New Law Lets Mass. Residents Vote at Old Address

By Steve LeBlanc | October 30, 2008 | 6:26 AM EDT
Boston (AP) - Massachusetts voters who have moved in the past 18 months will be allowed to vote at their old addresses if they failed to re-register at their new homes.
The new law signed Wednesday by Gov. Deval Patrick will apply only to this election, in part to address concerns about voters forced out of their homes and apartments due to the foreclosure crisis.
"The governor believes that it is important to broaden access to the ballot particularly for people who have been displaced over the last year and a half due to the foreclosure crisis," said Patrick's spokesman Kyle Sullivan.
The ballots will be limited to votes for president, U.S. senator and the three statewide ballot questions.
Voters won't be allowed to cast ballots in their old precincts for state lawmakers since they no longer live in the district.
Under the existing election law, voters who move must re-register within six months. The new law extends that grace period by a year. The law automatically reverts to the six-month window after the election.
Secretary of State William Galvin said that without the new law, voters who attempted to cast ballots at their old precincts would have to cast provisional ballots instead. Provisional ballots are held until the eligibility of the voter can be determined.
"With this change, voters who have had to leave their residence will be able to vote expeditiously, relieving pressure on polling places which will doubtless see large turnouts," Galvin said in a written statement.
Town clerks said they were worried the last-minute change could throw a wrench in the works of what is already expected to be a high voter turnout election.
"It's just wrong to do it six days before an election," said Plymouth Town Clerk Laurence Pizer, legislative chairman of the Massachusetts Town Clerks' Association.
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