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HOUSE DOCKET, NO.                 FILED ON: 3/21/2012

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 4022

 


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
 

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In the Year Two Thousand Twelve

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An Act reforming election laws.
 

              Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to improve the administration of elections in the commonwealth, therefore, it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.
 

              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

              SECTION 1. Chapter 51 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 17 the following section:-

              Section 17A.  Every member of the board of registrars and election commission and any other person responsible for the administration of the election laws in a city or town shall attend annual training conducted by the office of the state secretary on the applicable state and federal election laws and regulations.

              SECTION 2. Chapter 51 of the General Laws is herby amended by inserting after section 36 the following section:-

              Section 36A.  The state secretary shall publish on the internet, in a manner accessible to the public, an affidavit of voter registration in a printable electronic document format. This document shall be a valid affidavit of voter registration under this chapter. The state secretary shall post the electronic document in every language provided for in section 36.

              The electronic affidavit of voter registration shall give registrants the option to enter data directly into the form prior to printing out the affidavit or to print a blank form and manually enter information.  The registrant shall personally sign and mail, transmit or otherwise deliver the completed affidavit of voter registration form to the appropriate city elections department or town clerk’s office; provided, however, that the registrant may mail, transmit or otherwise deliver the form to the state secretary who shall cause it to be delivered to the appropriate city elections department or town clerk’s office.

              SECTION 3.  Section 42 of said chapter 51 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “chapter”, in line 2, the following words:- by any person at least 16 years of age or older.

              SECTION 4.  Section 47A of said chapter 51, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following sentence:- If such person is at least 16 years of age and has not attained the qualification of age, the affidavit of registration shall be re-examined by the registrar until such person will, on or before the day of the next preliminary, primary, special or general election or town meeting, attain full age, at which time the registrar shall enter such person’s name in the current annual register of voters.

              SECTION 5. Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 109 the following section:-

              Section 109A.  (a) For the purposes of this section, “audited precinct,” shall mean any precinct selected in accordance with subsection (c) for the purpose of conducting audits as provided in this section.

              (b) An audit shall be conducted pursuant to this section following any biennial state election, state primary preceding a biennial state election, presidential primary, or special general election for senator in congress or representative in congress.

              (1)              Following a biennial state election in which the office of governor is contested, or a state primary preceding such biennial state election, each precinct selected pursuant to subsection (c) shall conduct a hand-counted audit of: (i) races for the following offices in which more than one candidate’s name appears on the ballot: governor, representative in congress, senator in congress, if such office appears on the ballot, and two of the following offices chosen by random drawing: representative in the general court, senator in the general court, state secretary, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, and lieutenant governor, if such office appears on the ballot; and (ii) one statewide ballot question, if any appear on the ballot, chosen by random drawing.

              (2)              Following a biennial state election in which the candidates of each party for president and vice president appear on the ballot, or a state primary preceding such biennial state election, each precinct selected pursuant to subsection (c) shall conduct a hand-counted audit of: (i) races for the following offices in which more than one candidate’s name appears on the ballot: president and vice president, representative in congress, senator in congress, if such office appears on the ballot, representative in the general court, and senator in the general court; and (ii) one statewide ballot question, if any appear on the ballot, chosen by random drawing.

              (3)              Following a presidential primary or special general election for representative in congress or senator in congress, each precinct selected pursuant to subsection (c) shall conduct a hand-counted audit of each race in which more than one candidate’s name appears on the ballot in that precinct.

              (4)              If a valid petition for a recount is made pursuant to section 135 for a race subject to audit by this section, then the votes for that race shall not be audited in any precinct named in the petition; provided, however, that if an audit is has commenced in a precinct when the valid petition for a recount is made, the audit in said precinct shall be suspended. The audit of the race in question shall proceed in any precinct selected pursuant to subsection (c) not included in the petition for a recount.

              (5)              Any random drawing required by this subsection shall be conducted by the state secretary.  Such drawing will occur at the same time and place as the drawing required by subsection (c).

              (c) The precincts to be audited shall be chosen in a random, publicly verifiable, non-computerized drawing supervised by the state secretary within 48 hours after polls are closed. The drawing shall be fully observable to the public and representatives of each political party and shall use a procedure that can be easily understood to be random by members of the public. Notice of the time and place of the drawing shall be given at least 10 days in advance of the election on the electronic website of the state secretary. The number of precincts selected to be audited in this drawing shall be equal to 3 per cent of all precincts in the commonwealth, rounded up to the next highest whole number; provided, however, that if the audit is prompted by a special general election for representative in congress, the number of precincts selected to be audited in this drawing shall be equal to 3 per cent of all precincts subject to that special election, rounded up to the next highest whole number.

              (d) (1) The board of registrars or election commission in each municipality where 1 or more precincts selected to be audited are located shall conduct the audit. The board of registrars or election commission may employ tally clerks for the purpose of counting the ballots. Audits shall commence not later than 2 business days following the random drawing of precincts supervised by the state secretary and shall continue on each successive business day or other day at the discretion of the board or commission in each municipality. The time and place of the audits in each municipality where one or more precincts selected to be audited are located shall be publicly announced in advance. The audits shall be performed in full public view and conducted pursuant to the procedures for hand counts of ballots in sections 135 and 135A.

              (2) The state secretary shall issue uniform written training materials for audit personnel to each municipality in the commonwealth at least 10 days prior to any election that will be audited pursuant to this section.

              (3) Notwithstanding any general or special law or rule or regulation to the contrary, for the purpose of conducting the audit the board or commission shall unseal the envelopes or containers containing the ballots. The board or commission shall, when the audit is complete, enclose all the ballots in their proper envelopes or containers, seal each envelope or container with a seal provided therefor, and certify upon each envelope or container that it has been opened and again sealed in conformity to law.

              (4) Voter intent shall be the standard for counting votes. Individuals charged with tabulating votes during the audit shall disregard the omission or inaccuracy of initials, the omission, inaccuracy or misspelling of given names, and the misspelling of surnames, if the intent of the voter to express a preference for any particular individual can be ascertained. Such statements of voters shall be counted, tabulated and entered, together with any other votes cast, on official audit report forms provided by the state secretary.

              (e) Upon completion of the audit in each municipality the board of registrars or election commission shall record each race audited in each precinct on a separate audit report form provided by the state secretary.  The registrars shall submit the completed audit report forms to the state secretary no later than the fourteenth day following the election.  An audit report form shall provide for the entry of:

              (1) the number of votes for each candidate, or each yes and no vote and the blank votes and over votes as recorded in the audit hand count;

              (2) the election night tallies reported for each candidate or each yes and no vote and the blank votes and over-votes for the same ballots that were counted in the audit;

              (3) the differences between the audit hand count results and the election night tallies for each candidate, yes and no question and blank votes;

              (4) The number of votes for each contest for which voter intent is discernible but that are not marked by the voter according to the instructions provided to the voters under section 48 and any explanatory notes related thereto; and

              (5) Any additional notes on perceived causes of discrepancies.

              (f) Upon receipt of the results of the audit, the state secretary shall calculate the total number of votes for each candidate and ballot question as recorded in the audit hand count and shall compare this total to the sum of the originally reported votes for each candidate and ballot question in the audited precincts. When such comparison reveals a discrepancy between the hand-counted audit and the originally reported tally of the audited precincts the discrepancy shall be analyzed to ascertain its cause.  The state secretary shall oversee the analysis and shall publish the findings and make the findings available online, along with the factual information on which such findings were based, within 180 days.

              (g) If there is a discrepancy between the results reached pursuant to an audit and originally reported tallies, the hand count of the official paper ballots conducted pursuant to the audit shall be the official vote of record and the board of registrars or election commission shall amend each precinct tally sheet, official return book and check list delivered to the office of the registrars.

              (h) If there is a discrepancy between the results reached in a precinct pursuant to an audit and the originally reported tallies in that precinct in any audited race or any audited ballot question that reasonably leads to doubt about the accuracy of election results, the state secretary may order audits of such additional precincts, offices, or ballot questions as shall be necessary to ensure that the election results are accurate.

              (i) (1) Upon receipt of the results of the audit, the state secretary shall make information in the audit reports publicly available on a precinct-by-precinct basis as soon as practicable, but no later than 10 days after receipt of the audit report form, in both human and machine readable formats, such as a spreadsheet or comma-separated-value file. This information shall also be posted on the electronic website of the state secretary.

              (2) The state secretary shall publish the results of the audit in the report required by section 133 or in some other document in which the results of the audit can easily be compared with the number of votes received by each candidate for nomination and for election for a state and federal office.

              (3) The audit and publication of the results thereof shall be completed prior to the time the commonwealth shall make a final determination concerning the appointment of its presidential electors.

              (j) The state secretary shall promulgate rules and regulations to implement the requirements of this section.               

              SECTION 6. Costs incurred under Section 5 of this act shall be paid by the state using funds available to the commonwealth pursuant to sections 101 to 106 and 251 to 258 of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, 42 U.S.C. sections 15301 to 15306, inclusive, as it may be amended, and 42 U.S.C. sections 15401 to 15408, inclusive, as it may be amended. The state secretary shall amend the state plan required under section 253(b) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, 42 U.S.C. section 15403(b) to include post election audits.

              SECTION 7. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the state secretary shall promulgate rules and regulations under section 109A of chapter 54 of the General Laws on or before July 6, 2012.

              SECTION 8. Sections 1, 3, and 4 of this act shall take effect on April 1, 2013.

              SECTION 9. Section 2 of this act shall take effect 60 days after the effective date of this act.

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