Submitted by Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Bedford)

Bill seeks to remove barriers to voter registration and increase voter turnout

State Rep Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) Courtesy image (c) all rights reserved

Representative Ken Gordon joined his colleagues in the House to pass legislation creating an efficient and streamlined automatic voter registration (AVR) system, while also protecting the privacy of individuals.

This legislation directs the Secretary of State to work with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and MassHealth to automatically enroll eligible individuals to the Commonwealth’s voter rolls. The Secretary of State will adopt regulations governing the AVR system, including provisions requiring electronic transmission, data security protocols, and integration with online portals.

“This legislation is especially important now given the recent Supreme Judicial Court ruling that certain restrictions on access to the ballot are constitutional. It is important that we remove barriers and allow any person qualified to vote access to the ballot. Above all, we live in a democracy and the right to vote is critical” said Rep. Ken Gordon.

“Increasing the number of people who are registered to vote will enhance our democracy and make our government more reflective of the people we represent,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.  “I thank Chairman Mahoney for his leadership and the advocates who raised their voices.”

“I am proud to see Massachusetts continue to lead the way in voting rights to ensure that everyone who is a resident has the ability to participate in our democracy,” said Representative John J. Mahoney, Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws (D-Worcester). “The House, under Speaker DeLeo’s leadership, has taken decisive action to reform and improve our elections systems, and this legislation demonstrates our commitment to further progress.”

Under this legislation, registration agencies will transmit electronic records of the legal name, age, residence, citizenship information, and electronic signature of each qualified person to the board of registrars of the municipality where the person lives. The board of registrars will then send a notice to the individual informing them that they have been registered to vote and offer the opportunity to choose a party affiliation or decline to be registered. If the individual does not decline within 21 days, their name will automatically be added to the voter lists.

The name and address of program participants will remain confidential and the Secretary of State will establish security measures to protect voter information.

The bill also requires Massachusetts to join the Electronic Registration Information Center, a non-profit that assists member states with improving voter roll accuracy and increasing access to voter registration.

Under this legislation, automatic voter registration would begin on January 1, 2020.

The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

Rep. Gordon also joined the House to pass legislation that will prevent healthcare professionals from engaging in “conversion therapy” including practices that attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to the American Psychological Association, conversion therapy “may pose serious risk of harm,” such as “confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, and suicidality”. Violation of this law would result in a healthcare provider being subject to discipline from their appropriate licensing board, including suspension or revocation of their license.

This bill will also go before the Senate for consideration.

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