To build a better community, we must increase opportunities to register to vote.

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By Jean Bradley Derenoncourt
Brockton City Councilor At-Large

Recently, I filed an ordinance that will increase opportunities to register to vote in Brockton. Here’s why.

The United States trails most other democracies in voter turnout. There are many reasons for this — and some of them have undergone deep and complex analysis — but fundamental among them is a lack of access to opportunities to register.

Restrictions on registration, such as pre-election cutoff dates, disenfranchise voters, and have a disproportionate impact on low-income communities and communities of color.

To combat these issues, several states have adopted same-day registration, which increases voter engagement and turnout, and results in a more representative population of voters. Automatic Voter Registration, an even more modernized process, has been authorized in eleven states and Washington D.C., and has led to increased turnout while saving money for the state.

The Commonwealth has adopted pre-registration, which enables future voters to opt-in and become automatically registered once they turn 18. The goal, according to MassVote, is to “encourage civic engagement and involvement in decision making,” key requirements for improving a community.

But unlike other modernization measures, Massachusetts still maintains a 20-day cutoff for registration before an election. This rule has not changed since the original law was passed in 1893, 125 years ago, when voter registration was contingent upon property ownership and gender.

In 2018, this 20-day cutoff only serves to make it harder for potential voters to vote, and it mostly impacts young folks.

It is our job, therefore, as public servants, to seek to increase engagement, and to hear the voice of our community as a whole. Increasing registration opportunities will help to serve this purpose.

The idea behind the new ordinance is simple: to enable our resident citizens to register during routine interactions with city officials, employees, and departments.

Voter registration opportunities will exist, should the ordinance pass, at all Brockton Public Library locations; at Youth and Family Centers partnered with the City; at all Brockton Public School welcome centers; and at the Brockton Area Transit Authority.

Eligible voters will be able to register to vote while signing up for a library card, buying a parking pass or Smart Card, or choosing classes at Brockton High.

The bottom line is this: the ability to participate in an election is a fundamental civil right of all citizens, and a central principle of our democracy.

I believe this law will be a positive step toward growing our population of voters, increasing youth engagement, and building a community where all our voices are heard.

As published online through Medium by visiting here.