In an effort to encourage legislators to act on several bills that can help Massachusetts improve from having the 9th worst voting system in the country, and to expand efforts to register young people to vote, YDM Chair Elaine Almquist testified on Beacon Hill before the Joint Committee on Election Law on Wednesday, June 15.
And be sure to check out Elaine’s testimony below…
Thank you members of the committee for having me here today.
My name is Elaine Almquist and I’m the Chair of the Young Democrats of Massachusetts. I’m here to support six of the bills being heard today.
Most of you I’m sure have seen the Rock the Vote voting systems scorecard that was published this week, which ranks Massachusetts in 42nd place in ease and accessibility of voting – that is the 9th worst ranking in the country. I’m happy that there are a number of bills under your consideration to improve voter registration and participation in our Commonwealth by updating registration procedures, improving civic education for young people, and promoting election participation habits.
Young people care about and actively participate in our democracy. Our members not only vote in elections, but volunteer on campaigns, support or oppose public policy, run for office, service in elected positions, pay taxes, serve in our armed forces, provide and receive public services, and volunteer in their communities.
We saw a huge uptick in registration of young people during the 2008 Presidential cycle. However, it is our belief that it should not take a competition of history-making candidates to motivate young people to overcome the antiquated system we have in place now.
First, we support S00298, to allow for online voter registration. Most public and government services are available online and digital registration forms not only save paper, but they decrease the amount of data entry required by City and Town Clerks offices, and decrease the amount of information error caused by poor handwriting. We support S00299 and the proposed amendment authored by Pam Julian and the Help Students Vote Coalition which would mandate voter registration drives in high schools and on college campuses. This amendment not only costs nothing but would encourage our youth to become civically active. And we support S00302 and H01979 to allow young people to pre-register to vote.
Our members support H00192 to allow a home-rule for seventeen year olds to participate in municipal elections if their municipalities allow it. Voting is a habit, and when young people are encouraged to participate in local politics before becoming a legal adult, we ensure that we are teaching the next generations how to carry on a participatory democracy throughout their life.
The Young Democrats support H01120 to allow for permanent registration that is updated when a person files a change of address form. Young people move more frequently than older voters for school and to establish early careers. 25% of the voting population under 30 moved in 2008 alone. Permanent registration removes barriers caused by having to re-register to vote every time a person moves.
We believe that passage of all of these bills will not only update our systems, but also open the doors for more people who can legally participate in elections to do so.
I registered to vote while I was in high school, after the last election before I turned 18, and was eager to vote in the 2002 primaries. I proudly cast my ballot, and eagerly carried on a family tradition—my mother has voted in every election since she turned 18, including all municipal and primary races during the 4 years we lived in Germany on an Air force base. I was very lucky to have been offered Government as an elective class in high school, and to come from a politically active community. But my story is very uncommon.
The swift passage of these bills will allow more people to have their voices heard in our democracy, and hopefully more stories of engagement like mine will emerge in the Commonwealth. Thank you for your time and consideration this afternoon.
I urge you to pass favorably: