New bill proposes to automatically register all eligible voters in Massachusetts

As Americans, it's our right to vote, but each citizen must register to vote at least 20 days prior to an election.

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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – As Americans, it is our right and privilege to vote, but it’s not a given. Each citizen must register to vote at least 20 days prior to an election. State lawmakers are hoping to make that easier. A new bill proposes to automatically register each eligible Massachusetts citizen to vote.

Pamela Wilmot, the executive director of the good government group Common Cause Massachusetts, said about 700,000 people in Massachusetts are eligible to vote, but they are not registered voters. That means about four times the size of Springfield’s population and 17 times the size of Holyoke’s population would not be able to vote if Election Day were tomorrow.

However, some voters pointed to recent statistics showing relatively low voter turnout, even among registered voters. “It seems like it is pretty easy now, and I think if people are still registered I still don’t think they vote. It seems like they’re doing everything possible to get people registered and the numbers aren’t coming up,” said Kenny Martin, a West Springfield voter.

A presidential election year, like this one, does see a higher voter turnout than other years. In this year, Massachusetts voters will have more ways to cast their ballots for the general election in November.

“Back in 2014, the state passed a bill for early voting, so 11 days leading up to the general election, we’re going to be setting up in remote locations. Residents can come into City Hall to vote leading up to the election,” said Holyoke City Clerk Brenna Murphy McGee.

Supporters of the automatic registration bill say it would remove a barrier for low income families to vote. The bill would allow residents to opt-out, if they don’t want to vote.

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