Statewide Groups, AG Healey Ask Legislators to Pass Automatic Voter Registration in Massachusetts

January 31, 2018/BOSTON, MA – Attorney General Maura Healey joined hundreds of citizens and dozens of organizations today in urging the legislature to pass Automatic Voter Registration (H.2091 and S.373) as soon as possible this session. Teachers, veterans, environmentalists, immigrants, and union members were among those who came to the State House from all over to state to support Automatic Voter Registration (AVR).

“Voting is the most basic and essential right in a democracy,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “I am pleased to join Common Cause and the Election Modernization Coalition in making sure that right is available and accessible to all eligible voters in Massachusetts.”

The AVR legislation, introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Peter Kocot, would establish a system for eligible citizens to automatically register to vote when they interact with a state agency like the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth. Approximately 680,000 eligible Massachusetts voters are currently not registered.

The bill has popular and growing support in both legislative chambers, with 84 House co-sponsors and 22 Senate sponsors and received a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Election Laws last summer. The legislation is also endorsed by 61 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups (see list below).

“The momentum for Automatic Voter Registration is building,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “We had a tremendous show of support today from organizations, individuals, and opinion leaders from every corner of our state who are passionate about giving all Bay Staters a voice in elections. AVR is a small change with a big impact that will make our election system more accurate, secure and efficient. It is critical for the legislature to pass it as soon as possible.”

“AVR removes obstacles to full participation in our democracy and moves us one step forward to ensuring that every eligible voter has a chance to have an equal voice in the political process,” added Meryl Kessler, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

Carol Rose, executive director, ACLU of Massachusetts said, “Voting rights are under attack.  And, as we say in the streets, ‘What do we do? Stand up, fight back!’  With Washington aggressively peddling voter suppression, this is the time for states to be bold leaders in expanding access to the ballot for every eligible voter. Automatic Voter Registration will knock down an unnecessary barrier and simply let people vote.”

“Massachusetts has played a historic role in American democracy,” said Jonathan Cohn of Progressive Massachusetts. “It’s time for us to deliver on that democratic promise by joining the the ten other states (plus D.C.) that have adopted Automatic Voter Registration.”

“While there’s nothing automatic about passing Automatic Voter Registration into law, the momentum has been building with support from all corners of our state. We hope the Legislature will soon put our state in line with all the others which have already passed this important reform,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.

“MassVOTE is proud to stand with the Coalition and so many grassroots supporters to continue urging the Legislator to pass this important piece of legislation,” MassVOTE’s Executive Director Cheryl Crawford added.

In Oregon, the first state to implement AVR, 230,000 voters registered in its first six months, and more than 265,000 inaccurate registrations were updated during the same period. About 97,000 voters participated in the 2016 election because of the reform. Ten states and the District of Columbia have already passed Automatic Voter Registration, all in a bipartisan manner: Oregon, California, West Virginia, Alaska, Vermont, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

The Election Modernization Coalition, which organized the Lobby Day, is led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters or Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, the ACLU of Massachusetts, and Progressive Massachusetts. A full list of organizations endorsing AVR can be found here, and more information about AVR can be found here.

Join Us for Automatic Voter Registration Lobby Day January 31

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts and our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition will be hosting a lobby day on January 31st to convince legislators to make Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) a top priority in 2018. Registration and training will take place in Room 428 in the State House (24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133). Registration begins at 9:30, and the program will run from 10:00-12:30.

AVR is the crucial next step in voting rights. It shifts our voter registration from an opt-in system to an opt-out one, involving more citizens in the political process. It also costs less in the long run and makes voter rolls more accurate and secure. Approximately 680,000 eligible citizens are currently not registered to vote in Massachusetts—Automatic Voter Registration could give them a voice in our democracy.

What is a lobby day? It’s a day when members of the public meet with their representatives at the State House to explain why an issue (in this case, AVR) is so important. We will spend an hour teaching you the tips and tricks to speaking with legislators before sending you off to attend scheduled meetings with your representatives to advocate for this vital reform.

SIGN UP HERE to participate in this lobby day: https://goo.gl/forms/6VlPBSsJ1Gm0NEEq2

Call-In Day of Action on Environment on January 17

A Call-In Day of Action has been organized by our climate coalition action partners for this Wednesday, January 17th. The goal is to report significant energy and climate change-related bills out of committee so they can move through the legislative process to a vote this session. 

Our task is to make sure through phone calls and social media posts that our legislators know we expect action on important bills.

Your call can be as simple and direct as asking that LWVMA-supported energy bills in the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) be voted favorably out of Committee by February 7th.

The environmental bills with especially high priority for this action are listed below:

S1821: An Act combatting climate change (Carbon Pricing)

H1726: An Act to promote green infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs (Carbon Pricing)

S1876/H2700: An Act relative to enhancing RPS standards (Increase minimum use of renewable energy by electric utilities)

S1846/H2706: An Act relative to solar power and the green economy (Remove solar net metering cap)

S1875/H1725: An Act relative to local energy investment and infrastructure modernization (Modernize the electric grid)

You can find information about each bill listed in the Advocacy section of the LWVMA website under Environment-Energy and Resource Conservation. For more information about the bills or this action, contact Launa Zimmaro at lzimmaro@lwvma.org.  To find your legislators’ contact information, click here.

LWVMA Responds to Announcement of September Primary Date by Secretary Galvin

January 10, 2018/Boston, MA–Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has announced that the date for the 2018 Massachusetts primary election will be Tuesday, September 4, the day after Labor Day.  The Secretary’s announcement included that he is filing legislation for a period of five days of early voting ahead of the election, and seeking funding for local elections officials to support the costs of early voting.

While the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) is pleased that Secretary Galvin has embraced our recommendation to extend early voting to the primary and that he recognizes the benefits of early voting for voters, we are disappointed in the timing of the primary, which is earlier than the dates LWVMA recommended.  Voting on the day after Labor Day will prove challenging for voters in the Commonwealth, especially for families preparing children for the start of school, and for candidates who are eager to get their message out to voters.

We hope that the legislature will support Secretary Galvin’s legislation for early voting in this and future state primary elections and that he will be successful in identifying funding to support early voting.  We also hope that he and his office will be prepared to roll out a robust public relations campaign to make voters aware of the date of the primary, and options for early and absentee voting.

Moderator Training at ActonTV on February 15

Among LWVMA’s greatest assets are our trained moderators who play a critical role in candidate and issue forums and debates.

Are you a novice who would like to learn how to moderate?  Or an expert who would like to brush up on your skills?  Have questions about how to handle tricky situations during a debate or forum?

LWVMA will hold a Moderator Training for both new and experienced moderators on Thursday, February 15 from 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. at ActonTV Studios (16a Craig Road, Acton, MA 01720).  League members and experienced moderators Jo-Ann Berry and Stefani Traina will lead the training.

This in-person training session will be taped to create a training video that can later be used by local Leagues throughout the state.  If you are unable to attend this session, but interested in participating in a regional training at another location in Massachusetts, please contact LWVMA Voter Service Chairs Judy Zaunbrecher or Kris Eastman.

Sign up here:

Register for LWVMA Moderators' Training February 15

Please complete the form below to register to attend the LWVMA Moderators' Training at ActonTV's studios (16 Craig Road, Acton, MA 01720) on Thursday, February 15 from 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m..

LWV Statement on the Shut-down of the ‘Election Integrity’ Commission

January 3, 2018/Washington, DC – League of Women Voters president, Chris Carson issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s Executive Order terminating his ‘election integrity’ commission.

“Today voters win. We are pleased that the Trump Administration has at last dissolved their discredited ‘election integrity’ commission.

“As has been said time and time again, the purpose of this effort was to justify President Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 elections. This travesty of a commission was nothing more than a tactic of voter suppression and an unnecessary distraction from legitimate threats to our democracy.

“It is now time for our leaders to focus on the the very real work of securing our elections against foreign interference, while making sure all eligible voters are free to exercise their right to vote.”

Contact: Caitlin Rulien | 202-263-1329 | crulien@lwv.org

LWVMA Submits Comments to Secretary of Commonwealth Regarding 2018 Primary Date, Urges Expansion of Early Voting

January 2, 2018/BOSTON, MA — The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has urged the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the legislature to expand early voting to all statewide elections, including primaries.

In comments submitted in response to the Secretary’s request for input on potential dates for the September 2018 state primary election, the League noted that the conflicts between potential primary dates and the Jewish holidays could be resolved by offering early voting.

“This situation is a perfect example of why the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Legislature should expand early voting for at least all statewide elections, including primaries. The availability of early voting would allow the Commonwealth to continue with this primary as is routine on September 18 while allowing ample opportunity for those observing the Jewish holidays to vote in advance,” Mary Ann Ashton, president of the state League, said in the letter.

The League asked the Secretary to set the date as late as possible to allow voters to become familiar with the candidates after the summer vacation period.  The League also urged the Secretary to devote adequate resources to publicizing the election date, particularly if it is on a Thursday, and the availability of absentee ballots well in advance of the election.

The League said it was “disappointed” that the public comment period on the primary date was announced on Dec. 22 and ran until Jan. 2, the two-week holiday period when many who might wish to comment might be unaware of the opportunity to comment or unable to do so.  The League asked that the public comment period be extended to permit additional input.

After Low-Turnout Election, Coalition Calls for Automatic Voter Registration in Massachusetts

Nov. 9, 2017/BOSTON, MA — Citing very low voter turnout in Tuesday’s municipal elections, advocates from the Election Modernization gathered at the State House in Boston today to urge the Massachusetts legislature to adopt Automatic Voter Registration. The coalition is led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and Progressive Massachusetts.

Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) would establish a system for eligible citizens to automatically register to vote when they interact with a state agency like the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth. The AVR legislation, introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Peter Kocot, has popular support in both legislative chambers, with 80 House co-sponsors and 22 Senate sponsors, and received a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Election Laws this summer.

“In this moment, when the health of our democracy is a great concern, and the security of elections is under scrutiny, our legislature can adopt a policy change that will make voting simpler, reduce government bureaucracy, and enhance democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “AVR could register nearly 700,000 eligible Massachusetts citizens into and give them an opportunity to have their voices heard. At the same time, it would update and modernize our election system by increasing its accuracy, security, and efficiency.”

The legislation is also endorsed by 53 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups (see list below).

In Oregon, the first state to implement AVR, 230,000 voters registered in its first six months, and more than 265,000 inaccurate registrations were updated. 97,000 voters participated in the 2016 election because of the reform. Ten states and the District of Columbia have already passed automatic voter registration, all in a bipartisan manner: Oregon, California, West Virginia, Alaska, Vermont, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

“The League strongly supports automatic voter registration as the next logical step in the modernization of the electoral process here in Massachusetts,” Meryl Kessler, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, said. “AVR will improve the accuracy of voter rolls, create a more efficient and reliable voting system, help control the costs of voter registration over time, and improve the voting process on Election Day.”

“Automatic voter registration is a step in the right direction,” added Cheryl Clyburn Crawford of MassVOTE. “It would remove one of the barriers that disproportionately affects our most disenfranchised communities. We strongly believe that automatic voter registration in Massachusetts will increase voter participation and turnout while continuing to modernize our electoral process.”

“This is a bipartisan, common sense, 21st century bill which will make voter registration more accessible, more secure and less costly in the Commonwealth,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “We have Republican and Democrat supporters in the Legislature, while the Republican Governor of Illinois signed a similar bill into law this summer. In a time of hyper-partisanship in this country, we’re inspired to call for this bill’s passage.”

Advocacy organizations behind the effort, including Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, Progressive Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice have worked together for many years to promote voting access and reform. They see automatic voter registration as a continuation of earlier efforts in the state, like early voting, to improve access to the ballot. Early voting was a resounding success; In its first debut, over one million voters cast their ballots early in October 2016, accounting for over 22% of registered voters and 35% of those that voted.

53 (and counting) endorsing organizations (alphabetical order):

Action Together Western Mass

American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts

AFSC – Cambridge

Berkshire Democratic Brigades

Berkshire Women’s Action Group

Black Directors Network

Boston Democratic Ward 4 Committee

Boston Teachers Union

Cambridge Democratic City Cmmtt

CAST (Cambridge Area Stronger Together)

Clean Water Action

Coalition for Social Justice

College Democrats of MA

Common Cause Massachusetts

Corporate Accountability International

Democracy for America

Democracy Matters

ELM Action Fund

ForwardMA

Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association

Green Tea Party

Indivisable Pittsfield

Jewish Association for Law and Social Action (JALSA)

Jewish Community Relations Council

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice

League of Women Voters MA

Lift Every Vote Berkshires

Mass Law Reform Institute

Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Organization

Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

Massachusetts Peace Action

Massachusetts Sierra Club

Massachusetts Teachers Association

Massachusetts Voter Table

MASSPIRG

Mass Affordable Housing Alliance

MassVOTE

NAACP Boston

National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter

Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts Education Fund

New England United for Justice

Our Revolution Cambridge

PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts)

Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts

Progressive Democrats of America Boston chapter

Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts

Progressive Massachusetts

SEIU Local 509

SEIU Massachusetts State Council

Sierra Club

Small Planet Institute

Union of Minority Neighborhoods

Young Democrats of Massachusetts

October 2017 Awards to Nine Local Leagues

Nine Leagues received Daniel Scharfman Citizen Education grants in October 2017:

LWV Cape Ann: LWVCA organized a voter education event for the contested seats in the Gloucester city election on November 7th.  There are seven candidates for four Councilor-at-Large seats and one contested Ward Councilor race with two candidates.  All nine candidates agreed to participate. Nine Gloucester High School students researched the voting history and stances of the candidates on issues.  Each student worked with one candidate and with one adult volunteer on the research. A public forum was held on October 18th at the Sawyer Free Public Library for all candidates.  Each student got to ask his or her candidate one question, and members of the audience submitted questions. The students will also assist at the polls, under the direction of the City Clerk, on Election Day.   They will receive school credit for community service. The forum was videotaped by Cape Ann TV and will be aired several times before the election.

LWV Framingham: As Framingham transitions from a town to a city form of government, it will have an election for the first mayor and the first city council.  LWV Framingham organized three Candidates Showcases to inform citizens. The first showcase was attended by over 250 people. The second Showcase highlighted the 18 candidates for the 9 City Council seats.  The final Showcase featured the four candidates for the At Large City Council seats and the two candidates for Mayor.

LWV Franklin County:   On October 6,  LWV Franklin County hosted a Civics Trivia Night contest with State Rep. Paul Mark and Greenfield Town Councilor at Large Rudy Renaud as quizmasters. Questions spread over five rounds covered local and national government, as well as local and national history. Approximately 85 people attended.

LWV Greater Haverhill: LWVGH has been attending Naturalization Ceremonies in Lowell and will use these funds to purchase miniature flags to hand out with voter registration forms to new citizen candidates as they enter the auditorium. A member of this League will explain to the candidates how to complete the form and that completed forms will be collected at the end of the event and mailed to their local city or town clerk.

LWV Greater Lowell: The Greater Lowell League of Women voters will undertake an educational program to educate Dracut voters on the importance and value of their vote at Town Meeting. The study will have three parts: The first part will be a survey of active voters that will be done online to understand their views of town meeting and the barriers they face in attending town meeting, and provide them with an opportunity to present their own ideas to make town meeting more accessible. The second part of the program will launch an initiative in the weeks prior to the November town meeting incorporating the survey results with hopeful solutions to overcoming town meeting participation. The third part of the program will follow up after town meeting with  survey participants to see what the success rate was of activating new town meeting participants.

LWV Hamilton-Wenham On October 3, LWVHW hosted an interactive forum discussion on Media Literacy entitled, “#WTF* (*Fact or Fiction): Decoding Media in 2017, Left, Right and Center,” featuring four distinguished panelists.  The goals were to educate, provide decoding tools, and facilitate civil discourse in our communities. The event was free and open to the public and approximately 130 people attended the event.

LWV Melrose: The local Melrose election will be held on November 7, and LWV Melrose has organized and held the live forums where candidates for office express their points of view and take questions from the public. The sessions are taped by the local cable channel and replayed for 4-6 weeks up to the election. \

LWV Needham: “Working Together for a Greener Future” was a LWV-Needham/Green Needham Collaborative project to raise awareness of environmental issues, recognize organizations working together on this issue, and promote future collaboration.

LWV Wellesley: The Opening Meeting on September 28 featured Dr. Mira Bernstein, an Associate Professor at Tufts University who gave a lecture open to the public entitled “Gerrymandering:  Why It’s More Complicated Than Most People Think.” The lecture was held from 7 – 8:30 pm at the Wellesley Community Center with refreshments provided at 6:30 pm and a question and answer period following Dr. Bernstein’s talk.  The talk was videotaped and is available for viewing at Wellesley Public Media.

“Making Government Work for You” Workshop Draws Big Crowd

September 18, 2017/Arlington, MA–Nearly 100 people filled the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Arlington to learn some of the finer points of changing laws and public policies from featured speakers Colleen Kirby, criminal-justice legislative specialist for the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, and the 4th Middlesex (MA) District’s newly elected state senator, Cindy Friedman.

Kirby told a story of how one man’s outrage at seeing birds hunted in a public area prompted his advocacy and eventual success in protecting the birds. The story was an example of steps to take to change policies:

1. Identify the problem and its parts.

2. Join a group, even a small one, to explain the problem to others.

3. Learn about the issue and identify the end result desired.

4. Develop relationships with all interested parties.

5. Form coalitions to more broadly inform others in workshops and forums and via their networks.

6. Be prepared for unexpected changes to public and political priorities.

7. Show public support (through protests, press visibility), so politicians have to respond and act.

Kirby then provided an overview of the usual, complex two-year process by which bills may become laws in Massachusetts, but noted “it’s not working that way this year.” Because 5,000 to 6,000 bills may be filed by the end of January at the beginning of the process, it’s impossible for all legislators to learn about all of them.

In the current cycle, the state Legislature has instead grouped some of the bills to take a more systematic approach to addressing various aspects of interacting issues. Kirby stressed that the best way for advocates to lobby for an issue is to become a resource for your own legislator, educating and informing her or him through your testimony at hearings and in phone calls or personal appointments. Additionally, forming coalitions broadens statewide support for your issue, because people in other legislative districts will know what to say about it to their own legislators.

In her discussion of criminal justice reform, Sen. Friedman applauded the House bill’s antirecidivism measures but explained why the Senate’s more-comprehensive omnibus, or “package,” bill would do even more good. It would: allow for civil violations (rather than criminal charges) for some arrested for possession of drugs; reform the bail process; eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing; limit the use of solitary confinement; permit medical releases for prisoners needing end-of-life care; allow more-flexible rules about fines and fees, so the indigent can actually pay for penalties but avoid additional financial harm; and for juvenile justice, raise the age for “adult” crime.

Sen. Friedman outlined her “personal tips” for how to work effectively with legislators. Phone calls are more effective than e-mails or letters, and calling your own legislators with a clear message very important. Little time exists for legislators to talk with other people who are not their constituents. To reach a legislator from another district, form coalitions, so that constituents from that district can accompany you to lobby their legislator.

In concluding, she recommended patience with our highly effective but imperfect democratic process: “Progress is slow by design. Imagine if all 5,000 bills were enacted one after another like this. There would be chaos.”