Universal Voter Registration: The Massachusetts Health Care Model

In 2006, Massachusetts enacted bi-partisan health care reform legislation that requires residents to obtain health coverage, while providing expanded funding and assistance for coverage through the state. In such a way, the state has created a model for how to balance government and individual responsibility that can be applied to other policy areas, such as voter registration. Having 100% registration will address the remarkably low 72% rate of registration among eligible voters that contributes to low voter turnout, significantly reduce duplications and omissions in the voter rolls and help create a system that balances the concerns of election accessibility and voter fraud.

We reviewed whether state governments have the power to implement compulsory voter registration laws to achieve universal voter registration in a manner similar to the Massachusetts Act that requires all state residents to obtain health insurance policies. We conclude that such a policy is not only possible, but could potentially serve as a powerful model for boosting registration, turnout and civic engagement among many sectors of society. Our legal research memo outlines how such a policy would have to be enacted and includes sample legislation.