If you are a Massachusetts resident, you may have noticed something different about this year’s election: for the first time you can cast your ballot early. As part of a new early voter initiative, local voting locations will allow residents to cast their ballots between October 24 and November 4th.
This is huge news for democracy. A move by the state to pilot an early voting initiative could mean that officials are considering adding new voter legislation that will make early voting routine in Massachusetts. Adding early voting options will have an incredible impact on the future of American elections by making the democratic process more accessible to voters. In comparison to most European democracies, voting in the United States is significantly more difficult and voters turn out in lower numbers (only 57.5% of eligible voters voted in the 2012 election. That’s 93 million unheard voices!). Therefore, any action taken by the government to encourage people to vote is a progressive change.
For this legislation to come about, however, voters have to participate in the initiative to demonstrate interest in the project. If residents turn out in strong numbers to vote early, legislators will see that people want better voting conditions and will make the appropriate changes to policy. For students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, this initiative could mean fantastic news for increasing voting convenience. Until this project allowed Umass to facilitate four days of on-campus early voting, the University had not been a voting location since 2004. University members hope, however, that overwhelming support for the on-campus early voting site will encourage local officials to re-approve the University to be a voting location for future general elections.
As the last day to vote early on-campus is upon us, I hope to see everyone who has yet to vote at the polls tomorrow! Every vote is essential in a democracy, and by voting early you could help push voting legislation that will amplify the once silent voices of many others.