to vote and get involved in the legislative process and I definitely support getting more people engaged in the process.”
Northeastern University political science professor Michael Dukakis, who is also former governor of Massachusetts and ran for U.S. President in 1988, said the amendment has been successful in other states.
“It has worked well in the states that already have it and has made it possible for a lot of people to vote who had difficulty doing so because of their work schedules and other responsibilities,” he said.
Dukakis said there are no disadvantages to the amendment and he believes it will encourage larger voter turnouts, especially among people who have not registered or have not voted often.
“If 2012 is any indication of what is likely to happen, we will have larger turnouts,” he said. “Of course, that puts a premium on candidates and parties’ actively organizing at the precinct level, encouraging people to register and vote early and helping them get to the early polling locations.”
Some residents said they were supportive of the proposed amendment.
Sharon Bazarian, 56, resident of the South End, said there are many advantages to the amendment.
“I see no disadvantages,” she said. “I think people are so busy, so it’s a good thing. It gives them the opportunity to vote, and … it encourages them to vote.”
Carol Thompson, resident of Brighton, said she was worried about voting fraud.
“There would definitely have to be strong security around it so that people couldn’t get more than one ballot, like barcode scans or something,” she said. “That would probably cost more money, [but] anything that can cut down on the voting station congestion is a smart, workable idea.”
Alan Trautmann, 57, resident of Dorchester, said although the amendment will not affect him, he believes it will make it easier for many people.
“I wouldn’t say that it would change things, unless it would make voting lines shorter and the whole process easier,” he said. “Where I vote in Dorchester, I never have to wait in line, so it’s never been a big problem. It’s been actually really easy in every election I’ve ever voted in.”