Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill to Automatically Register Drivers to Vote

The line outside the DMV office in South Los Angeles is long on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. The California Department of Motor Vehicles experienced a statewide computer outage Tuesday morning, disrupting many in–office services to customers. (Photo by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Massachusetts Senate passed a bill Thursday to automatically add all citizens who apply for a driver’s license to the voter rolls, taking the Bay State one step closer to automatic voter registration.

The Senate’s 38-0 vote Thursday came on the heels of the state’s House of Representatives’ passing of its own version of the bill. The differences in the two bills will still have to be reconciled before going to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, according to Mass Live.

“It should be the state’s burden to register voters – not yours,” Senate President Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) said in a statement on Thursday. Chandler went on to insist that too many citizens are confused by voter registration procedures, which prevents many from registering.

The new bill maintains that anyone who signs up for state health care or applies for a driver’s license will automatically be placed on the voter rolls.

Supporters say the law may add up to 680,000 new names to the voter rolls. The Senate bill also increases the penalty for voter fraud to $10,000 and a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Gov. Charlie Baker has not made a public statement about his position on these motorist voter-styled bills, and the two bills will have to be reconciled and sent to Baker’s desk before July 21 if lawmakers want to still be in session to override a possible gubernatorial veto.

Thus far, 14 states have implemented various automatic voter registration laws–the first being California’s, implemented in 2016. The laws have not been in existence long enough to gauge the long-term impact on actual voting, though supporters of Oregon’s law insist it did raise voter participation levels in 2017.

Critics say that automatic registration stuffs voter rolls with countless duplicates, often registers people who are actually ineligible to vote, and throw the doors wide open for increased voter fraud.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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