Massachusetts Launches Online Voting Registration System

Massachusetts is now the 21st state to offer online voter registration.

Secretary of State William Galvin said Tuesday that residents can use the new system to register to vote, change their address for voting purposes and change party affiliation.

He says the system will make it easier to register and vote in next year's presidential election.

"We think it's removing one more administrative impediment ... to registering to vote," said Galvin, the state's top elections official.

The new system will not only help people who are not registered, but those who have moved to a new city or town since the last general election and haven't taken the time to update their voting registration, Galvin said. Those voters often show up on Election Day and have to be given provisional ballots because their registration has lapsed.

The new system is also designed to provide a friendlier experience to newer voters who are more used to communicating and conducting business online. They include college students who are attending school in other states but did not take the time to register before leaving.

"Young people who seem to find paper forms foreign will find this much more welcoming," Galvin said.

The Massachusetts primary is scheduled for March 1.

The Legislature approved a law that allowed for online voter registration as well as early voting in the November 2016 general election.

The website asks an applicant to enter identifying information and checks with the Registry of Motor Vehicles to verify that information. It also provides the applicant's signature on file at the RMV to the Online Voter Registration system.

An applicant who doesn't have an driver's license or RMV identification will be directed to a mail-in version of the application, which will print with all of the applicant's personal information and will be pre-addressed to the correct local election official.

If the RMV cannot verify an applicant's information, that applicant will also be directed to the mail-in version that must be printed, signed and sent to his or her local election official.

Galvin said the cost of the program was relatively low and the website was mostly created in-house.

Supporters of online registration say it also will save the state money on each new registration.

"In a day and age when so many transactions, tiny and huge, take place via the Internet, we look forward to this tool giving more people, and especially young people, greater access to voting," said Janet Domenitz, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, an independent consumer advocacy organization.

This article was originally published on June 23, 2015.


More from WBUR

Listen Live