Voting in Massachusetts

Charles Stewart III
Stephen Ansolabehere

Massachusetts avoided the most egregious shortcomings that dogged many other states in the 2000 presidential election. Perhaps for that reason, the Bay State has lagged behind most of the rest of the nation in reforming antiquated election practices and upgrading antiquated election technologies that confuse and frustrate voters. The result is tens of thousands of "lost votes" each statewide election--votes that could be recovered by adopting a range of sweeping and incremental reforms.

Facilitating the move to reform is the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which will supply much-needed funding to assist states, including Massachusetts, upgrading voting equipment. The HAVA also has requirements that will spur Massachusetts into adopting certain "best practices" in election reform, such as a comprehensive "provisional ballot" to handle cases in which a voter's registration is in question on Election Day.

The Florida debacle in 2000 focused attention on the failure of antiquated voting technologies in guarding the sanctity of the franchise. Just as important in protecting the quality of our voting rights, however, is maintaining an accurate voter registration system and staffing polling places so that voting occurs efficiently and within all provisions of the law. Massachusetts could greatly streamline its registration system and increase voter turnout by adopting Election Day Registration (EDR), at the same time it is replacing its most dated voting machines.

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