As election season approaches, two cases with potentially major impacts on voter turnout are before the state’s Supreme Judicial Court this morning. One case stemming from a 2016 lawsuit against the state’s election office would force Massachusetts to implement same-day voter registration, according to WGBH Legal Analyst Daniel Medwed.

Secretary of State Bill Galvin, whose offices oversees all state elections, has argued same-day registration would place a burden on resources and that a current registration deadline 20 days before an election is not an undue burden on prospective voters. Secretary Galvin is facing a challenge by Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, who’s made expanding voter turnout and same-day registration a key issue of his campaign.

Galvin only recently changed his position on the issue. At the end of January, he submitted a piece of legislation that would implement same-day voting in 2019 — one year after his campaign against Zakim. He denies the current campaign had any influence over his decision.

Medwed also explains the background of a case that is currently challenging the constitutionality of trying teenagers who commit violent crimes as adults, subjecting them to stricter sentences.

Medwed discusses these developments with WGBH's Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu. A loosley edited transcript of their conversation is below. Click the audio player above to listen to the interview.

Joe Mathieu: The state's highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court, holds oral arguments in appellate cases during the first week of each month from September to May. Joining us to discuss the key oral arguments on the docket this week, some big ones, is Northeastern University law professor and WGBH News legal analyst Daniel Medwed. Welcome back.

Daniel Medwed: Good morning, Joe.

JM: We could start in a couple of different places, but what's the most significant case, in your eyes, on this month's docket?

DM: Well the biggest one is actually on tap for this morning. And it concerns a challenge to a 1993 law that requires eligible voters to register 20 or more days before an election. Several groups, including the ACLU, have sued our Secretary of State, William Galvin, claiming that this is an unconstitutional obstacle on the franchise on the right to vote. And back in July, a state trial court judge agreed with them, finding that this law was unconstitutional and hinting that the legislature should come up with some remedies. Now one possible alternative, of course, is same-day registration. We now have the technology to register people to vote on the very day of an election. And 15 states do that. Nevertheless, the state has sort of dug in its heels on this law and appealed it all the way up to the SJC.

JM: So what's the rationale on the state's part for defending this 20-day rule?

DM: I think it's two-fold. First, that the 20-day voter cutoff is not an undue burden on prospective voters. It's not too difficult to comply with it. Second, that here are legitimate reasons for it, namely the administrative problems involved with processing scores and scores of registrations on the eve of an election. Now the problem with this argument — I think this argument is pretty weak, pretty specious — is that we already have early voting in the Commonwealth. You can vote 15 days before an election. So let's say you register 20 days before, and then you can vote 15 days before. I'm not great at math, Joe, but that seems like five days. It doesn't seem to take 20 days to process these registrations. So I think this 20-day voter registration rule, it really is a vestige of a bygone era, the pre-internet, handwritten registration days. So it's bound to go by the wayside, but I'm just not sure if it's unconstitutional.

JM: Knowing that, as you mentioned, 15 or so other states have this, does that make it more or less likely in Massachusetts?

DM: I think it makes it more likely because there's a growing trend.

JM: We're talking with WGBH News legal analyst Daniel Medwed about the major oral arguments on tap this week in the SJC. Beyond that case, are there other notable cases to talk about this week?

DM: Sure. The one that caught my eye concerns a constitutional challenge to our youthful offender law. That's a statute that was passed in 1996, and it makes juveniles between the ages of 14 and 17 who commit certain violent crimes subject to potential adult sentencing — very severe sentences. So the case before the SJC involves a kid who was 16 in Springfield who committed an armed home invasion with a gun, a very violent crime.

He was convicted of a bunch of different offenses and was ultimately sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison, meaning he's not going to serve any less than 20 years. His lawyers are now claiming a variety of errors in his case, including that that 20-year mandatory minimum sentence violates the state's constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments — especially in light of the growing science about brains suggesting that adolescents lack the capacity to adequately calculate costs and benefits, and therefore they shouldn't be held criminally culpable along the same lines as adults.

JM: So what's your sense on this one? Could they find this unconstitutional?

DM: This is a tough one. This is a close call, because on the one hand, there's a growing burgeoning movement in favor of leniency in juvenile justice and juvenile sentencing. That in fact prompted the Supreme Court a few years ago to get rid of juvenile life sentences without the possibility of parole. But on the other hand, a lot of people think that legislatures should have ample discretion to make sure that the punishment fits the crime, and that 20 years for a violent home invasion by a 16-year-old may not be out of line. So this one's too close to call. I'll be watching Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the SJC. He's been an outspoken critic of mandatory minimums. I'm very curious to see where he falls on this one.

JM: How long do we wait for decisions on these cases?

DM: Under the SJC rules, they tend to issue opinions within 130 days of oral argument, so perhaps mid-summer.

JM: WGBH News legal analyst Daniel Medwed, we thank you, as always, for bringing us up to speed here on WGBH's Morning Edition

DM: Always a pleasure, Joe.