Three Massachusetts residents who missed the voter registration deadline but still want to vote in the presidential electionwill be allowed to cast provisional ballots on Election Day, a judge ruled Monday.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts brought the case against the Secretary of the Commonwealth and other local election officials. Judge Douglas Wilkins ruled in favor of the three plaintiffs o.
“I think the right to vote is themost preservative of all rights and the judge affirmed that in this decision,” said Rahsaan Hall, a lawyer with the ACLU of Massachusetts and the director of its racial justice program.
The ACLU saidthat other than not registering to vote by the deadline—which is 20 days before the election—the three plaintiffs were qualified to vote.
The ACLU argued that the deadline is outdated in part because many election-related activities, including debates, have occurred since the Oct. 19 deadline and also because of the early voting process implemented this year. Early voting began only five days after the voter registration deadline.
About 14 states offer election-day registration, the plaintiffs noted. Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said in a separate news conference Monday morning that he has supported same-day voter registration in the past, but it needs intense financial support to ensure every polling location can access the central polling registryto prevent people from registering in multiple cities on the same day.
The judge’s ruling only affects the three plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. They’ll be able to cast provisional ballots, which Hall described as ballots for individuals who do not appear on the voter list but believe that they are “qualified and eligible” to vote.
“This gives them an opportunity to cast their ballots while the town clerk or local election official can verify their eligibility and qualifications to vote,” he said.
The judge ordered an evidentiary hearing to address the rest of the claims in the case. The hearing is not seeking to change the state law, but the lawsuit is challenging the current voter registration deadline.
“The 20-day voter cut-off disenfranchises thousands of voters every election,” Hall said. “That’s why we brought this lawsuit.”