Thursday, February 1, 2018

House Approves Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Early Voting Cost Reimbursement Amendment

Massachusetts communities are poised to receive compensation to offset the costs associated with implementing the state’s early voting law, thanks to an amendment filed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and members of the House Republican Caucus.

Representative Jones’ amendment would provide more than $1 million in reimbursement to cities and towns across the Commonwealth to cover certain costs that were incurred during the November 2016 state election cycle.  The amendment was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives on January 31 as part of a $17.6 million supplemental budget, but still requires Senate approval and Governor Baker’s signature before the money can be released.

“Over the past year, I have made it a personal priority to ensure that our cities and towns receive compensation for what was essentially a state-imposed unfunded mandate,” said Representative Jones.  “I’m hopeful the Senate will act quickly to pass this proposal so we can deliver this funding to our communities without any further delays.”

Enacted in 2014, the Massachusetts early voting law allows registered voters to cast a ballot as early as 11 business days prior to election day, and up to two business days before the election, every two years during the biennial state election.  More than 1 million early votes were cast during the 2016 election.

In February of 2017, State Auditor Suzanne Bump ruled that some of the expenses incurred by municipalities to implement the law constituted an unfunded mandate, and recommended that these costs should be borne by the Commonwealth.

Last October, Representative Jones led a successful effort to secure a $485,559 funding appropriation for early voting reimbursements as part of the House version of the Fiscal Year 2017 final deficiency budget.  Although the final version of the bill did not contain any funding for early voting costs, it did include language directing the state auditor to certify the costs for each municipality and to report back to the Legislature by January 10.

On January 8, the auditor provided the Legislature with documentation certifying a statewide total of $1,063,978.14 in municipal costs as eligible for reimbursement.  The full amount is reflected in Representative Jones’ amendment.

The supplemental budget now moves to the Senate for further action.