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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT AUTOMATICALLY REGISTERING ELIGIBLE VOTERS AND ENHANCING SAFEGUARDS AGAINST FRAUD.

Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to establish forthwith programs for automatically registering eligible voters and enhancing safeguards against fraud, 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. Section 4 of chapter 51 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the figure “265”, in line 47, the following words:- , or a program participant in the address confidentiality program established under section 2 of chapter 9A. 

SECTION 2. Section 42 of said chapter 51 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 4, the words “section forty-two A” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- sections 42A and 65.

SECTION 3. Said chapter 51 is hereby amended by striking out section 42G, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 42G. (a) Registration agencies required to provide voter registration services by section 1 of chapter 50 shall conduct voter registration in a manner that is as efficient, comprehensive and automated as practicable. Registration agencies shall transmit each completed affidavit of voter registration to the board of registrars or election commission of the city or town where the registrant resides; provided, however, that an automatic voter registration agency that collects and transmits applicant data electronically shall ensure that the applicant data is transmitted to the state secretary, who shall transmit such information to the board of registrars or election commission of the city or town where the applicant resides. The state secretary shall adopt regulations governing such transmission, which shall include, but not be limited to: (i) provisions requiring electronic transmission; (ii) the frequency and nature of such transmissions; (iii) data security protocols; and (iv) integration with the online portals established pursuant to section 33A. A registrant shall be deemed to be a registered voter at the time of completion of a signed affidavit of voter registration at a registration agency or on the date that the affidavit of voter registration is postmarked or on the day that it is delivered by hand to the registrars.

(b) The state secretary shall enter into cooperative agreements with additional agencies of state government that agree to function as registration agencies. Such agreements shall provide that the state secretary shall conduct appropriate training of agency staff, provide all forms, material and equipment necessary to carry out voter registration activities, and have oversight responsibility to ensure proper compliance with applicable provisions of federal and state law.

SECTION 4. Said chapter 51 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 42G the following section:-

Section 42G1/2. (a)(1) For purposes of this section and section 42G, the term “automatic voter registration agency” shall mean a location at a state agency where an eligible citizen may register to vote.

(2) The state secretary shall determine that an agency collects “reliable citizenship information” if the agency, in the regular course of business for serving applicants: (i) requests, in a clear, understandable and consistently stated manner, that customers affirm their citizenship status; and (ii) collects a signed affirmation of citizenship status or documentary proof of citizenship status such that records of citizens are segregable from non-citizens.

(b )(1) The state secretary shall enter into memoranda of understanding with the registry of motor vehicles, the division of medical assistance and the commonwealth health insurance connector authority who shall serve as automatic voter registration agencies; provided, however, that the terms of such memoranda shall include, without limitation, the timeline for the establishment or enhancement of interfaces and the schedule for data to be shared between the secretary’s office and the automatic voter registration agencies; and provided further, that only information obtained by the registry of motor vehicles from driver’s license transactions and identification card transactions shall be used for automatic voter registration purposes. The state secretary may enter into memoranda of understanding with state agencies that collect reliable citizenship information for all applicants if the state secretary determines that enabling the agency to serve as an automatic voter registration agency will materially increase voter registration or the accuracy of the register of voters. Any such memorandum of understanding between the state secretary and an automatic voter registration agency shall provide that the state secretary shall conduct appropriate training of agency staff, shall provide all forms, material and equipment necessary to carry out voter registration activities and shall have oversight responsibility to ensure proper compliance with applicable provisions of federal and state law; provided further, that any such memorandum of understanding shall specify that all trainings, forms and materials shall be funded by the state secretary. Registration agencies not designated as automatic voter registration agencies shall continue to provide voter registration services as required by section 42G.

(2) For each automatic voter registration agency, the state secretary shall: (i) conduct appropriate training of agency staff; (ii) make available voter registration forms; (iii) specify all material, language, forms and electronic interfaces necessary for the collection and transmission of the information needed to carry out activities under this section; (iv) eliminate to the extent practicable duplicative entries into the central voter registry; and (v) have oversight responsibility to ensure proper compliance with applicable provisions of federal and state law. 

(c) An agency that has entered into a memorandum of understanding to become an automatic voter registration agency shall: (i) conduct automatic voter registration, as specified by subsections (d) to (g), inclusive; (ii) work with the state secretary to implement this chapter and meet the goals of automatic voter registration enumerated in section 65; and (iii) provide notice to each applicant: (A) explaining that the agency application shall serve as an attestation to eligibility and an application to register to vote unless the person declines to register to vote; (B) informing the applicant of the eligibility requirements to register to vote; and (C) advising the applicant that non-citizens are ineligible to register, and that the applicant must decline to register unless the applicant is a United States citizen and is otherwise eligible to register to vote.

(d) In accordance with the memorandum of understanding required by subsection (b), each eligible applicant for services at an automatic voter registration agency who meets the qualifications to register to vote and does not decline to register to vote shall be registered as a voter under section 65 as of the date the registrar adds the person’s name and address to the register of voters, pursuant to clause (4) of subsection (d) of said section 65; provided, however, that an applicant who meets the qualifications to register to vote, does not decline to register to vote and completes a qualifying transaction with an automatic voter registration agency not less than 21 days prior to an election shall be entitled to vote in that election.

(e) For each applicant, an automatic voter registration agency shall transmit electronic records containing information on the applicant’s legal name, age, residence, citizenship and the applicant’s electronic signature to the state secretary who shall transmit the same to the board of registrars or election commission of the city or town in which the person resides, in a manner prescribed by the state secretary. An automatic voter registration agency may consult with the registry of motor vehicles or other agencies to augment data to be transmitted in a manner prescribed by the state secretary. An automatic voter registration agency shall not transmit a record that contains: (i) a home address designated as confidential pursuant to section 8 of chapter 9A; or (ii) a record that does not clearly and consistently contain both the applicant’s electronic signature and sworn or verified information for the applicant’s: (A) legal name; (B) age; (C) residence; and (D) citizenship.

(f) The state secretary shall adopt regulations governing the collection and transmission of personal information under this subsection, which shall include, but not be limited to, provisions requiring automatic voter registration agencies to: (i) employ the most cost-effective forms of transmission; (ii) implement measures, such as encryption, to secure information in order to prevent security breaches and the unauthorized use of personal information, as required under section 3 of chapter 93H; (iii) implement measures for reporting security breaches or the unauthorized use of personal information as required under section 3 of chapter 93H; (iv) provide protections against disclosure of confidential information, including home addresses, designated as confidential pursuant to section 8 of chapter 9A; (v) make application forms available in English and Spanish, and in such additional languages as the state secretary deems necessary or as required by law; and (vi) work with the state secretary to insure, by public education and other methods, that information sufficient to understand the process for and consequences of automatic voter registration is available in all languages, as required by the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended and all languages the agency offers or provides services in.

(g) Nothing in this subsection shall prevent an automatic voter registration agency from establishing and enforcing additional security measures to protect the confidentiality and integrity of inter-agency data transfers.

SECTION 5. Section 44 of said chapter 51, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the figure “265”, in line 12, the following words:- , or a program participant in the address confidentiality program established under section 2 of chapter 9A.

SECTION 6. Section 47C of said chapter 51, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-

The state secretary shall enter into an agreement with the Electronic Registration Information Center, Inc. on behalf of the commonwealth that shall specify the terms and conditions of the commonwealth’s membership in the Center. The agreement shall include terms providing for the periodic sharing of data between the central registry, the registry of motor vehicles and any other automatic voter registration agency as designated by the secretary, and the Center, including, but not limited to, voter names and addresses.

SECTION 7. Said chapter 51 is hereby further amended by adding the following section:-

Section 65. (a) For purposes of this section, the term “automatic voter registration” shall have the meaning assigned to it in section 42G½ and the term “registrars” or “registrars of voters” shall have the meaning assigned to it in section 1 of chapter 50.

(b) The state secretary shall promulgate regulations relative to the administration of automatic voter registration, which shall be in addition to the regulations otherwise authorized by this chapter, and which shall include, but not be limited to, provisions relative to: (i) promoting greater participation of eligible voters in elections; (ii) increasing the completeness and accuracy of the register of voters; (iii) preventing erroneous disenfranchisement of eligible citizens; (iv) protecting ineligible voters from improperly being registered; (v) determining the extent to which automatic voter registration materials should be provided in languages other than English and Spanish, including, but not limited to, languages required under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended; and (vi) specifying the manner of registration for address confidentiality program participants under section 2 of chapter 9A who interact with automatic voter registration agencies; and (vii) preventing voter registration fraud. 

(c) (1) Nothing in this section or in section 42G shall be construed to change the substantive qualifications of voters established by this chapter or the constitution.

(2) Nothing in this section shall be construed to interfere with the registrars’ duties under sections 37, 38, 47B, 48 and 49 to ensure that the names of persons who are ineligible to vote do not appear on the register of voters.

(3) Nothing in this section shall be construed to interfere with the right of any person to decline to register to vote for any reason.

(d) (1) Upon receiving the electronic records described in section 42G½, the board of registrars or election commission shall determine whether the names of persons included in the electronic records belong to persons who meet the qualifications of a voter under section 1. The registrars shall notify each qualified person whose name appears in those records of the automatic voter registration process.

(2) If the registrars determine that the person whose name appears in the electronic records does not meet the qualifications of a voter under section 1, the registrars shall notify the person of the determination at the address included in the electronic record, unless that person has already declined to register to vote.

(3) The registrars shall notify each person under paragraph (1) of the person’s opportunity to: (i) decline to register to vote; or (ii) adopt a political party affiliation, in which case the person shall also sign an eligibility requirement acknowledgement and attestation. Such notification shall be provided in English and Spanish and any additional languages to be determined by the state secretary.

(4) If a person so notified does not decline to register to vote within 21 calendar days after the registrar issues the notification, the registrars shall add the person’s name and address to the register of voters.

(5) The registrars shall not include in the register of voters the name of a person who indicates in a signed writing that the person does not wish to be a registered voter.

(6) If the information transmitted under section 42G½ is for a person whose name is already included in the register of voters, and if the information indicates a subsequent change to the person’s name, address or gender marker, the registrars shall ensure that the register of voters is updated accordingly.

(7) Upon adding the name of a person to the register of voters under paragraph (4), the registrars shall send written notice, which may be sent electronically, in a form approved by the state secretary, to the registrars or equivalent officers of the place where the person was last registered as a voter. Upon receiving this notice, or a similar notice from another state including information from the Electronic Registration Information Center, Inc. under section 47C, the registrars shall immediately remove the person’s name from the register of voters.

(8) The state secretary’s office shall provide mandatory training for all registrars on the administration of the requirements enumerated in this subsection.

(e) The state secretary shall ensure that information is provided to the registrars in as clear a manner as practicable, and automate the process to the extent practicable. The state secretary may develop electronic interfaces with automatic voter registration agencies under section 42G½ to carry out this section.

(f) The state secretary shall make an annual report to the joint committee on election laws of the general court, which the secretary shall post on a public website. The annual report shall include the following information: (i) the number of voters newly registered to the statewide voter registration list updated by an automatic voter registration agency, broken down by agency; (ii) the total number of voter records on the statewide voter registration list updated because of records transferred by an automatic voter registration agency; and (iii) the number of persons who opted out of voter registration. The state secretary shall also study and include within the annual report recommendations to strengthen and clarify automatic voting requirements as they pertain to eligibility for voting in municipal, state and federal elections, so as to ensure to the maximum extent possible that the requirements are clear, easily understood and enforceable in an efficient manner. A report produced under this section shall exclude personal identifying information.

(g) Nothing in this section shall preclude a person who has previously declined to register to vote from subsequently registering to vote.

(h) The state secretary shall ensure that election officials shall not provide the record of any person who has opted out of voter registration, in whole or in part, to any third party and shall establish standards and procedures to safeguard the privacy and security of the information used and obtained pursuant to this section.

(i) A person who is not eligible to vote and who becomes registered under this provision shall not be found on that basis to have made a false claim to citizenship or to have committed an act involving moral turpitude, unless such person affirmatively asserts that the person is a citizen of the United States. Where a person who is not eligible to vote becomes registered under this provision without affirmatively accepting registration, that person’s voter registration shall be considered to have been effected with official authorization and at no fault of the person so registered. 

(j) No person may use the statewide voter registration list to attempt to determine the citizenship status of any person for any purpose other than voter registration, election administration or the enforcement of laws against election crimes. No information relating to a person’s declination to supply information for voter registration purposes at a source may be disclosed to the public, used to discriminate against that person or used for any purpose other than voter registration, election administration or the enforcement of laws against election crimes.

SECTION 7A. Said chapter 51 is hereby further amended by adding the following section:-

Section 66. The registry of motor vehicles, and any other state agency, shall provide data, as deemed necessary by the state secretary, for the purposes of maintaining accurate and complete voter lists. Not less than every 2 months, the registry of motor vehicles, and any other state agency the state secretary designates, shall electronically transmit to the state secretary all data, as directed by the state secretary, that is relevant to the purposes of voter registration, including, if available, the following record fields: (i) name, current address, mailing address, date of birth, driver’s license number or last 4 digits of the social security number and telephone number; (ii) date, time and nature of the last change to the information; and (iii) any additional information designated by the state secretary for such purposes and reasonably related to maintaining accurate and complete voter lists.

The state secretary shall provide the names and addresses and other data contained in the central registry of voters, as well as information received from the registry of motor vehicles and any other agency received for the purpose of maintaining accurate and complete voting lists, to the Electronic Registration Information Center, Inc.

The state secretary shall implement, if practicable, a centralized system to manage and evaluate data received from the Electronic Registration Information Center, Inc. to send mailings to voters centrally rather than from the local level. In the absence of such central management, if any actions regarding possibly inaccurate information in the central registry requires any action by the registrars, the secretary shall provide any such information to the registrars in electronic form and in a manner minimizing data management at the local level.

SECTION 8. Section 8 of chapter 56 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “register”, in line 10, the following words:- ; whoever knowingly provides false information in connection with automatic voter registration under section 65 of chapter 51.

SECTION 9. The state secretary shall implement upgrades to the central voter registry to implement this act, as necessary to ensure the central voter registry incorporates interfaces with the registry of motor vehicles, MassHealth and other voter registration agencies, as determined by the state secretary. 

SECTION 10. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the state secretary shall promulgate regulations for the implementation of automatic voter registration not later than July 31, 2019. 

SECTION 11. Sections 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 shall take effect on January 1, 2020.

Approved, August 9, 2018.