October 2018 Scharfman Grants Awarded to Ten Local Leagues

Ten local Leagues received Daniel Scharfman Citizen Education grants in October 2018:

LWV Brookline:  This League will produce a booklet that will include information on Brookline History, Government Structure, Voting Registration, Elective Offices, Boards and Commissions and Contact Information of Brookline Resources.  The booklet shall be made available to all Brookline citizens, with a focus on the issues of greatest concern to new residents. It will be a memorial to Sanford (Sandy) Ostroy who faithfully served the Brookline League as our Vice President, and who passed away in April 2017.  He had participated in LWVMA deliberations which developed the consensus materials for Local League Consensus Meetings and had organized those meetings for the Brookline League.

Central Berkshire Unit:  The Central Berkshire unit will register a minimum of 50 students per high school – 4 schools total – and with each registration provide a birthday tool kit for voter registration in MA, including a book mark of important voting dates, names of  all candidates and position they are running for, useful phone numbers and contact information. Buttons that say, “I Can Vote”, have been designed by a high school.  The unit will also print buttons that say: “ I Registered to Vote.”  Each kit will have either a birthday card (student designed) to read , “ Happy Birthday…you CAN REGISTER TO VOTE! or for 18 year-olds, “Happy Birthday…YOU CAN VOTE…LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!” With this card and verification that they have registered, students will receive a free coffee, hot chocolate or birthday treat from the school cafeteria. This will be ongoing and year round. Each month, a photo will be taken of all the students who registered and posted on our LWV Facebook page.

LWV Chelmsford: The Third Congressional Candidates’ Forum was a voter education activity.  It was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Chelmsford, the League of Women Voters of Concord, the Acton Area League of Women Voters and the League of Women Voters of Westford.  All expenses were paid by the LWV Chelmsford.  The forum was held at the Chelmsford High School Performing Arts Center.  All 10 Democratic primary candidates for the congressional seat attended; the Republican candidate was invited but chose not to attend.  It was moderated by a member of the League of Women Voters of Lexington. The public was invited; it is estimated that 500-600 people attended.

LWV Concord-Carlisle:  LWVCC co-sponsored with the LWV of Acton Area candidates forum for two hotly contested primary races—the 14th Middlesex State House seat and the 3rd Congressional District seat—on July 23, 2018 at the Harvey Wheeler Community Center in Concord.  All candidates on the September 4 ballot were invited and all candidates in the Democratic primary for both races attended the forum.  The forum was also videotaped and made available for viewing after the event.

LWV Franklin County: The LWVFC will host our newly elected legislators for a Q&A with the community at a local restaurant on a Saturday morning. Members will bring baked goods, while the restaurant will supply coffee/tea/water etc. This event was held last November to great success with enthusiastic feedback.

LWV Greater Haverhill: LWVGH has been attending Naturalization Ceremonies in Lowell. These funds will be used to purchase miniature flags to hand out with voter registration forms to new citizen candidates as they enter the auditorium. A League member 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 Hamilton-Wenham: Funds will be used to enhance Voter Registration Support Materials to expand voter registration efforts.  This includes: creating two additional voter registration kits and replenishing and updating the current kit; adding one to two small portable sandwich board signs to display “LWV Register to Vote Here” posters; offering some giveaways to first time voters such as buttons, stickers, or pens/stylus with the LWV logo; and reprinting educational materials, such as the “Running for Office” booklet.

Springfield Unit: The Springfield unit of the Northampton Area League of Women Voters has established a robust collaboration with the Springfield Public Schools and Springfield College to produce a community event incorporating the classic LWV civics bee, for SPS high school students, into a larger event involving college students, the Springfield City Council and School Committee, and the general public in a current-events trivia competition. The mission of Civics Fest 2018 is to foster civic knowledge and celebrate democracy in order to build community, to increase informed voter participation, and to promote critical thinking about government as a tool for change. Ninety Springfield high school student are currently signed up to participate.

LWV Waltham: This League had two sign boards made:  one with the City of Waltham Election calendar, and the other one displayed the LWV Mission Statement.  The signs were displayed at several voter registration events, culminating with National Voter Registration Day, September 25, 2018, an all-day voter registration event at the Waltham Public library.

LWV Wellesley: This League featured Barbara Bluestein Simons, a voting cyber security expert and a member of the LWV of San Francisco, who will present a program entitled “Election Security:  Threats and Solutions” at its Opening Meeting, which was free and open to the public on Tuesday, October 16, 2018.   This was a non-partisan and educational topic and quite relevant as we approach the mid-term elections in November.




Recording of Webinar on “Barriers to Voting” with Prof. Erin O’Brien Now Available

October 31, 2018/Boston, MA–A recording of the Oct. 29 LWVMA webinar on “Barriers to Voting” featuring Professor Erin O’Brien is now available here.  In this webinar, Professor O’Brien presents an excellent overview of systemic voting barriers as well as policy reforms that can help get out the vote.

Professor O’Brien is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her areas of specialization are poverty politics, campaigning & elections, race in American politics, and American public policy. She is a regular commentator on all things public policy and Massachusetts politics for WGBH and numerous other media outlets. Her scholarship and commentary have been featured in outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, MSNBC, Time, and Newsweek.

2018 League Leaders Lunch Explores Partnerships, Governance

The October 20, 2018 League Leaders Lunch in Harvard brought together 66 leaders from around the state for a day of learning and sharing.  The day’s agenda included an update on what’s been happening at LWVMA and LWVUS, presentations on League advocacy and voter service, a preview of the Ballot Question study, and an interactive exercise to generate ideas related to the League’s 100th anniversary and expanding our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion

The day also included two outstanding panel discussions:

The first, moderated by Linda Matys O’Connell of LWV Springfield, focused on building stronger partnerships with like-minded, diverse organizations.  As Linda said:  “In both its voter service and advocacy work, LWV benefits from working in partnership with other like-minded organizations. Partnership amplifies our collective voices, increases our impact, and improves our outcomes…Partnership is especially important in the current political environment…And our partnership must include diverse voices.”  We are grateful for the participation of the following panelists:

The second panel, which was moderated by Marilyn Peterson of LWV Acton Area, focused on different forms of local League governance.  We are grateful for the participation of Carin Kale (LWV Hamilton-Wenham), Jo-Ann Berry (LWV Acton Area), and Courtney Rau Rogers (LWV Norwood).

Many thanks to our co-host, LWV Harvard, who made us feel welcome in a great venue in a central location.





2018 LWVUS Convention Report


Massachusetts sent 33 delegates to the 53rd LWVUS Convention in Chicago during the last steamy days of June.  Over half of our delegates were attending their first convention, a good mix of new and veteran attendees. Total convention attendance was one of the highest ever, with an overflow crowd of more than 900 delegates.  In addition to the usual business, there were two trainings, engaging and thoughtful speakers, a large assortment of workshops, caucuses, and information sessions early each morning and late each night, as well as plenty of opportunities to network with League members from around the country. On Saturday, many delegates braved the heat and used their lunch recess to join the “Families Belong Together March” protesting immigration policies in downtown Chicago, bringing real activism into the Convention proceedings.

Virginia Kase, chief operating officer of CASA, an organization at the forefront of the immigrant rights movement representing nearly 100,000 members, was introduced as the new chief executive officer of LWVUS at the convention.

LWVUS offered two training programs.  Wellstone Action provided a pre-convention training dedicated to “Developing and Mobilizing Skills to Win in 2018.”  A second training program Saturday afternoon focused on “Using Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lens to Strengthen Social Impact and Collaboration,” aimed at boosting League diversity, conducted by Diversity Dimensions.

National experts Nick Stephanopoulos and Ruth Greenwood participated in a conversation on redistricting, an event live-streamed to League members around the country, which was particularly timely given the previous week’s Supreme Court decision in Gill v. Whitford.  Other convention speakers included Ashley Allison, the executive vice president for campaigns and programs for The Leadership Conference, on the current state of voting rights; Rosie Rios, the 43rd Treasurer of the United States, on the upcoming 2020 anniversary of the 19th Amendment, and her work to ensure that women’s images and stories are part of our history; and Carrie Davis, the democracy program director for The Joyce Foundation, on ways to tell our collective story.  Saturday evening’s banquet speaker was Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, who shared stories about the fight to ratify the 19th Amendment.

Two panel discussions were particularly interesting, one on Election Day preparedness, and one on diversity, equity and inclusion. The first panel featured Thomas Hicks, chair, Election Assistance Commission; Sarah Johnson, Carter Center; and Andy Kang, Advancing Justice Chicago.  Key points were the importance of trained election workers, need for election observation, and the need for the League and others to support voter participation and the Census effort.   The second panel included Dr. Alfreda Brown, vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Kent State University; Sarah Bury, interim vice president, LWV Lake Michigan; and Cecile Scoon, first vice president, LWV Florida.  Each shared personal experiences and encouraged League members to listen more and extend welcome to people of different backgrounds for the health of the organization.

The program adopted by convention included the recommended program to continue the “Making Democracy Work Campaign,” but added items including advocacy for the National Popular Vote Compact and support for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The recommended budget was approved, with some concern registered by Massachusetts delegates about the level of fundraising expense relative to fundraising revenue.  Three of the five recommended By-Laws changes passed.

LWVMA co-sponsored two of the many caucuses:  Promoting Effective Action on Carbon Pricing, and The Critical Role of Healthcare in a Democracy (with LWV Amherst). Many of us attended sessions on the Transformation Journey, and your collective feedback was helpful to us as we asked questions and raised concerns.  LWVUS seemed to take the concerns expressed by many members around the country seriously.

On the last day, convention passed five resolutions related to advocacy on the Equal Rights Amendment, abolishing the Electoral College, carbon pricing, reproductive choices, and alignment of energy policy with current climate science.

The LWV Convention page has materials on convention proceedings of the Convention, and an archive contains presentation materials and will be updated.  You can see photos of the Massachusetts delegates on our Facebook page here.

Press Release: LWVMA to Co-Host Second Congressional District Debate Oct. 15

For Immediate Release:  Oct. 9, 2018/Boston, MA–U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, and Tracy Lyn Lovvorn, R-Grafton, will meet in a debate at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15 at Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St., Worcester.

Admission is free and open to the public, with the debate being held in Washburn Hall, on the second floor of the historic meeting place.

Congressman McGovern, an 11-term incumbent, is facing his first challenge in a final election since 2010. Among his duties, he serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Nutrition. Three years ago, he sponsored and pushed for an attempt to replace the then 14-year-old Authorization for Use of Military Force with a new authorization in the battle against ISIS. Ms. Lovvorn, the Republican primary winner, is founder and ceo of Evolution Physical Therapy, Grafton. She brought suit in a 2009 case in which a chain of nursing and rehabilitation services ultimately settled with federal authorities and eight states for $38 million over allegations of substandard Medicare and Medicaid nursing services.

The debate is being sponsored by the Telegram & Gazette, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts and also the LWV of the Worcester Area, the Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition, and Mechanics Hall.

Questions for the candidates, including questions submitted by residents of the Second Congressional District, will come from a three-member panel: Meryl Kessler, executive director, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts; Irene Hernandez, vice president, Central Region, Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition; and Tony Simollardes, editor of the editorial pages of the Telegram & Gazette, who also will act as moderator.

Massachusetts Becomes 14th State to Adopt Automatic Voter Registration

August 9, 2018/BOSTON, MA – Today with Governor Charlie Baker’s signature, Massachusetts became the 14th state to adopt a system of Automatic Voter Registration, which could add up to 700,000 eligible citizens who are not currently registered to the voter rolls. Originally introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and the late Rep. Peter Kocot, the legislation passed the House resoundingly in June and the Senate unanimously last month. The conference committee report resolving the differences between the two bills was enacted in the last days of the legislative session.

Advocates applauded the reform, which will make elections more accurate, more secure, and more available to all. It establishes a system for eligible citizens to automatically register to vote when they interact with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, MassHealth, or the Health Connector.

“We are thrilled with the legislation,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, which led the broad-based coalition pushing for the bill. “It is one of the strongest in the country and will make our voter registrations system more efficient, accurate, and secure while at the same time improving voter participation. In these times, all of these goals are particularly important. Many thanks to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate Presidents Spilka and Chandler, and the conferees who championed the bill: Representatives Michael Moran, John Mahoney, and Shawn Dooley, and Senators Cynthia Creem, Anne Gobi, and Ryan Fattman.”

The legislation has enjoyed broad support in both legislative chambers and both parties. Attorney General Maura Healey and Secretary of State Bill Galvin are also supporters. The legislation was endorsed by 65 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have already passed automatic voter registration: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. A report based on data from Oregon, Vermont, and Colorado concluded that the cost of implementing AVR in Massachusetts would be minimal.

“This is about more people having access to the ballot when Election Day comes around, plain and simple,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “It’s a great step forward for anyone who believes that voting is a fundamental right, and our government should use all available tools to engage people in the democratic process.”

“Congratulations to all the ‘Champions of Democracy.’ Massachusetts has now taken the right step in passing a critical reform that will expand not only the opportunity for more people to have a voice but also the benefit of being a voter,” added Executive Director of MassVOTE Cheryl Clyburn Crawford. “This is a huge step in securing future generations a more free and fair democracy.”

“This is a home run for democracy,” declared Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “The push for this law has gone many innings, but now we all win.”

“Automatic Voter Registration is a huge win for the people of Massachusetts. Democracy works best when it works for everyone, and AVR will help our democracy work better for more people. The League is proud to have been part of the coalition driving this effort,” said Meryl Kessler, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

“Automatic Voter Registration makes our democracy more inclusive for all eligible voters. This is an important step toward expanding and diversifying the electorate of Massachusetts,” said Beth Huang, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table.

Jonathan Cohn of Progressive Massachusetts added: “Our democracy is strongest when everyone’s voice is able to be heard. Automatic voter registration is a simple reform, but it can have a huge impact on engaging new voters in the democratic process.”

The Election Modernization Coalition is led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, ACLU of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and Progressive Massachusetts. More information about AVR can be found here.

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LWVMA and LWV Worcester County to Co-Host Lt. Governor Forum August 1

July 17, 2018/Worcester, MA–On Wednesday, August 1, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts and of Worcester County, in conjunction with the Binienda Center for Civic Engagement at Worcester State University, MAWOCC, and the NAACP, will host a forum for candidates for the office of Lieutenant Governor.* The purpose of the forum is to provide the candidates with opportunity to share their visions for the future of the Commonwealth and to give the audience the opportunity to ask questions.  You can download a flier here.

WHO: Democratic Candidate Quentin Palfrey

Democratic Candidate Jimmy Tingle

League of Women Voters of Worcester

League of Women Voters of Massachusetts

Worcester State University, The Binienda Center for Civic Engagement

Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition (MAWOCC)


Moderator Jo-Ann Berry, League of Women Voters of the Acton Area

WHAT:  Lieutenant Governor Candidates’ Forum

WHEN:  Wednesday, August 1

5:30-6:00 p.m.:  Socializing and Snacks

6:00-8:00 p.m.:  Candidate Forum and Audience Questions

WHERE:         Worcester State University Student Center, Blue Lounge

All three candidates for Lieutenant Governor were invited; Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito is unable to attend.

Automatic Voter Registration Passes MA Senate Unanimously

June 12, 2018/Boston, MA — The Massachusetts Senate today unanimously passed the Automatic Voter Registration bill!  The Senate and House will now reconcile the minor differences in the two versions of the bill, and it is expected to be sent to Governor Baker for his signature soon.

Automatic Voter Registration is the next major reform in the voting process, and Massachusetts will become the 14th state to adopt this measure.  At a time when there are efforts across the country to make it more difficult for citizens to register and to vote, Massachusetts can be proud of taking this very positive step toward helping our citizens register.


The League of Women Voters and its partners in the Election Modernization Coalition issued a press release following the vote.

LWVMA Stands on Ballot Questions

June 12, 2018–Three ballot questions will be on the statewide ballot November 6. The LWVMA board has determined that LWVMA will support a yes vote on two of them, and local Leagues can advocate for those two. Below are the three questions, in the order they will appear on the ballot, and our stands.

Question 1:  Patient-to-Nurse limits

LWVMA takes no stand on this ballot question.

This proposed law would limit how many patients could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other health care facilities.  The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care, spelled out in detail in the question. The proposed law would require a covered facility to comply with the patient assignment limits without reducing its level of nursing, service, maintenance, clerical, professional, and other staff.

The League’s stated goal for health care is: “An affordable health care system that provides equal access to quality health care for all.”  One side on this ballot question argues this measure provides for quality health care; the other side argues this measure would damage the health care system financially and make care unaffordable. LWVMA’s position could be interpreted to support both sides, and so LWVMA is not taking a stand on this question.

Question 2:  Commission on Limiting Election Spending and Corporate Rights

LWVMA supports this question and urges a YES vote.  

This proposed law would create a citizens commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the United States Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same Constitutional rights as human beings and that campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated. Any resident of Massachusetts who is a United States citizen would be able to apply for appointment to the 15-member commission, and members would serve without compensation. The commission’s first report would be due December 31, 2019.

The national League position states that the League could support a Constitutional amendment if it meets certain criteria. Therefore, studying the impact of a Constitutional amendment, as this ballot question recommends, would be consistent with supporting an amendment only after careful consideration. Supporting this question does not commit the League to supporting any recommended amendment.

Question 3:  Transgender Anti-Discrimination

LWVMA supports and urges a YES vote on this question.

This ballot question asks if voters approve of the current law, passed in 2016, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation. This current law protects the rights of transgender individuals. A yes vote is to keep the current law in place. A no vote is to repeal the law. The exact wording of the question is: “Do you approve of a law summarized below, which was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 117-36 on July 7, 2016, and approved by the Senate by a voice vote on July 7, 2016?”

The League supports equal rights for all. Our goal is to secure equal rights and equal opportunity for all and to promote social and economic justice, and the health and safety of all Americans. LWVMA has joined the “Freedom for All Massachusetts” Coalition in support of a yes vote for this question.

Detailed information on each of the ballot questions is available on the Secretary of State’s website: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/

LWVMA and Coalition Partners Urge Massachusetts Senate to Pass Clean AVR Bill

July 9, 2018/Boston,MA – The League of Women of Massachusetts and its partners in the Election Modernization Coalition sent a letter today to members of the Massachusetts Senate urging them to vote in favor of H.4671, Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), when it comes to the Senate floor, hopefully later this week.

The letter requested that the Senate pass a clean bill, stating in pertinent part: “In the interest of getting the bill through the entire legislative process this late in the session, we also ask that you refrain from amending the AVR bill that came over from the House. While we too support other election law reforms, adding amendments this late in the session could imperil AVR….AVR will make vital upgrades to our registration system, keeping our voter rolls more up-to-date, enhancing the security of our electoral process, and encouraging new voters to get involved. However, in order for this measure to be in place for the next Presidential election in 2020, it must be enacted this session—next year would be too late.”

The letter is available here.