Election Reform in Massachusetts? We can do more than hope.

Got some crucial info in the mail. The Mass. State Senate is about to vote on bills regarding Election Day Registration and the National Popular Vote. This is pretty exciting.

Election Day Registration is pretty much what it sounds like. You get to register to vote on Election Day. This is a good idea for several reasons.It’s great for students. I could have voted in the 2007 elections if only we had Election Day Registration (EDR from now on), for one thing. Overall, EDR helps counteract people’s confusion over where they’re registered, where to vote from, etc.

In any case, it’s silly to have an arbitrary cut-off date for when people can register to vote for the next election.

The National Popular Vote initiative says that MA will award it’s electors to the winner of the general election popular vote – but only if 270 electoral votes worth of states agree to do so as well. So it’s a way to have the winner of the popular vote win the election, but without a constitutional amendment. You can read more about the merits of the NPV by reading Hendrik Hertzberg on the matter. In fact, people in general would be served by reading Hendrik Hertzberg.

So call your/our Senator, you know the drill.
For Brandeis’ State Senator:


State House
Room 504
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-1572

Party Affiliation – DEMOCRAT
State House E-Mail Address: Susan.Fargo@state.ma.us

Call! Call now! (Well, at the time of writing it’s 11:20 PM. In which case I mean “Call during a reasonable time!”)

Here’s the email that I received

On Thursday, the Massachusetts State Senate is scheduled to vote on two critical voting rights bills: Election Day Registration and National Popular Vote.

Election Day Registration:
Election Day registration is already proven to be a success in Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and several other states. It guarantees eligible citizens who can provide identification and proof of residence need never be turned away from voting. Election day registration has been used for over 30 years in hundreds of elections by millions of voters.

A recent study shows up to 225,000 new voters will be able to turn out and vote in Massachusetts if Election Day registration is passed. Not since 18-year-olds were granted the right to vote has a single measure stood to increase the number of new voters.

It’s estimated that new voters will include:

* 139,000 people who make under 40,000 per year
* 105,000 people under 35 years old
* 27,000 people who moved in the past six months

National Popular Vote:
Do you think the President of the United States should be elected by popular vote? Shouldn’t everyone’s vote count equally, rather than voters in a handful of so-called swing states deciding the outcome?

The National Popular Vote plan creates an agreement among states that guarantees the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Massachusetts bill would only take effect once similar bills are enacted by enough states to combine a majority of the electoral votes (270 or more).

So far Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, and Hawaii have all passed National Popular Vote bills. We need your help to get this bill passed in Massachusetts. Four times throughout our history, most recently in 2000, the presidential candidate who received the most votes was not elected. America deserves better, and fortunately the Founding Fathers left us with a mechanism for states to adopt a better system.

This is a critical time since the votes on both bills is expected on Thursday. Your State Senator needs to know that you care about strengthening our democracy and making access to voting easier for the working public. Please call your State Senator right now.


State Senate Switchboard
(617) 722-2000

Suggested Script:
“I live in the district and I would like my senator to support both the Election Day Registration bill and the National Popular Vote bill when they come up for a vote this week.”

Thank you for making the call.


5 thoughts on “Election Reform in Massachusetts? We can do more than hope.”

  1. Last comment on this issue I promise:

    I think the most appropriate way to get closer to a national popular vote within in the current electoral college system is for states to pitch the current winner takes all method for giving out electoral votes. If electoral votes were given out proportionally based on votes within each state then that will give candidates more incentive to squeeze out every last vote in each state regardless of how red or blue they are. Also giving out electoral votes proportionally will be a better approximation of the national popular vote then the current winner take all system all while maintaining each state’s rights.

  2. I’m not debating the legality of the NPV interstate compact. It is perfectly legal (assuming it gets congressional approval as all interstate pacts that effect other states not party to them need based on the 1893 supreme court case of Virginia v. Tennessee). However I contest that this not in the spirit of the constitution at all. You would essentially be striking down a constitutional convention without an amendment and while it might technically be legal it certainly is not what the framers had in mind.

    My other problem is that this pact would be a classic case of the large states ganging up on the smaller ones. States rights are pretty sacred in the constitution and this would be a serious infringement on states rights. Theoretically you would need as few as 11 states to join the pact in order for it to work. Something tells me that having 11 states go around the will of the other 39 would be in serious violation of the spirit of the constitution.

  3. I think it’s clear that the NPV pact is perfectly legal.

    Legal, of course, doesn’t always mean right.

    The thing is, the constitution leaves a lot of leeway to the states. For example, states could be anarcho-syndicalist communes, have four houses of the legislature, be limited monarchies, whatever. The federal constitution doesn’t really much care, as long as they elect house, senate, and presidential candidates democratically.

    With that in mind, I think it’s totally within the spirit of the law to let states make this pact.

  4. While I’m supportive of having a national popular vote determine the president instead of the electoral college the NPV interstate pact is not way to get it done. It says in the email that the founding fathers left us a mechanism to change the system. They did, it’s called an amendment. Going around the constitution is not the way to get this done. There are also many issues that the NPV pact can’t adequately address such as what happens if no one gains a majority (they would have the candidate with the most votes be declared the winner) or a recount is needed (you would probably need to go state by state).

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