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Boston -- Anticipating that the 2016 presidential election will draw many voters to the polls, the Election Modernization Coalition last night launched the first in a series of trainings to prime activists working to expand a new reform in the Commonwealth: early voting. Over 50 people from around the state gathered in Boston to attend this training and get the tools they need to make early voting work in their own cities and towns, which have significant latitude under the new law.
The Election Modernization Coalition, comprised of ACLU/MA, Common Cause/MA, League of Women Voters/MA, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, and the Massachusetts Voter Table, among others, pushed hard for years to get legislation passed which would allow for voting up to 11 days before Election Day. “Early voting means more access, and more access means a stronger democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, director of Common Cause/MA. “That’s why all of us are here.”
The legislation, passed in the summer of 2014, goes into effect for the first time in the November election this year. It requires cities and towns to offer citizens the chance to vote 11 days before Election Day, but many specifics, such as hours and the number of locations, are left up to local governments. “Our coalition launched an ‘Early Voting Challenge’ to encourage cities and towns to do the best they can to take advantage of this new and important opportunity,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, director of Mass Vote. “We have many activists who are excited to make this work.”
Massachusetts becomes the 32nd state to offer early voting, a reform that was included in legislation that also provides for pre-registration for 17 year olds, online voter registration, and audits of election equipment. “In today’s world, where so many people and families are juggling work, school, second and even third jobs, commutes, and care for extended family, expanding access to voting is such a high priority,” said Janet Domenitz, director of MASSPIRG. “This coalition is putting these needs on the map.”
The training featured networking, skill sessions, and planning for how citizens can work with their local governments to make ambitious early voting plans, and meet the Coalition’s Early Voting Challenge. More info about the Challenge can be found at www.earlyvotingma.com
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