[Image via umassmed]
The Massachusetts Legislature is currently moving a bill that will reimburse localities for their costs associated with implementing early voting. WickedNorwell has more:
State Rep. David DeCoste, R-Norwell, is backing a proposal to reimburse cities and towns for the costs associated with the implementation of the state’s early voting law.
The proposal, which was sponsored by the House Republican Leadership, was adopted unanimously by the House of Representatives today as an amendment to the $123.2 million final deficiency supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2017. A vote by the state Senate is still required before the measure can be sent to Governor Baker for his signature.
“The introduction of early voting in Massachusetts required a significant investment of time and resources by our cities and towns,” stated DeCoste. “I’m proud to support this effort to compensate the communities of the 5th Plymouth District for all the work they did to ensure that the process ran smoothly.”
In February of 2017, State Auditor Suzanne Bump ruled that some of the expenses incurred by municipalities to implement the early voting law constituted an unfunded mandate, and suggested these costs should be borne by the Commonwealth.
The language adopted by the House last week sets aside $485,559 to reimburse cities and towns for costs that have previously been certified by the Division of Local Mandates within the state auditor’s office. Municipalities will have until Dec. 31, 2017 to apply for the funding.
The spending bill now moves to the Senate for further action.
The latest legislation reflects, in part, the growing acceptance of early voting in the Bay State. Governor Charlie Baker actually vetoed $1.2 million in funding for early voting in July 2016 as part of an effort bring the budget into balance; now, however, enthusiasm for early voting – and the unfunded mandate ruling – seem to have turned the tide. [Indeed, the article linked above starts with the observation that Norwell town voters want to, but can’t, use early voting in an upcoming town library vote.]
I’m a little concerned that Massachusetts is going to repeat this cycle going forward – asking localities to fund early voting and then provide reimbursement, rather than simply support it from the start – but in the current funding environment it’s better than nothing. I’ll watch the state Senate, and ultimately the Governor, to see what happens next – stay tuned …