Press Releases

Massachusetts League of Women Voters Announces New Leadership Team

BOSTON, MA/June 30, 2017-Mary Ann Ashton of Acton and Linda Matys O’Connell of Springfield begin their two-year term as co-presidents of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) July 1.  Ashton and O’Connell were elected, along with other LWVMA board officers and directors, at the biennial LWVMA Convention in Framingham this spring.

The other Massachusetts League officers and their local Leagues are Marilyn Peterson, Acton Area, first vice president; Lee Bona, Worcester Area, second vice president; and Andrea Kozinetz, Newton, treasurer.

Elected as LWVMA directors are Kate Boland, Hingham; Nancy Brumback, Sudbury; Kris Eastman, Marion-Mattapoisett-Rochester; Scotti Finnegan, Cape Cod Area; Donna Hooper, Lexington; Karen Price, Needham; and Judy Zaunbrecher, Concord-Carlisle.

The Massachusetts League’s priorities over the coming two years will be improving the state voting system, including lobbying for the implementation of automatic voter registration; advocating for campaign finance reform; promoting civic education and civil discourse; educating voters about climate change and the environment; and addressing issues of justice and equality, including criminal justice reform.

LWVMA includes 44 local Leagues across the state. The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.

Additional information is available at www.lwvma.org.

LWVMA Testifies in Support of Automatic Voter Registration

BOSTON, MA/June 8, 2017– Advocates for modernizing Massachusetts’ elections showed up in force for a hearing on Beacon Hill today, held by the Joint Committee on Election Laws. The hearing was in support of the Automatic Voter Registration bill, which would establish a system for eligible citizens in Massachusetts to automatically register to vote when they interact with a state agency like the registry of motor vehicles. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Peter Kocot, has popular support in both houses; with 80 House co-sponsors and 22 Senate sponsors as of hearing time.

More than twenty leaders from the labor movement, universities, environmental groups, political organizations, civil rights and good government advocacy organizations testified on behalf of the legislation, while dozens of supporters looked on. Many spoke of how automatic voter registration ensures that all eligible citizens in Massachusetts have the opportunity to participate in elections.

“By passing automatic voter registration, Massachusetts can lead the way towards giving all citizens a voice in their government,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “The system would give the nearly 700,000 eligible citizens that are not registered to vote an opportunity to have their voices heard through our election process. At the same time, Automatic Voter Registration would update and modernize our election system by increasing the accuracy, security, and efficiency of the process.”

Eight 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, and Connecticut. In Oregon, the first state to implement Automatic Voter Registration, 230,000 voters registered in its first six months and more than 500,000 inaccurate registrations were updated. About 100,000 (97,000) voters participated in the 2016 election because of the reform.

Representatives from several other leading citizen organizations testified for the bill, including Nancy Brumback, Legislative Action Chair of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “The League strongly supports automatic voter registration as the next logical step in the modernization of the electoral process here in Massachusetts,” she 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.”

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

“…Our Commonwealth must set an example on voting rights for the nation to follow,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy in written testimony submitted to the Committee. “We need to prove how strong a system can be when it is inclusive, progressive and fair. The rollout of early voting in 2016 was an enormous success, with over one million residents casting early ballots. Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) must come next.”

“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 here, the Republican Governor of Illinois indicated that he would sign similar bill into law that passed the legislature unanimously a few weeks ago, and 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.

 

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“Making Democracy Work in My Community” Student Video Contest Winners Announced

May 12, 2017 / Boston, MA – The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) has announced the winners of its “Making Democracy Work in My Community” Student Video Contest.

The winners are:

First Place:  Owen Doherty, Jake Latini, and Luke Marcheski, Quincy High School (The Voters of America: Making Democracy Work)

Second Place:  Natalie Harder and Emily Belt, Newton South High School (L’ Taken: Learning How to Make Democracy Work in Our Community)

Third Place:  Maggie Stefanowicz, Millis High School, (Ms. Ziemba; A Democracy Advocate)

Honorable Mention: 

Jacob Applebaum, Wellesley High School, (Boston Stands for Democracy);

Tyler Hamlin, Marblehead High School, (Making Democracy Work in Marblehead)

The League invited Massachusetts high school students to create to create a two-minute video showing how someone is making democracy work where they live.LWVMA will distribute and publicize the winning videos and others from the contest.

Many students participated in the contest, and the winning videos were selected from entries submitted from across the state. The Judging Committee selected the winning videos 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).

“We were thrilled to receive so many very creative and powerful videos,” said LWVMA Executive Director Meryl Kessler.

“We are proud of all of the young people who shared their visions and messages through this contest,” said Jean Cherdack, president of LWVMA. “And we are proud that the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts provided them with a platform to make their voices heard.”

An award ceremony to honor the winners will be held in June. More details on the ceremony will be provided soon.

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.

 

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League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Publishes Online Voters’ Guide

August 18, 2016 / Boston, MA – To assist Massachusetts voters as they go to the polls on Thursday, September 8 for state primary elections, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) has published an online Voters’ Guide, www.VOTE411.org, that features biographical information about all candidates in contested state primary races, as well as responses by those candidates to questions posed by the League.

The VOTE411.org online guide will allow voters to access personalized ballot information simply by entering a street address.  Voters will also be able to find in-depth information about candidates, voter registration, voting requirements and rules, and poll locations. LWVMA is bringing this digital platform to Massachusetts voters across the state for the first time for the September 8 primary; only those candidates who face a challenger in the primary election on September 8 have been asked to respond to this primary guide.

Later this fall, the information on www.VOTE411.org will be updated for the November 8 general election and all candidates will respond to a new set of questions.  The general election guide will contain complete information about candidates for the presidential, congressional, state legislature, sheriff, Governor’s Council, register of deeds, and county commissioner races, as well as about the statewide ballot questions.

“We hope Massachusetts voters will use this Voters’ Guide to help make informed choices as they vote on September 8,” said Jean Cherdack, president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.  “We are pleased to be able to provide this information and thank the candidates for their willingness to participate in the guide.”

The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.  Since its founding in 1920, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has been a respected and trusted voice for citizen participation in our democracy.  With 44 local Leagues throughout the state, LVWMA has been at the forefront of efforts to empower and educate Massachusetts voters and effect change on a wide range of issues. Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages. For more information, please go www.lwvma.org.

Support for this program was provided by Lincoln and Therese Filene Foundation and an anonymous donor.

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Election Modernization Coalition Releases Status Update on Implementation of Early Voting in Massachusetts

election modernization pictures

BOSTON – August 4, 2016 – With Massachusetts’ first experience with early voting beginning in just over two months, the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition today said that nearly 40% of the state’s municipalities are in the final planning stages for early voting, 35% have started planning, and 13% had no plans as of July 20th. The information came from a phone survey of all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns conducted by Common Cause, MASSPIRG, and the League of Women Voters in June and July. 12% of Massachusetts communities could not reached.

“If communities have enough hours and locations, early voting promises to shorten long lines at busy polling places, improve the voting experience, and give Massachusetts citizens more opportunities to participate in democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts during a Coalition press conference at Boston City Hall. “Today, we are very pleased to report to that many cities and towns in Massachusetts are well on their way to a successful implementation of early voting.”

“For 96 years, the League of Women Voters has worked to ensure that voting and elections are free, fair and accessible, and early voting in Massachusetts is one more important step toward improving access to the voting booth for all voters,” said Meryl Kessler, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “We are heartened by the progress many municipalities have made toward robust implementation of the new law, and we hope other municipalities will follow suit.”

The Coalition campaigned for passage of the 2014 Election Modernization Law that established early voting and other reforms. Last fall, it launched the Early Voting Challenge to encourage municipalities to go beyond the floor set by the law (one location operating during business hours) and meet the Coalition’s recommended standards, based on best practices from other states, to ensure robust early voting opportunities for Massachusetts voters. These standards include providing at least one early voting site for every 35,000 people in a given community and providing evening and weekend hours for voting.

The Coalition plans to award Gold and Silver medals to cities and towns that meet those standards later this fall. The Gold Medal will go to communities that offer an adequate number of sites, at least two evenings of weeknight voting per week, and six or more hours of weekend voting. The Silver will go to communities that offer an adequate number of sites, at least one weeknight of evening voting per week, and four or more hours of weekend voting.

This phone survey obtained information from 313 of the 351 cities and towns in the state and found that 138 municipalities had already made final or nearly final plans, 126 had tentative plans, and 49 had not yet started planning for early voting.

Currently, nine municipalities appear to be progressing towards a Gold Medal, and 40 towards the Silver Medal. 175 communities plan to offer extended evening hours, and 83 will offer weekend hours.

Coalition members stressed that the data is preliminary and very much in flux.

Election officials from the City of Boston joined the groups to tout their comprehensive early voting plan that includes nine sites, as well as evening and weekend voting.

“In Boston we are proud to support early voting and have worked hard on a comprehensive plan that will make voting more accessible to all residents,” said Dion Irish, Commissioner and Chairman of the Boston Election Commission. “Feedback from the community was an important part of determining the final plan for early voting in Boston, and we were encouraged by the positive responses from people who are thrilled to have the opportunity to vote at a time that is convenient for them. As we look forward to November, it is our hope that early voting will expand access to ballot for residents of Boston.”

The Coalition was also joined by Salem City Councilor, and Chair of the Salem Early Voting Task Force, David Eppley, who spoke about the robust early voting plans in his city.

“Salem has been proactive as a community in bringing together various stakeholders and public officials with our Early Voting Task Force,” said Councilor Eppley. “We are aiming to have an early voting poll site for weekend hours in a largely Latino neighborhood as well as extended hours on separate days at our centrally located high school. This is in addition to a dedicated special site within city hall for the entire early voting period. We are already discussing how we might expand in future elections. Early Voting is a big win for our citizens, for our voter turnout, and for democracy.”

Despite widespread progress towards expanded early voting, the Coalition noted that some communities are lagging behind and need to do better.

“Although lots of communities are doing a great job on early voting, many others don’t yet have concrete plans to provide sufficient access for their residents,” said Gavi Wolfe of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “There’s a particular need for Gateway Cities to step up. In mid-size municipalities with more than 35,000 people and lots of them working extra jobs to make ends meet, it’s essential to offer multiple early voting sites and weekend hours. These details really matter if we want to make sure people can actually exercise their right to vote.”

The Coalition plans to continue to monitor progress in each city and town and will award final Gold and Silver Medals at a ceremony later in the fall.

The groups noted that a successful implementation of early voting will have a particular impact on those with multiple jobs and minimal resources.

“Early voting is particularly crucial for communities of color and low-income communities” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. “This initiative provides flexibility and additional options for voters who cannot afford to take time off of work or who work more than one job, as well as single parents without childcare.”

“Studies show that if you cast your first vote at age 18, voting becomes a habit for life,” added Janet Domenitz, executive director of MassPIRG. “Expanding the time frame in which young people can cast their first vote will, we hope, create more good-habit voters for life.”

“Momentum is building across Massachusetts for early voting,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford of MassVOTE. “Although we still have work to do, local officials have been working hard preparing to implement the new law, and many are meeting our recommendations to expand voter participation and voting rights in Massachusetts. We hope every community will help early voting realize its full potential.”

For more, please go to www.earlyvotingma.com.

Detailed information on the survey available upon request.

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The Election Modernization Coalition is made up of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, MassVOTE, and more.