More democracy now

By EDITORIAL  |  April 2, 2008

Those scenarios have not occurred in states that have tried same-day registration, and the current Massachusetts legislation includes sufficient steps to ensure not only that people vote only once, but vote only where they legitimately reside. Those steps, naturally, add to some election officials’ concerns that the process will overburden their already understaffed teams. Galvin’s approval suggests that a proper balance has been found.

Ideally, we would like to see same-day registration enacted as part of more comprehensive reform. Weekend elections would make it easier for working people to make it to the polls. It is unconscionable that in 2004, with the presidency at stake, Ohio voters up and down the queues were calling friends and co-workers to warn them not to bother trying to vote during their one-hour breaks, as observers described to the Phoenix.

Massachusetts could reschedule its state and local elections to weekends — we applaud Boston City Councilor John Tobin, who plans to propose Saturday voting at the municipal level — but presidential elections are beyond its scope. Even so, the state could implement other measures to make it easier to vote, such as expansion of early and absentee balloting.

And finally, like most other states, Massachusetts badly needs to improve the protocols for managing its voter databases, which are overseen in patchwork manner from town to town. A study of those voter rolls (examining the reliance on them to find jurors in Massachusetts federal court) found them wildly inconsistent with reality, particularly in urban areas. Bad voter rolls help explain why a quarter of those who cast Massachusetts provisional ballots in 2004 — whose names were not on the rolls in their polling place — were later verified as properly registered voters, trying to vote in their proper precincts.

All those reforms, and perhaps others, would be welcome, though some would require the more complicated process of amending the oldest functioning Constitution on Earth — written, as you are doubtless aware, by John Adams.

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