Archives for July 2016

Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition Urges Legislative Action to Protect Early Voting

July 15, 2016 — Responding to Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of over $1 million from the Secretary of State’s budget for implementing early voting this fall, the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition, which includes the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, has sent letters to the leadership of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts Senate,  urging an override to protect early voting.  The letters state:

“We believe that it is important to make this first attempt at early voting in Massachusetts a success. Our election modernization coalition has challenged the cities and towns to implement a robust early voting effort, and we would hate to see early voting weakened by this cut to the Elections Department budget.

“We understand that revenues are tight, but these decreases go way beyond the 1% across-the-board cuts proposed by the Governor. By removing the “prior appropriation continued” language approved by the House and Senate, the Governor is cutting over $800,000. When added to the 1% cuts, this is a budget reduction of over $1 million, or about 6% of the Elections budget. We believe that this is too much. Please help ensure the success of the Election Modernization law, and help support the right to vote, by restoring Secretary Galvin’s elections funding.”

Massachusetts House of Representatives Passes Unanimously Most Comprehensive Pay Equity Legislation in the Country

LWVMA is a member of the Equal Pay Coalition, which has issued the following press release:

BOSTON – On Thursday, July 14th, the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.4509, An Act to Establish Pay Equity by a vote of 158-0.

Massachusetts was the first state to pass an Equal Pay law in 1945 and members of the legislature have been filing a bill since 1998 to fill gaps in this law. With today’s passage, the Commonwealth can now celebrate passing the most comprehensive pay equity legislation in the country. The bill aims to tackle the gender wage gap that currently affects women in Massachusetts: on average, they make 82 cents to every dollar their male counterparts earn – African American women earn 67 cents and Latina women earn 58 cent to their male counterparts.

The pay equity bill will help address the gender wage gap by providing a more comprehensive definition of comparable work – the most inclusive out of the 23 states in the United States that have such a definition in their books. The bill allows employees to discuss their salaries without the threat of retaliation from their employer and bans the practice of requiring salary history on job applications before a job offer is made. The bill also encourages employers to evaluate their own pay practices and implement changes to end pay disparities voluntarily. These four components make the bill amenable to businesses and employees alike.

The establishment of these practices will help women in Massachusetts reach their true earnings potential in the workplace and help lift women and families out of poverty. Overall, the bill is good for women, good for families and good for business and the economy.

“Today is a historic day in Massachusetts and I would like to thank our legislative leaders in both the House and the Senate for recognizing the importance of working towards closing the gender wage gap. This bill supports working families, communities, and companies by ensuring equal pay for women and men. It will make Massachusetts more competitive in a global marketplace” said Victoria Budson, Chair of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

“The Women’s Bar Association (WBA) of Massachusetts was proud to work as part of the Equal Pay Coalition to advance this bill. The WBA is dedicated to the full and equal participation of women in Massachusetts and this legislation brings us one step closer to achieving equality in the workplace and economic security for women and families across the Commonwealth,” said Kristin Shirahama, President of WBA.

“The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women (Mass NOW) is thrilled that Massachusetts is leading on the critical issue of equal pay. We look forward to the day that everyone who identifies as a woman around the country having as much equality as we do in Massachusetts” says Sasha Goodfriend, Co-President of Mass NOW.

The bill now goes to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions before a final vote in both chambers.

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The Equal Pay Coalition is a coalition of non-profits, unions and other organizations hoping to eliminate the wage gap for women and people of color and they have been working on passing this legislation since the beginning of the 2015-2016 legislative session.

 

For more information about the Equal Pay Coalition, please visit: www.maequalpaycoalition.com

 

 

LWVUS 52nd Convention: Change and Action

LWVMA sent 32 delegates to Washington, DC, last month for the 52nd LWVUS National Convention. Our delegates joined over 700 other League members for workshops and caucuses, riveting speakers and panelists, and a hands-on election 2016 training, plus a banquet featuring author and journalist Ari Berman, who spoke about his book on the Voting Rights Act. We also elected new national leadership, adopted a budget (no US per-member-payment increases this year or next), and committed to strategically align around our national program – the campaign for Making Democracy Work®.

Key themes of convention were change, focus, engagement, and urgency.  In her speech, LWVUS CEO Dr. Wylecia Wiggs Harris emphasized the need to embark on an organizational change journey that focuses on accelerating the pace of change within the League and adopting a bias toward action, taking advantage of alternative engagement opportunities, focusing our agenda, and wrestling with the tough questions of whether our current structure and approaches reflect a 21st century organization. Over the next few weeks, LWVUS will be posting materials, handouts, transcripts and videos in the Convention 2016 section of the LWV.org website. You can view LWVMA’s submission to Roll Call of the States here.

Six LWVMA members participated in the national Lobby Day, speaking with Senators Warren’s and Markey’s staffs, as well as with Congressmen on the need to restore the Voting Rights Act.

Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition Statement on Early Voting Costs

election mod coalitionFor Immediate Release                                                                                              
July 6, 2016   

Boston – July 6, 2016 – In response to a Politico Massachusetts article, released yesterday, titled “Cities and towns fret over costs of early voting,” the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition has released the following statement:

“The Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition believes that Early Voting is a vitally important reform that will modernize our democracy and enhance voters’ ability to participate in elections. That’s why we led the campaign for the 2014 legislation that established early voting in our commonwealth, and that’s also why, over the last year, we have led a follow-up campaign to help ensure a robust implementation of the new law. To that end, we have released recommendations for best practices for early voting based on the experience of other states, and have worked with grassroots activists in local communities across Massachusetts to advocate for these goals.

Cities and towns have significant discretion under the new law, and we urge them to use this flexibility to provide more opportunities for voters by extending voting hours over the weekend and evenings of the early voting period. We also urge large communities to offer at least one voting site for every 35,000 people. The Coalition will be awarding gold and silver “medals” later this fall to those communities that rise to the challenge and meet our recommendations.

In the course of this effort, we have heard from some local officials like those in the Politico article who are concerned about the cost of implementing early voting. As part of our recommendations, we suggest cost-saving measures such as having a town hall shift some of their normal business hours during the 11-day early voting period to incorporate evening or weekend hours without adding to the budget. There is also discretion in the number of staff required to be present that may reduce some of the cost estimates. A number of smaller communities have told us their plans are in place with no additional costs.

Our coalition believes that an effective and successful implementation of early voting is crucial, and robust policies will be important to making sure the new law truly meets its goals: easing access to the ballot for Massachusetts voters, shortening lines at polling locations, and improving the voting experience for citizens and elections administrators alike. We urge all cities and towns to make every effort to provide more opportunities for voters to cast their ballots.

For more details on the Election Modernization Coalition’s recommendations and implementation campaign, please go to www.earlyvotingma.com/

The Election Modernization Coalition is comprised of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and more.