Skip to Content


SENATE DOCKET, NO. 1562         FILED ON: 1/18/2013

SENATE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 327

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

_________________

PRESENTED BY:

Barry R. Finegold

_______________

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
              Court assembled:

              The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the adoption of the accompanying bill:

An Act reforming election laws.

_______________

PETITION OF:

 

Name:

District/Address:

Barry R. Finegold

Second Essex and Middlesex

Sal N. DiDomenico

Middlesex and Suffolk

Frank I. Smizik

15th Norfolk

Jason M. Lewis

31st Middlesex

Christopher G. Fallon

33rd Middlesex

Carl M. Sciortino, Jr.

34th Middlesex

Ruth B. Balser

12th Middlesex

Peter V. Kocot

1st Hampshire

Jay R. Kaufman

15th Middlesex

Jonathan Hecht

29th Middlesex

William N. Brownsberger

Second Suffolk and Middlesex

Tom Sannicandro

7th Middlesex

Thomas P. Conroy

13th Middlesex

Kenneth J. Donnelly

Fourth Middlesex

Thomas M. Stanley

9th Middlesex

Patricia D. Jehlen

Second Middlesex

Timothy J. Toomey, Jr.

26th Middlesex

Katherine M. Clark

Fifth Middlesex

Anthony W. Petruccelli

First Suffolk and Middlesex

Mary S. Keefe

15th Worcester

Anne M. Gobi

5th Worcester

Kevin J. Murphy

18th Middlesex

Ellen Story

3rd Hampshire

Aaron Vega

5th Hampden

Sonia Chang-Diaz

Second Suffolk

James B. Eldridge

Middlesex and Worcester

Diana DiZoglio

14th Essex

Carlos Henriquez

5th Suffolk

Marcos A. Devers

16th Essex

James J. O'Day

14th Worcester

James Arciero

2nd Middlesex

Kenneth I. Gordon

21st Middlesex

Kay Khan

11th Middlesex

Jennifer E. Benson

37th Middlesex


SENATE DOCKET, NO. 1562        FILED ON: 1/18/2013

SENATE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 327

By Mr. Finegold, a petition (accompanied by bill, Senate, No. 327) of Barry R. Finegold, Sal N. DiDomenico, Frank I. Smizik, Jason M. Lewis and other members of the General Court for legislation to reform election laws.  Election Laws. 


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
 

_______________

In the Year Two Thousand Thirteen

_______________

 

An Act reforming election laws.
 

              Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to improve forthwith 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. Subsection (c) of section 4 of chapter 51 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “mailing”, in line 35, the following words:- for two consecutive years.

              SECTION 2. Said chapter 51 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 17 the following section:-

              Section 17A. In each municipality, the city or town clerk and the election director shall attend annual training conducted by the office of the state secretary on the applicable state and federal election laws and regulations. Upon completion of the training, they shall inform the board of registrars and election commissioners.

              SECTION 3. Said chapter 51, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after section 33 the following section:-

              Section 33A. The state secretary will create and maintain an online portal allowing citizens to complete an affidavit of registration online. Such registration will be transmitted by the secretary to the appropriate local registrar. The online affidavit will use the registrants’ signature from the Registry of Motor Vehicles records; the Registrar of Motor Vehicles shall make appropriate provisions to facilitate the electronic transfer of the image of the signature to the central voter registry. If such signature cannot be found using the online affidavit of registration form the applicant will be so informed and given the option to print the affidavit of registration, append their signature, and mail it directly to the appropriate registrar of voters. Nothing in this section shall be construed to change any registration deadline or qualification of voting.

              SECTION 4. Section 37A of said chapter 51, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “thirty-seven”, in line 2, the following:- “for two consecutive years, and who during that time fails to vote in any election,”.

              SECTION 5. Section 42 of said chapter 51, as so appearing, 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 6. Section 42H of said chapter 51, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “delivery”, in line 4, the following words:- and through the online portal

              SECTION 7. 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 8. Said chapter 51 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 63 the following section:-

              Section 64. The state secretary shall create and maintain an online portal through which any member of the public may check to determine whether or not they are registered to vote. Such a portal shall allow a member of the public to enter their name, date of birth and residential zip code and will subsequently display whether a voter with said name and date of birth and residential zip code is registered to vote, whether the registration of the voter is active or inactive pursuant to section 37A of chapter 51, the polling location for said voter and state and federal elected officials who represent said voter. The portal shall not display any other biographical information about the voter except the information provided by the user of the site. If there is no voter in the central registry of voters matching the information submitted to the portal, the website shall inform the user how they may obtain a voter registration form.

              SECTION 9. Section 11 of chapter 54 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 5 and 6, the words "one warden, one deputy warden, one clerk, one deputy clerk, four inspectors and four deputy inspectors" and inserting in place thereof the following words:- a minimum of one warden, one clerk, two inspectors and a ballot box inspector.

              SECTION 10. Section 12 of said chapter 54, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 4 and 5, the words "one warden, one deputy warden, one clerk, one deputy clerk, two inspectors and two deputy inspectors" and inserting in place thereof the following words:- a minimum of one warden, one clerk, two inspectors and a ballot box inspector.

              SECTION 11. Said chapter 54 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 25A the following section:-

              Section 25B. (a) Pursuant to a request, in person, by a qualified voter, as defined in section 1 of chapter 51, the local election officers and registrars of every city or town shall allow any qualified voter to cast a ballot for any biennial state election, special state election, primary, special primary or any other election during the early voting period as set forth in this section, including but not limited to any city or town election held at the same time. Cities and towns may also provide for early voting in elections not held in conjunction with state elections.

              (b) Early voting shall begin in the seventh day preceding an election. The early voting period shall end at the close of polls on the day preceding the day before the election.

              (c) For the purposes of early voting, a polling place shall include a city hall election office and a town hall clerk’s office and the registrars of each city or town shall identify and provide for additional centrally-located, suitable and convenient early voting polling places within each city or town for use during the early voting period. Towns with populations under 22,000 are not required to, but may, designate polling places other than city or town hall. Cities with population of over 125,000 shall designate at least one polling place for every two wards. The designation of an early voting polling place shall be made 30 days in advance of the election. Each early voting polling location must be open for 8 hours on each weekday during the early voting period. The polling location must be open for an aggregate of eight hours each weekend during the early voting period. Each polling location shall be accessible to persons with disabilities.

              (d) The registrars for each city or town shall publish the location of the early voting polling place as well as the applicable dates and hours. Said publication shall occur during the week prior to the commencement of the early voting period and at least once during the period. Notice of the location, dates and hours of early voting shall be sent to every newspaper listed in the in the Directory of New England Newspapers and Periodicals, located in such town or city. Notice of the locations, dates and hours of early voting shall also be conspicuously posted in the office of the city clerk or in the principal official bulletin board of each city or town, on any other public building deemed necessary, and on the city or town’s website, if any.

              (e) The state secretary shall provide a sufficient number of early voting ballots to the registrars of each city or town for use during the early voting period. The ballots shall be delivered to the registrars of each city or town 14 days in advance of the early voting.

              (f) Early voting ballots shall be provided to each qualified voter who participates in early voting.

              (g) Prior to the commencement of early voting, the registrars for each city or town shall prepare a list for the early voting polling place, containing the names and residences of all persons qualified to vote therein, as the same appear upon the annual register, and shall reasonably transmit the same to the election officers at every polling place designated by the registrars.

              (h) The presiding election officer at the early voting polling location shall cause to be placed on the voting lists opposite the name of any qualified voter who participates in early voting the letters¬ ”EV” designating an early voter.

              (i) At the end of each day during the early voting period, the presiding election officer shall separate, compile, and record early ballots cast at each polling location into the appropriate ward and precinct.

              (j) Sections 24, 25, 25A, 65, 66, 73, and 75 shall apply to polling places during early voting.

              (k) The ballot boxes for early voting shall be sealed and locked and maintained securely by the election officers.

              (l) The registrars for each city or town shall designate a location for the counting of early ballots. All totals shall be added to the totals at the relevant wards and precincts.

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

              SECTION 12. Section 66 of said chapter 54, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 9, the following words:- “police officer or constable at the polling place” and inserting in place thereof the following word:-              “warden”;  and by striking out, in lines 18 and 19, the following:- “, either personally or by a police officer or constable in attendance at the polling place,”.

              SECTION 13. Said chapter 54 is hereby further amended by striking out section 67, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

              Section 67. The voting list shall be delivered to the warden at the entrance to the precinct in the polling place. When a ballot is delivered to a voter, the voter’s name shall be checked on the voting list at the entrance of the precinct. At least 1 inspector in charge of the voting list and the inspector in charge of the ballot box shall be of different political parties. No person shall vote if the person’s name is not on the voting list, nor until the inspector shall check the person’s name thereon, unless the person presents a certificate from the registrars of the voters as provided by section 51 or section 59 of chapter 51, or unless the person is voting by provisional ballot under section 76C.

              SECTION 14. Section 72 of said chapter 54 is hereby repealed.

              SECTION 15. Section 75 of said chapter 54, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 3 and 4, the following words:- “the police officer or constable in attendance at the polling place” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- a police officer or constable.

              SECTION 16. Section 83 of said chapter 54, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking, in lines 2 through 6, the words:- “give his name and, if requested, his residence, to one of the officers in charge of the ballot box who shall distinctly announce the same. If the name is found on the voting list by the election officer, he shall distinctly repeat the name and check it on the voting list; and the voter may then”.

              SECTION 17. Section 107 of said chapter 54, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 20 and 21, the following words:- “or transmit to him, by the police officer or constable in attendance at the election,”.

              SECTION 18. Said chapter 54 is hereby further 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, 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, each precinct selected pursuant to subsection (c) shall conduct a hand-counted audit of votes cast on the day of election of: (i) races for the following offices in which more than 1 candidate’s name appears on the ballot: governor, representative in Congress, senator in Congress, if such office appears on the ballot, and 2 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, each precinct selected pursuant to subsection (c) shall conduct a hand-counted audit of votes cast on the day of election of: (i) races for the following offices in which more than 1 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) 1 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 1 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 69 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 1 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 19. Chapter 56 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 41A the following section:-

              Section 41B. No candidate for nomination or election to public office or any other person shall write, print, post or distribute, or cause to be written, printed, posted or distributed, a circular or poster designed to aid or defeat any candidate for nomination or election to any public office unless there appears upon such circular or poster a statement disclosing the identity of the individual, corporation, group or association paying for the circular or poster. Such statement shall appear under the heading “paid for by,” and shall include either the name of the political or other organization paying for the circular or poster, or of some person eighteen years of age or older who is responsible therefore; with the organization or person’s name and residence, and the street and number thereof, if any. The statement shall be printed in a conspicuous place and shall appear in a clearly readable manner with a reasonable degree of color contrast between the background and the printed statement. This section shall apply only to circulars or posters costing more than $250 to print or mail.

              Any violation of this section shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than six months or by a fine of not more than $1,000.

              SECTION 20. Costs incurred under section 18 shall be paid by the state using funds available to the commonwealth pursuant to sections 101 to 106, inclusive, and in sections 251 to 258, inclusive, 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 21. 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 September 1, 2013.

              SECTION 22. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, there shall be established an elections task force. Said task force shall undertake a study of the implementation of ss. 5, 7, 11, 18 and 20 of this act. Said study shall include an analysis of: (1) the state and local costs of implementing said proposals, the costs of increasing access to the Central Registry of Voters, and the availability of federal funding through the Help America Vote Act; (2) the administrative requirements for adopting such a system, including their impact upon poll operations and upon the operation of municipal clerks offices on election day; (3) the possibility of fraud; and (4) the effects upon finalizing a vote and possible recounts.

              The task force shall consist of the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on election laws; the speaker of the house of representatives or his designee; the president of the senate or her designee; the house minority leader or his designee; the senate minority leader or his designee; the state secretary or his designee; the registrar of motor vehicles or her designee; 3 representatives of the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association, one of whom is the President of the Massachusetts Town Clerk Association (who shall serve as the task force chair), one of whom shall be from a town of between 2,001 and 12,000 inhabitants, and one of whom shall be from a town of 2,000 or fewer inhabitants, 3 representatives of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, one of whom shall be the chief election officer of a city under 100,000 inhabitants, one of who shall be the chief election officer of a city over 100,001 inhabitants; and 1 representative of each of the following groups: the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Chapter of the NAACP, Common Cause, and MassVOTE, and OISTE.

              The task force shall complete its study and submit its final report in writing to the joint committee on election laws and the state secretary no later than April 1, 2013.

The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. The General Court provides this information as a public service and while we endeavor to keep the data accurate and current to the best of our ability, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Error