BOSTON — Next Tuesday, Massachusetts voters get their chance to weigh in on the presidential election, but that’s only if they registered to vote several weeks ago.
Meanwhile, 21 states currently allow voters to register on Election Day.
“We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to vote,” said State Senator Barry Finegold (D-Andover). He’s sponsored a bill to bring same-day (or election-day) registration to Massachusetts.
This would allow otherwise eligible voters to bring their paperwork to a polling spot, register to vote, and cast a ballot on the same day.
In order for a Massachusetts resident to vote in the March 3 presidential primary, they would have had to register by Feb. 20.
“I think it’s just good for society to have more people engaged in the process,” added Finegold.
New Hampshire is one of 21 states that currently allow same-day registration.
“It only took maybe 10 minutes to do,” said Wendy Carlstrom, who used same-day registration back in 2018. “I mean, knowing that that the option is there, it makes it so that I would vote because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have.”
A study by the non-partisan U.S Government Accountability office found same-day registration could increase voter turnout by 4 to 8 percent.
“The people who use same-day registration aren’t registered, and the people who aren’t registered are disproportionately low and middle income," explained Erin O’Brien, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Critics worry about voter fraud and people turning up multiple times or using false names. O’Brien says those in-person fraud concerns pale in comparison to the threat of international hacking.
“Hordes of people with fake IDs, they’re showing up at the bars," she said. "They’re not showing up at the voting booth.”
Finegold believes millennials would also be more likely to vote if the state had a same-day option.
“They want everything now, and they don’t want to have to take two or three steps," he said.
The bill is currently being considered by the Election Laws committee on Beacon Hill.
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