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Easy enough, if you care.

Bills in the Legislature would make registering to vote and casting a ballot in Massachusetts easier. House Bill 3788 and Senate Bill 1975 cover many of the same points and will be reconciled by a conference committee ahead of what is likely to be final passage into law.

Those points include online registration, early voting, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, and using postal and motor vehicle data to ensure that voting eligibility moves along with a voter who changes addresses within Massachusetts.

Although we strongly encourage all eligible voters to turn out at every opportunity, and recognize the value of using technology to make registration easier, no effort to make voting easier can substitute for politically active, informed and engaged citizens who care enough to actually vote.

We continue to have reservations about some parts of the legislation. Registering to vote online is not a problem, provided that a voter who does so shows proof of identity and address when first casting a ballot. But online voting (not part of these bills, but a goal of some) raises concerns about electoral fraud. Lawmakers should draw a clear line between the two issues.

We also remain puzzled by the opposition of many lawmakers to requiring voters to have photo ID that could be shown upon request. While voter fraud is rare, there is no good reason to oppose adding a photo ID requirement, which would allay any concerns regarding eligibility. Such a law need not be partisan in nature and could reduce unnecessary squabbling between Democrats and Republicans.

We also oppose elimination of the requirement for a checkout desk at local polls. That creates a second record of who has cast a ballot, which can be valuable in recounts and used to investigate claims of irregularities.

Those who advocate making voting easier appear to believe the changes being considered will boost turnout in Massachusetts, which ranks in the middle of the pack nationally. They're likely to be disappointed. No matter how easy it is to vote, no one can force anyone to do so.

The surer way to increase turnout is to strengthen civics knowledge and education among the young, leading to greater citizen participation in the common enterprise of governance. That, in turn, will mean better and smarter candidates, more vigorous debate and more enlightening campaigns, and larger and longer counts on Election Day.
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Title Annotation:Editorials
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Jan 22, 2014
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