(NOTE: The State Auditor certified Wilmington’s costs associated with the 2016 early voting at nearly $3,000.)
BOSTON, MA — In response to an unfunded mandate determination from the Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law a measure that provides reimbursement to Massachusetts cities and towns for their unfunded, mandated expenses related to providing early voting in the 2016 election. The measure, which was included in a supplemental appropriations bill, allocates $1,063,978.14 to the Secretary of the Commonwealth to provide reimbursements to communities.
“I commend the Legislature for appropriating these funds, and Governor Baker for signing the measure into law, and I thank cities and towns across the state for working with my office to identify this unfunded mandate. These reimbursements send a clear message that the Commonwealth is committed to ensuring better access to the ballot for Massachusetts voters,” Bump said of the measure passed today. “My office has already begun work with lawmakers to develop a permanent process to fund early voting in future elections, and I encourage the Legislature to make this process law.”
In February 2017, Bump determined that parts of the early voting law constituted an unfunded mandate under the Local Mandates Law. In the determination, Bump cited the requirements that municipalities establish an early voting polling location that has sufficient staffing and privacy for voters as the factors driving the conclusion. In January of this year, Bump certified that municipalities spent $1,063,978.14 in unfunded, mandated costs to provide early voting in the 2016 general election.
The early voting law, which was passed in 2014, requires that municipalities allow any qualified voter during biennial state elections (and other elections taking place at that time) to vote during a twelve-day early voting period. The Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office reports that more than one million voters cast their ballots during this period in 2016, representing more than 22 percent of registered voters in the state.
DLM was established in 1980 as part of Proposition 2 ½, an initiative that limits the abilities of cities and towns to increase property taxes. Under the state’s Local Mandate Law, the Legislature and state agencies are prohibited from passing costs along to municipalities to implement state programs. DLM was established to respond to municipal request to determine whether an unfunded mandate has been passed on to local governments, and make a cost determination of the state funding necessary to sustain a mandate. Since its creation, DLM has received 675 petitions from municipalities and members of the Legislature asking the Division to review whether legislative or regulatory action imposes an impermissible unfunded mandate on a municipality. In response, DLM has issued 436 unfunded mandate determinations, finding in favor of municipalities 79 times. As a result of these efforts, approximately $343 million in state funding or other remediation has been provided to local communities.
About the Office of the State Auditor
The Office of the State Auditor conducts performance audits of state government’s programs, departments, agencies, authorities, contracts, and vendors. With its reports, the OSA issues recommendations to improve accountability, efficiency, and transparency. The OSA has identified approximately $1.3 billion in unallowable, questionable, or potentially fraudulent spending and saving opportunities for the Commonwealth since 2011. Last year, auditees report implementation of 91 percent of the OSA’s audit recommendations. The office received the Einhorn-Gary Award for its success furthering government accountability.
(NOTE: The above press release is from the Office of the State Auditor.)
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