As lawmakers weigh passing an automatic voting registration bill, they’d be wise to digest the recent ruling by the state’s highest court, which upheld Massachusetts’ law that requires citizens to join the voting rolls at least 20 days before Election Day.
The Supreme Judicial Court found that the 1993 statute does not violate the state constitution, as the plaintiffs in this case — the ACLU of Massachusetts, Chelsea Collaborative and MassVOTE — contend. The suit stems from efforts by these groups to allow voters to circumvent that law in order to vote in the 2016 state and presidential elections.
Passing an automatic voting sign-up law won’t solve the commonwealth’s scandalous lack of voter participation. It will just increase that sorry statistic by adding voters who apparently couldn’t be bothered to register previously. Had they cared, they could have easily done so in person or online via the secretary of state’s website.
That’s essentially the same reasoning the justices employed in siding with the 20-day status quo in this case.
To paraphrase, the SJC’s opinion stated that anyone who took the time to inquire about the state’s voting regulations would have known about that 20-day rule.
But since personal responsibility no longer seems to be in vogue, some believe we need laws that place the responsibility for citizenship squarely on the state.
While the justices did note that lawmakers could revisit this issue and revise that 20-day period, at least for now, that’s not the prevailing judicial opinion.