Mass. GOP Chair Proposes Ballot Question Requiring Voter IDs

The move by state Republican Party Chair Jim Lyons comes as Beacon Hill lawmakers weigh whether to make mail-in voting and expanded early voting a permanent feature in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Statehouse 2017
NBC10 Boston

Massachusetts Republicans are hoping to persuade enough voters to back a change in state law that would require residents to produce an ID to vote.

The push for a proposed ballot question is being led by state Republican Party Chair Jim Lyons.

The effort is in the early stages. Lyons didn't offer specific language, but said he hoped to get the measure on the 2022 ballot — no easy task.

"The integrity of our elections is under attack all over the country, and Massachusetts is no different," Lyons said in a July 4 email to supporters. "Massachusetts should require voters to present identification in order to prove their identity at the ballot box."

In the email Lyons said he wanted to recruit at least 2,000 volunteers to help collect the tens of thousands of signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot.

He said a ballot question is needed because Democratic lawmakers who control both chambers of the state Legislature won't act on their own.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Friday that the Justice Department will be suing the state of Georgia over the passage of S.B. 202. The law added new voter ID requirements and limited ballot dropbox locations in the state.

"You've likely heard the argument many times from Democrats that voter ID requirements are 'racist,'" said Lyons, a supporter of former President Donald Trump. "What's clear to me, after serving eight years as a state lawmaker, is that Beacon Hill will never so much as debate the merits of voter ID laws, and that's why we're taking this question straight to the people."

The announcement follows a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling last week on a case that further weakened components of the federal Voting Rights Act. The court upheld voting limits in Arizona that a lower court had found discriminatory under the 1965 act.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey criticized the decision.

"Voting restrictions pose a mounting threat to our democracy," Healey said in an email. "Republican state legislatures across the country have been acting quickly to pass legislation that further chips away at voting rights. As we saw today, we can't count on the Supreme Court to strike down these discriminatory policies."

Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin also said the court ruling would embolden Republican legislatures to further restrict voting rights.

The move by the state GOP also comes as Beacon Hill lawmakers weigh whether to make mail-in voting and expanded early voting — instituted during the pandemic — a permanent feature in Massachusetts.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has expressed support for extending mail-in voting and early voting options.

Thirty-six states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The remaining 14 states use other methods such as taking identifying information at the polling place, like a signature, and checking it against information on file.

Among New England states, Rhode Island requests photo ID. If no ID is presented, the voter uses a provisional ballot, and election officials match the signature against signatures on record. In Connecticut, ID is requested but a photo isn't mandatory. If an ID isn't presented, a voter provides their name, date of birth, and address under penalty of making a false statement.

In New Hampshire, if an ID isn't presented, the voter signs an affidavit and casts a regular ballot. After the election, a mailing is sent and the voter must sign and return it. If it isn't returned, the voter can be investigated for voter fraud, according to the NCSL.

In the remaining New England states — Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont — voters aren't required to present an ID.

The political divide in Congress is on full display as Senators prepare to vote on a bill that Democrats say would dramatically expand access to voting -- though they are not optimistic for the outcome.

Getting a question on the Massachusetts ballot is no simple task.

Supporters must collect an initial round of more than 80,000 voter signatures by early December, and a second round of more than 13,000 in the spring.

Typically groups try to collect more to give themselves a cushion against successful challenges.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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