Anticipating the inaugural launch of early voting in Massachusetts with the November 2016 presidential election, the state’s Election Modernization Coalition recently held the first in a series of training to prime activists working to expand voting opportunities with the new reform.
More than 50 people from around the state gathered in Boston to attend this training and get the tools they need to make early voting work in their own cities and towns, which have significant latitude under the new law.
The Election Modernization Coalition, composed of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, MassVOTE and the Massachusetts Voter Table, among others, pushed hard for years to get legislation passed which would allow for voting up to 11 days before Election Day.
“Early voting means more access, and more access means a stronger democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “That’s why all of us are here.”
The legislation, passed in the summer of 2014, goes into effect for the first time in this year’s general election. It requires cities and towns to offer citizens the chance to vote up to 11 days before Election Day, but many specifics, such as hours and the number of locations, are left up to local governments.
“Our coalition launched an ‘Early Voting Challenge’ to encourage cities and towns to do the best they can to take advantage of this new and important opportunity,” said Cheryl Clyburn-Crawford, executive director of MassVOTE. “We have many activists who are excited to make this work.”
Massachusetts will be the 32nd state to offer early voting, a reform that was included in legislation that also provides for pre-registration for 17-year-olds, online voter registration, and audits of election equipment.
“In today’s world, where so many people and families are juggling work, school, second and even third jobs, commutes, and care for extended family, expanding access to voting is such a high priority,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “This coalition is putting these needs on the map.”
The training featured networking, skill sessions, and planning for how citizens can work with their local governments to make ambitious early voting plans, and meet the Coalition’s Early Voting Challenge. More info about the Challenge can be found at www.EarlyVotingMA.com.