Making it Easier to Vote
The Massachusetts Senate passed updates to the state’s election laws this week. The bill includes online voter registration, early voting, pre-registration for teens, and election day registration.

When I moved into my new suburban lifestyle last year (2012, technically) I had to update my license. I renewed it at the Natick RMV*** on the Mass Pike. I also needed to register to vote. On top of that I had a bunch of other "just moved" errands to do that day so I decided to take the day off (note that for later) and get everything done. I thought I was going to have to go to town hall but, lo and behold, the clerk asked me if my wife and I needed to register to vote.

I can thank the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 for that pleasantry.
The legislation required state governments to allow for registration when a qualifying voter applied for or renewed their driver's license or applied for social services.
At the time I had a lot of vacation saved up so it - wait, let’s step back for a second. I had (still have) a job that has generous vacation day benefits and I had saved a lot of vacation days, so it wasn’t a burden to make two stops. There are plenty of jobs that don’t afford that benefit. I’m sure most people would make the extra effort to register to vote, but you can see how it would deter some. There’s no reason to make it hard though, and it’s quite easy to make it convenient. In fact, it turned out that I registered too late to be able to vote in the Democratic primary for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat. While I was happy with the ease at which I registered I, like others, wondered why I still shouldn’t have been able to vote. The addition of same-day registration to Massachusetts election law Massachusetts would have allowed me to vote that day.

The "Motor Voter Act", as it is sometimes called, and the recent changes in Massachusetts are examples of laws designed to make it easy to register to vote and vote. Those are in stark contrast to laws Republicans across the country have been proposing and enacting that make it harder to vote. Disturbingly you see it a lot in major swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For example, it's estimated that thousands of people were deterred from voting in Florida because of long lines in 2012. Coincidentally, in 2011, Florida reduced early voting from 14 days to 8 days.

Don’t mistake these laws for misguided attempts to stop vote fraud. Vote fraud happens at a statistically insignificant rate, meaning there's little need for these laws. I'll say it again: vote fraud is a myth, These laws are blatant attempts to keep people from voting under the guise of stopping something that doesn't exist.



*** I must have some sort of good luck, because I have very few problems at government offices. Maybe it’s because I pay most of my bills online so I don’t go as often as most people, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad experience at a post office, certainly not the one back in Coolidge Corner. The people at the Social Security Administration in Boston were lovely. I think I had one bad experience with a complete moron at the RMV in Boston, but every other time I’ve gone it’s been pleasant. I almost didn’t have to go to the office, but I had to take an eye test (in the loosest definition of the word). My only complaint would be that they didn’t tell me I needed to update my picture, so I came in looking like a bag of crap.
 
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