Mass. governor signs automatic voter registration bill into law

Mass. governor signs automatic voter registration bill into law
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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed into law Thursday a bill that would automatically register state residents to vote when they make transactions at the state's Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) or through the state Medicaid program, MassHealth.

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The office of the secretary of the Commonwealth tweeted Thursday that state officials would begin making preparations immediately for the law's provisions, which go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

"Our office will begin preparations for automatic voter registration immediately," the office tweeted, thanking several organizations including the state's branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which backed the bill.

"We now have #AVRinMA!"

State election chief Bill Galvin told Masslive.com that the state would have systems in place in time for the 2020 presidential primaries.

"We will have systems in place to begin automatically registering voters at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and MassHealth on January 1, 2020, just in time for the next Presidential Primaries," he said in a statement.

The ACLU praised Baker's signing of the law in a statement to Masslive, condemning voter suppression efforts elsewhere around the country.

"Voting should be simple, accessible, and protected, especially in light of national efforts to limit access to the polls," Massachusetts ACLU executive director Carol Rose said in the statement.

The bill passed the state's House and Senate earlier this year, with the Senate version passing unanimously. The law's provisions could register as many as 680,000 voters, according to officials.

More than a dozen other states including New Jersey and Washington have enacted similar automatic voter registration systems. Massachusetts's law also raises the penalty for voter fraud to a fine of up to $10,000 or a five-year prison sentence.