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)

NAACP

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:  To pass a law relative to patient safety.

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:  To establish a citizens commission concerning a Constitutional amendment to secure government of the people.

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:  To retain the law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

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.

Automatic Voter Registration Bill Passes Massachusetts House

June 27, 2018/BOSTON, MA – With a bipartisan vote of 130-20, the Massachusetts House today passed Automatic Voter Registration (H. 4667).

The AVR legislation, originally introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and the late 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.

“Automatic Voter Registration will make voting more accurate, more secure, and more available to all. It’s a win for democracy, it’s a win for security, and it’s a win for voters,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, which led the broad-based coalition pushing for the bill. “Utilizing existing technology to modernize the voter registration process just is basic common sense, and we are thrilled that 130 Representatives agreed with us. Many thanks to Speaker DeLeo and Minority Leader Jones for supporting this critical reform.”

The bill now advances to the Senate where it must be approved before the July 31st end of the legislative session. It has enjoyed broad support in both legislative chambers, with 85 House co-sponsors, 23 Senate sponsors, and a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Election Laws. Attorney General Maura Healey and Secretary of State Bill Galvin are also supporters. The legislation is endorsed by 65 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have 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.

“While voter suppression is on the rise nationally, we’re proud Massachusetts is leading the way forward to expand ballot access,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Voter registration should be simple, accessible, and secure, because increased voter participation makes our democracy stronger.”

“We commend the legislature’s passage of Automatic Voter Registration, a reform that will expand the electorate to those too frequently pushed to the margins,” noted Beth Huang, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table.

“Our democracy is strongest when everyone’s voice can be heard. This bill will help engage the almost 700,000 eligible but unregistered citizens in Massachusetts, strengthening democracy and setting a positive example for other states,” said Jonathan Cohn of Progressive Massachusetts.

Meryl Kessler, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, added:
“The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts applauds today’s vote by the Massachusetts House. Bringing AVR to our state will remove real obstacles to political participation, ensuring that more voices can be heard.”

“Today we thank the Massachusetts House for approving an Automatic Voting Registration (AVR) bill as a new avenue to increase voter participation and accessibility to Massachusetts’ most vulnerable communities,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, Executive Director of MassVOTE.

“Passing this bill is as good as July 4th fireworks. Automatic voter registration will make our democracy better, fairer, more robust, and what better way to celebrate than that?” said Executive Director of MASSPIRG Janet Domenitz.

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

LWVMA and Coalition Partners Oppose S.2243, Constitutional Convention

June 7, 2018/Boston, MA – The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, ACLU of Massachusetts, AFSCME, Massachusetts Teachers Association, and the Massachusetts Chapter Sierra Club, along with a coalition of 240 national and local organizations from across the country, oppose S.2243, a resolution to call a new Constitutional Convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, and sent a letter to the Massachusetts Senate stating their position.

You can read the letter here.

 

LWVMA and Coalition Partners Urge Speaker DeLeo to Bring AVR Bill to a Vote

May 29, 2018/Boston,MA – The League of Women of Massachusetts, its partners in the Election Modernization Coalition, and numerous other organizations, sent a letter to House Speaker Robert DeLeo urging him bring to the floor for a vote the bill to authorize Automatic Voter Registration in Massachusetts, H.4320.

In part, the letter states:  “The end of the session is fast approaching, and we are concerned this bill will run out of time. In order for Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) to be in place for the next Presidential election in 2020, it must be enacted this session — next year would be too late — and that means getting it out of the House and on to the Senate in time to get it to the Governor’s desk before August.”

You can read the letter here.  Media coverage is here.

 

LWVMA Announces Winners of “Get In the Game and Vote!” High School Video Contest

May 14, 2018 / Boston, MA – The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) has announced the winners of its “Get In the Game and Vote!” High School Video Contest, part of LWVMA’s election 2018 statewide voter engagement initiative.
 
The winners are:
First Place:  DJ Charles, Concord Academy (Get In the Game and Vote)
Second Place: Zichen Zhou, Skyeler Sandison, Leah Baker, Nick Qvarnstrom, Romell Brown, Eli Patrick, Nauset Regional High School (Change)
Third Place:  Ashley Murphy, Meghan Joyce, Katelyn McDevitt, Quincy High School, (Democracy)
 
Honorable Mention:

In addition to the individual prizes, West Roxbury Academy in Boston will receive the Catalyst Award, special recognition for a single school’s inspiring submissions to the contest. The following students from West Roxbury Academy will be recognized with this award: Odalys Abreu, Scath Bograd, Kamari Boseman, Kyle Bourget, Isaiah Brown, Miguel Cabrera, Idalys Calderon, Alex Demosthene, Winda Durand, Phaica Etiverne, Quavante Granberry, Gamailel Pena, and Katherine Peguero.

To help get out the vote for the 2018 Massachusetts elections, the League invited Massachusetts high school students to create 30-second public service announcements encouraging eligible voters to register and turn out at the polls.  LWVMA will widely distribute and publicize the winning videos and others from the contest as part of MOVE 2018, a statewide voter education and engagement initiative, beginning in late summer and leading up to the November election.

Over 250 students statewide participated in the contest. The Judging Committee–composed of LWVMA members, as well as outside judges Hilary Allard (The Castle Group), Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg (CIRCLE, Tufts University), and Nicole Porter (DigitalMass)–selected the winning submissions based on their clear and compelling messages, memorable content and delivery, and creativity.
 
The winners will receive awards of $500 (first place); $250 (second place); $100 (third place); and $50 (honorable mention). West Roxbury Academy will receive a prize of $250 for the Catalyst Award.  An award ceremony at the Massachusetts State House will be scheduled for June.
 
“The terrific videos we received demonstrate, yet again, that young people are not spectators to our democracy, but are leading the way for all of us” said LWVMA Executive Director Meryl Kessler.
 
“We are proud not only of the winners but of all the young people who stepped up to share their important messages through this contest,” said Mary Ann Ashton, president of LWVMA.
 
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.
 
Support for this program was provided by the Salem Five Charitable Foundation and the Lincoln & Therese Filene Foundation.

May 2018 Scharfman Grants Awarded to Three Local Leagues

Three local Leagues received Daniel Scharfman Citizen Education grants in May 2018:

LWV Central Berkshire: LWV Central Berkshire plans to register at least 100 students within the four high schools they have identified. They plan to present students with a voter registration tool kit and personalized pens/styluses. They are also designing a button specifically for teens and first-time voters.

LWV Westford:  This League printed an updated version of “A Guide to Running for Local Office”  in early March of this year. The booklet includes a piece on making the decision to run, a listing of elected boards with their descriptions, instructions on filing Nomination Papers, suggestions about campaign activities and publicity, dates to remember, and even a chart of Westford Town Government. It is an invaluable reference for those considering a run for office in Westford, and builds citizen participation in the democratic process.

LWV Winchester: For every federal, state and local election, the Winchester League hangs a large banner in a highly visible location, a bridge in Winchester Center. It reminds people to vote, shows the election date, and has their name and logo. The Town of Winchester charges $100 each time the banner is hung. LWV Winchester also pays to have the banner altered to show the appropriate election date. And, finally, due to weather-related wear and tear, the banner has had to be repaired twice this year, including patches and replacement/reinforcing of the grommets.