HOUSE DOCKET, NO. FILED ON: 9/13/2013
HOUSE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No. 3647
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In the Year Two Thousand Thirteen
An Act relative to election laws.
SECTION 1. Chapter 51 of the General Laws is hereby 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 2. Said chapter 51 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 33 the following section:-
Section 33A. The state secretary shall create and maintain an online portal allowing citizens to complete an affidavit of registration online. Such registration shall be transmitted by the state secretary to the appropriate local registrar. The online affidavit shall use the registrants’ signature from the registry of motor vehicles records and 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 shall 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 3. Section 42H of said chapter 51, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “delivery”, in line 4, the following words:- and through the online portal.
SECTION 4. Said chapter 51 is hereby further amended by adding 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. The portal shall allow a member of the public to enter his or her 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 he or she may obtain a voter registration form.
SECTION 5. Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby 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 presidential primary or presidential election.
(b) The voting period for early voting shall be during regular business hours beginning on the eleventh business day before the primary or election and continuing through the second business day before the primary or election. For the purposes of this section a business day shall not include saturdays, sundays or holidays.
(c) For the purposes of early voting, a polling place shall include a city hall election office and a town hall clerk’s office; provided such office is deemed unavailable or unsuitable for the purposes of early voting, the registrars of each city or town may identify and provide for an additional centrally-located, suitable and convenient early voting polling place within each city or town for use during the early voting period. Each early voting polling location shall be open for 8 hours on each weekday 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 Directory of New England Newspapers and Periodicals, located in such city or town. 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 10 business 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 6. Section 33 of said chapter 54 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 10, the words “registering and cancelling” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- and registering.
SECTION 7. (a) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, there shall be established an elections task force. The task force shall undertake a study of the effectiveness of the first case of early voting pursuant to section 25B of chapter 54 of the general laws. Said study shall include an analysis of: (1) the state and local costs of providing early voting; (2) the administrative requirements of implementing and providing early voting, including their impact on municipal clerks offices during the early voting period; (3) any instance of fraudulent voting or voter impersonation; (4) success in reducing the length of lines, waiting therein, and congestion at polling places on election day; and (5) success in increasing voter turnout.
(b) 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 his designee; the house minority leader or his designee; the senate minority leader or his designee; the state secretary or his designee; 1 representatives of the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association; 1 representative of the election laws advocacy community designated by the chairmen of the joint committee on election laws.
(c) 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, 2017.
SECTION 8. (a) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, there is hereby established an election laws implementation task force. Said task force shall undertake a study of the implementation of An Act to Provide Audits of Elections Results as filed in the House in the 187th Session of the General Court as House Bill No. 1980. Said study shall include, but not be limited to, an analysis of: (1) the state and local costs of implementing said proposal, and the availability of federal funding through the Help America Vote Act; (2) the administrative requirements for adopting such a proposal, including the 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.
(b) 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 his designee, the house minority leader or his designee, the senate minority leader or his designee, the state secretary or his designee, the chairs of the house and the senate ways & means committees or their designees, the state auditor or his designee, the director of the office on disability or his designee, 1 representative of the election laws advocacy community designated by the chairmen of the joint committee on election laws.
(c) 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 July 31, 2014.
SECTION 9. Sections 5 and 7 shall take effect January 1, 2015 and shall be implemented in the first case for the 2016 biennial state election and the 2016 presidential preference primary.