UPDATE: Massachusetts working toward positive electoral reforms

UPDATE: While H 4139 has not moved since it got to the Senate, there is some good news on another front: a short-term agreement has been reached in a lawsuit alleging that Massachusetts violated the National Voter Registration Act. 478,000 public assistance recipients will now receive voter registration forms. Should the state and plaintiffs fail to reach a long-term solution, litigation will resume on December 31, 2012.

An election modernization bill (H 4139) intended to "strengthen vote-counting and voter registration processes" has passed the Massachusetts House, in stark contrast with attacks on voting rights dominating the news in many other states.

Under H 4139, 16- and 17-year-olds would be permitted to pre-register to vote upon getting a driver’s license, and come their 18th birthday their names would be automatically added to the voter list. Registration regulations would also be amended to permit voters to fill out an electronic registration form that they could then print, sign, and mail in.

If enacted, it would mark the first time in 20 years that lawmakers amended the state’s voting system. Massachusetts would join only a handful of other states in making a meaningful attempt to increase the number of young voters.

Representative Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Chair, Joint Committee on Election Laws:

The bill is an example of common sense reforms that will keep our Commonwealth as one of the leaders in demonstrating a forward thinking electoral process.

Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst):

If you start voting at an early age, you keep voting. If you don't start voting, you realize that you don't have to vote and you may not acquire the habit.

Avi Green, Co-Director of MassVOTE:

Pre-registration will help 20,000 teens get ready to vote every year. The online PDF of the voter registration form will make registering more convenient for everyone. Together, these reforms mark the biggest step forward to modernize elections since the Motor Voter law was implemented in 1994.

H 4139 now goes to the Senate.

PFAW Foundation