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Democracy in MALN: Voter Access Across New England

Hispanic and Latino Americans are the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S. electorate since the last midterm elections, with about 34.5 million Hispanics and Latinos eligible to vote in 2022.

While the turnout for Hispanic and Latino voters nationwide has increased over the past decade, they still fall behind other groups. Hispanic and Latino voters face a variety of barriers, but efforts to limit voter access are increasing across the country.

Democracy doesn’t properly work when people and communities are blocked or prevented from participating within local, state, and national elections. 

Expanding voting access across the country ensures that communities are accurately and justly represented by its elected officials. 

In Massachusetts, there has been progress in expanding voting access as Gov. Charlie Baker signed early in-person voting permanently into law on June 22

Practices such as voting by mail and in-person early voting were first implemented in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The system of allowing [voting] in one short window, is one that has precluded many people in the past,” said Editor-In-Chief Matt DeRienzo of The Center for Public Integrity. “These changes are really leveling the playing field.”

Advocating for and increasing voting access includes expanding early voting, online voter registration, and same-day voter registration. 

In 2020, non-traditional voting — all types of non-election day voting including vote-by-mail and absentee voting — accounted for about 69.4% of the vote, according to Deliver My Vote Executive Director Amanda Pohl.

“Vote-by-mail programs and any early-voting program does provide greater access to the ballot and that supports the basic foundation of our democracy,” said Pohl.

“We had the highest turnout election in modern history,” she added. “We had more people of color [and] young people voting…and more people accessing the ballot who otherwise,” would have not be able to.

Nonprofit leaders at the Vote Local Day discussion on Vote By Mail & Voter ID’s emphasized that the rate of vote-by-mail has increased over the years. They also spoke on how early-voting, vote-by-mail, and absentee ballots have led to greater and more diverse participation throughout the country. 

“Those accessible programs do increase access to voting for disenfranchised communities, especially, and we have some research that we released in February that also shows that young voters and especially voters of color are more likely to vote if they’re given vote-by-mail options,” Pohl said in the discussion.

Although data has found that expanding voter access results in higher participation rates among communities, officials across the U.S. are working to backtrack some of these laws.

“As soon as those things happened, we immediately saw states starting to clamp down on voting methodologies…We’re also seeing backlash from legislatures that don’t want to see that increased participation,” Pohl said. 

Since May, almost 400 restrictive bills have been introduced in legislatures across the nation. Some restrictions deny assistance to voters with limited English proficiency, according to the Brennan Center

“Over the past 18 months, there has been a wave of anti-voter bills introduced and passed across the country, many of them designed to undermine the growing political power of Latinos and other communities of color,” wrote the Brennan Center. 

Research by the Brennan Center would support the idea that the ongoing increase in voter restrictions are strongly motivated/influenced by “racial backlash”.

“Racial Backlash” is a theory that “describes how white Americans respond to a perceived erosion of power and status by undermining the political opportunities of minorities,” according to the Brennan Center.  

Important Reminders 

Registration: 

MA residents can register by mail, in person, or online by Oct. 29; residents are not able to register on Election Day.

Learn about the different types of registration at

https://www.boston.gov/departments/elections/how-register-vote

Not sure if you’re registered? Check your registration status at:

https://www.sec.state.ma.us/VoterRegistrationSearch/MyVoterRegStatus.aspx

Mail voter registration must be postmarked by Oct. 29 to be eligible. Multilingual forms including English and Spanish are available here: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleifv/howreg.htm 

Online registration ends Oct. 29 EST. Register here: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/OVR/ 

In-person registration also ends Oct. 29. Residents may register at any local election office, the Elections Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and at certain public assistance agencies, according to the Secretary of State’s website.  

Early Voting

Early voting is available between Oct. 11 – Nov. 4. Learn more at:

https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleev/evidx.htm

Submitting an Absentee Ballot: 

Any MA resident can request a mail-in ballot either by Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. through mail, in-person, or online at: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/MailInRequestWeb/MailInBallot.aspx 

Track your mail-in ballot at:

https://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/TrackMyBallot

The mail request form for an absentee ballots is solely available in English at: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elepdf/Vote-by-Mail-Paper-Application-2022-AVBM.pdf  

Absentee or Mail-In Ballots must be received by mail or in-person by Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. EST. 

Voting Day:

On Nov. 8, MA Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. although towns are able to open at 5:45 a.m. (any resident standing in line at the polls at 8 p.m. is able to vote.) 

Locate a polling place near you at: 

https://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/WhereDoIVote

Or

https://gettothepolls.com

For more general information on Voting in MA: 

https://www.mass.gov/topics/voting


Additional Resources 

General

Be The Ones English Local Voter Guide 

Be The Ones Spanish Local Voter Guide 

Vote.org Poll Locator – https://www.vote.org/polling-place-locator/ 

Massachusetts 

MassVote Website – https://www.massvote.org/  


Publisher’s note: MA Latino News under the Latino News Network (LNN), has put together this informational guide with the help of our partner Be The Ones, to assist voters make informed decisions not only at the polls, but in their engagement with democracy going forward.

Collaboration and inclusion are best practices LNN adopted from the Democracy SOS fellowship. LNN is one of 20 U.S.-based newsrooms elected to participate in the Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) fellowship, committed to building understanding, trust, and engagement.

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