Archives for June 2015

Election Modernization Coalition Lauds Implementation of Online Voter Registration

BOSTON (June 23, 2015) – Today, Secretary of State William Galvin announced the official launch of online voter registration, implementing a long-awaited reform that will allow Massachusetts citizens with signatures on file with the Registry of Motor Vehicles to fill out paperless voter registration applications over the Internet.

The Election Modernization Coalition, comprised of Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, the MIRA Coalition, Progressive Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Voter Table celebrated the launch, and applauded the new technology which they predict will engage new voters.

“We are extremely pleased that Massachusetts will be joining 20 states that have already implemented online voter registration,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “It’s a proven reform that will bring Massachusetts into the 21st Century and improve voter registration accuracy while increasing opportunities to register to vote.”

Before today, state residents were required to fill out a voter application, sign it in paper form, and then mail or deliver it to an elections official. Now applications can be submitted online and verified by matching information, including signature, already contained in the Registry of Motor Vehicles database. Residents without state IDs or driver’s licenses can print out a form and send it in.

“It’s thrilling that, as of today, voter registration will be available in Massachusetts online,” said Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG. “In a day and age when so many transactions, tiny and huge, take place via the internet, we look forward to this tool giving more people, and especially young people, greater access to voting.”

Advocates noted that in Arizona, after online voter registration was implemented, registration increased by nearly 10 percent. Maricopa County in Arizona even saved $1.4 million after implementing online voter registration in 2008. In that county, processing a paper registration form cost 83 cents, while an online application cost three cents. Massachusetts, like most other states, will likely see cost savings.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said Sara Brady, Policy Director at MassVOTE. “We’re very pleased that in 2015 our Commonwealth took another step towards ensuring accessible elections for all with the launch of the new online voter registration system today.”

“Massachusetts is the cradle of liberty and the tech hub of the universe, so online voting is a marriage of two of the commonwealth’s greatest strengths. In other words, it’s a no-brainer,” said Gavi Wolfe of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The state should always be innovating and seeking out new ways to harness technology in the service of fundamental freedoms like voting.”

The launch of online voter registration is one of the first steps in implementing the Comprehensive Election Modernization Act, passed in 2014 by the Massachusetts legislature and championed by the Election Modernization Coalition. The law established online voter registration, early voting, pre-registration, audits of election equipment and more.

“Our coalition fought hard for this reform, which was signed into law in June 2014, said Anne Borg, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “We applaud Secretary William Galvin’s office for their diligence and commitment to launching online voter registration early and fully and look forward to working with them to implement the remaining reforms, especially early voting.”

June 2015 Awards to Six Local Leagues

Congratulations to the six Leagues awarded Daniel Scharfman Citizen Education Grants in June. The total amount dispersed in this cycle for the six grants was $1,447.

For information on the grant program, click here.

The grant program offers funds to help Leagues carry out events and projects in the areas of citizen education and voter service. Generous contributions to the Lotte E. Scharfman Education Fund have made this successful grant program possible. Please consider donating to the fund. Donations can be made through the website, lwvma.org. A big thank you to those of you who have donated in the past, making this grant program possible.

LWV Melrose, “Fall Forums”

LWV Melrose will host at least two forums this fall to educate voters about the candidates as well as the issues. The local election is in November 2015. The elections are for 14 local seats (three school committee, three aldermen at large, seven ward aldermen, and mayor) as well as for one or more ballot questions. Multiple panels and at least two forums will be desirable and necessary to handle the large number of candidates.  The forums will be open to the public, free of charge. The forums enable members of the public to submit questions to the candidates and hear their views. The forums will be filmed to be shown repeatedly on the local access television channel.

LWV Needham, “Timeline Project”

In honor of its 75th anniversary, LWV Needham is creating a timeline of the past 75 years. The timeline will be displayed in a public place (most likely the Needham Library or the Needham Historical Society) and at a League event open to the public at Needham Town Hall in November 1, 2015.  The timeline will educate the public about the past achievements of LWV Needham, put into perspective with national and world events at the time.

LWV Shrewsbury, “Historical Reenactment”

The Shrewsbury LWV will invite Sheryl Faye, an historical re-enactor who performs as famous women, including Eleanor Roosevelt, to perform during the Spirit of Shrewsbury Fall Festival. The goal is to initiate and open up a multiyear program to help prepare the residents of Shrewsbury for the 100th anniversary of the League.  This event is open to the general public and perfect for both genders and all ages.

LWV Springfield Unit of Northampton, “Voter Education Activities”

The newly formed LWV Springfield unit of Northampton received support for voter education activities aimed at increasing visibility and establishing the LWV as a premiere source of voter information in Springfield.  The Springfield Unit will purchase an LWV banner to take to voter registration drives, carry in parades, and display at community events.  And, to ensure that the new League unit is represented at the premiere summer events attended by the greatest number of low-turnout voters, the grant money will also be used for event fees for non-profit table/booth participants.

LWV Waltham, “Sandwich Boards”

LWV Waltham will purchase two sandwich boards, which will be used to publicize LWV Waltham public events.  During the past two years, this local League has presented several public events that have been publicized in the local newspaper and on local cable television. Citizens who do not view these local media may not be aware of these meetings. Purchase of these sandwich boards will allow LWV Waltham to publicize these events by placing signs in high-traffic areas and will greatly increase the visibility of LWV Waltham and its educational events.

LWV Worcester, “Naturalization Ceremony Materials”

The Worcester Area LWV received funding to cover materials and postage costs related to its participation in naturalization ceremonies in Central Massachusetts.  This League has played a key role in these ceremonies for close to 15 years and, prior to this year, participated annually in five ceremonies in Worcester and three in north Worcester County. At each, League members greet each candidate personally, distribute voter registration forms, and give each candidate printed materials and an American flag. Before the swearing-in takes place, League members give a welcome address from the stage, review each line of the registration form with the candidates, and answer questions. After each ceremony, the League collects completed registation forms and mails them with a LWV cover letter to appropriate city or town halls. In Worcester alone, the Worcester Area LWV distributed 3500+ materials, forms and flags this past year.

 

 

LWVMA Honors MA High School Students for Top Videos in 2015 Contest

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts celebrated the winners of its “There Oughta Be a Law” Student Video Contest at a State House award ceremony on June 8.  Applauded by friends, family, and teachers, the winning students—from Maynard, Longmeadow, Newton, and Fall River—received prizes from the League’s Citizen Education Fund and official citations from state legislators representing the students’ home districts.  Senator Jamie Eldridge, who represents Maynard, addressed the students, encouraging them to remain actively engaged in civic life.

For this year’s contest, the League invited Massachusetts high school students to create two-minute videos suggesting new laws to help keep Massachusetts great.  The contest aimed to heighten civic awareness among high school students, provide an opportunity for them to speak out about the topics that are important to them, and possibly help shape the legislative agenda.

The winning videos are:

First Place: “Violation of Gun Control,” by Benjamin Andersson Grotnes, Anne Helmen, Julia Hines Grape, and Anniken Birkhaug, Maynard High School, Maynard

Second Place: “Statutory Rape,” by Susanita Carvajal, Longmeadow High School, Longmeadow

Third Place:  “The Risks of Confidentiality,” by Alexa Lyons (of Newton), The Winsor School, Boston

The first-place winners received an award of $1,000; the second-place winner received $500; and the third-place winner received $250.  In addition to the individual prizes, FRED-TV at Durfee High School in Fall River received a special prize of $250 to recognize the exceptional number of high quality videos submitted to the contest by Durfee students.  This is the second year in a row that Durfee High School has been so recognized.

The winning videos came from a pool of entries submitted from across the state—from western Massachusetts to the Cape and Islands—that touched on a wide variety of topics, including suicide prevention programs, genetically modified organisms, public art, clean energy, education, recycling, satellite dishes, driving laws, and voter registration. The Judging Committee selected the winning submissions based on their clear and compelling messages, memorable content and delivery, and creativity.  The positions taken in the winning videos do not necessarily reflect the positions of the League of Women Voters.

Senator Eldridge and Representative Kate Hogan presented official citations to the first-place team from Maynard, who are all Norwegian students studying at Maynard High School for the year.  The second-place winner received a citation from Senator Eric Lesser, and the third-place winner received citations from Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Ruth Balser.

The contest was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Citizen Education Fund, which supports programs designed to encourage the active and informed participation of citizens in democracy and increase understanding of public policy issues.  Funding for the contest was provided by the Salem Five Charitable Foundation.

Pictures from the award ceremony can be viewed below: