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Boston Herald: Election activists push for auto registration

This article originally appeared in The Boston Herald.

Associated Press

The lackluster turnout in some municipal elections last week has energized advocates hoping to make it easier for people to register to vote.

The activists want state lawmakers to adopt something known as automatic voter registration — a system that automatically updates voters’ information whenever they alert one of several state agencies of a change of address or other pertinent change in their status.

The agencies include the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Department of Revenue, MassHealth, the Department of Higher Education and all public institutions of higher education.

The bill would also let voters waive those updates if they want.

Among the groups backing the change is the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

League Executive Director Meryl Kessler called automatic voter registration “the next logical step in the modernization of the electoral process” in the Bay State.

She said the change would improve the accuracy of voter rolls, create a more reliable voting system, help control the cost of voter registration and improve the voting process on Election Day.

Supporters said the new system could also help encourage more voters — including the nearly 700,000 eligible citizens not currently registered to vote — to show up at the polls on Election Day.

They point to Boston’s contested mayor’s race Tuesday, in which turnout was just under 28 percent among city voters.

Democratic Senate President Stan Rosenberg has indicated support for the idea. Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said an automatic voter registration bill also has at least 81 co-sponsors in the 160-member House.