Improving Elections

High School Voter Registration project 2012

Registering high school students to vote 

Improving the electoral process and educating voters are goals that are central to LWVMA’s mission.

During the current legislative session (2017-18), the League and its coalition partners are advocating strongly for an important, common-sense electoral reform:  Automatic Voter Registration.  We will also continue to push to expand early voting and to implement Election Day registration, the reform that has been shown to have the greatest impact on voter participation.

Our legislative advocacy this session builds on our significant achievements in recent years:

In 2014, after many years of lobbying by LWVMA and its Election Modernization Coalition partners, Massachusetts took a major step to modernize its voter registration and election processes when a far-reaching election reform bill became law.

At a time when too many states are making it more difficult for citizens to register and to vote, Massachusetts should be proud to be moving in the opposite direction.

Specifically the 2014 law implemented:

These are significant improvements, but there is more work to be done.  We will continue fighting hard in 2017-18 to bring the Massachusetts electoral system into the 21st century.

June 2017

Campaign Finance Reform

Recent Posts on LWVMA Action on Money in Politics

“Restore Democracy” takes on money in politics and wins LWVMA high school video contest.

button for convention 3 inThe pernicious and distorting effect of money on our political system at every level is a matter of grave concern to the League of Women Voters, particularly since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to unprecedented amounts of outside spending in elections and catalyzed the formation of “dark money” groups that do not have to disclose their donors.

The Massachusetts League has been deeply committed to reforming the federal campaign finance system. Beginning in 2010 with a local League endeavor that soon grew into a statewide Campaign Finance Study Committee, LWVMA has played an especially active role bringing attention to the urgent need for federal campaign finance reform through public educational programs, online materials, and strong public opposition to decisions that create loopholes in campaign finance protections, such as McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2014).  The Massachusetts Committee also focused its efforts on garnering support from League members across the country for action at the national League level on campaign finance reform, culminating in the formation of an LWV Money in Politics Committee to update the national League position on campaign finance regulation and to shape the contours of the League’s future advocacy on this important issue. In April 2016, LWVUS announced this new position statement, broadening the scope of the League’s campaign finance reform advocacy.

In addition, LWVMA has long played a key role reforming the rules governing the campaign finance system here at home in Massachusetts.

  • In 1975, LWVMA helped ensure passage of the state’s Campaign Finance Act that established the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to monitor compliance with reporting rules.
  • We were at the forefront of efforts in the late 1990s to pass the state’s Clean Elections legislation (which enjoyed overwhelming public support, but was later repealed by the legislature).
  • And, most recently, our advocacy helped pass the Disclose Act to combat the rise of “dark money” spending by outside groupson elections. Signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in August 2014, the Disclose Act requires Super PACs to reveal the sources of their funding no more than seven days after making an expenditure, such as placing a television ad.  The reporting deadline changes to within 24 hours for the 10 days before an election. Groups placing television, print and internet ads must list their top five donors in the ad and include the website of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, where voters can find a list of all contributors. Corporations, labor unions and special interests would be required to disclose expenditures in statewide, county or local races under this bill.

We are proud of our work. But much more needs to be done.

 You can help us drive reform of our campaign finance system, both at the federal and the state level. Remember: Advocating for state level reform while we work on change at the federal level is an important part of the reform effort. In order to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics, we need to:

Strengthen Regulations on Coordination: Although independent groups such as Super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns, in practice this prohibition is routinely circumvented at both the federal and state level.

Improve Disclosure: The Massachusetts Disclose Act was a step forward, but Congress has failed to pass a federal Disclose Act mandating disclosure of donations and spending to shine a light on secret money. The League is a longtime supporter of this important piece of legislation.

Establish a Public Financing System: The League believes that public financing of elections is the best long-term solution to getting big money out of politics.

What can individual citizens do?

  • Be informed. Information on our campaign finance position can be found at our state and national websites
  • There is strength in numbers. Connect and be an active member of organizations dedicated to campaign finance and fair elections like the League of Women Voters.
  • Urge your state and congressional legislators to pass legislation to strengthen campaign finance laws. Constituent in-district meetings are a particularly effective option. Be prepared by reviewing state and national positions regarding the issues you care about.
  • Attend candidate events and talk to candidates and legislators at every level about campaign finance reform and your concerns as
    a voter.
  • Write letters-to-the-editor for your local paper.
  • Vote! Voting is the most powerful form of expression available to individual citizens and the single best way to drive money out of politics. We must improve voter turnout and engage with our communities to combat the undue influence of money in our political system.  Register and participate in election 2016!

 

Civic Education and Civil Discourse

    Civic education and civil discourse are at the very core of the League’s work. An active and informed citizenry is the foundation of a well-functioning democracy, and the League devotes much of its activity to ensuring that citizens have access to the information, skills, and resources to play an active role in their government.

    The League is well recognized for its ability to make complex and controversial issues accessible to the non-expert citizen in a balanced manner; for its ability to gather citizens with diverse views; and for its expertise as a trainer of community leaders and activists. While the League is proud to be nonpartisan–neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government–League members have always worked to educate the public about issues of vital concern.

    The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Citizen Education Fund currently provides programs, publications and forums on major public policy issues and disseminates information and training that help citizens of Massachusetts to thoughtfully engaged in the democratic process.  More information about the fund and its programs is available on the Citizen Education Fund page.

    LWVMA also works to ensure that the youngest residents of the Commonwealth are informed about our nation’s history, our electoral system, and issues of public importance.  We advocate for more civic education in schools, identify books on U.S. history and voting appropriate for children and teens, and sponsor an annual video contest designed to encourage high school students to engage in civic life.

     

    Climate Change and the Environment

    Recent Posts on LWVMA Action on the Environment

    The League of Women Voters is committed to promoting an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest by recognizing the interrelationships of air quality, energy, land use, waste management and water resources.

    LWVMA Steering Committee for Environmental Action and Advocacy

    In early 2017, LWVMA members Launa Zimmaro and Karen Price formed the LWVMA Steering Committee for Environmental Action and Advocacy. The Steering Committee has 15-20 members from Leagues around the state. The mission of the Steering Committee is to inform and engage members across the state on critical environmental issues and policies impacting Massachusetts, and to support and promote sustainable energy and environmental policy, legislation and local action.

    Action at the local and state level is more important than ever! The League can make a difference because of its local League, grassroots structure.

    In its first year, Steering Committee members are focusing on educating themselves, League members, and the broader public. Committee members attended the Mass Power Forward Lobby Day on January 25, the Local Environmental Action Conference on March 5, and the Massachusetts Communities and Campuses Conference on March 17.

    During 2017, the Committee is coordinating the LWVMA Climate and Energy Solutions Series, providing regional forums around the state. See the next section (below) for details.

    The Committee received a grant from Mass Power Forward through the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund to support the work of the Environmental Steering Committee. The grant will support a webinar service, workshop/ conference fees, printed materials, and regional events.

    The Steering Committee stands ready to support and advocate for legislation to benefit the environment and reduce carbon emissions at the state and local levels.

    LWVMA 2017 Climate and Energy Solutions Series

    LWVUS Price on Carbon Webinars

    Supported Legislation 2017-2018

    The League of Women Voters has been at the forefront of the environmental protection movement for decades, consistently supporting legislation to preserve our nation’s natural resources and protect our public health. We support legislation that seeks to protect our country from the physical, economic and public health effects of climate change while also providing pathways to economic prosperity.

    LWVMA supports and opposes legislation after reviewing the bills  filed each 2-year session. For information on the LWVMA supported state legislation related to the environment, including energy and resource conservation, natural resources, and water resources, click here.

    For information on efforts at the national level, coordinated by LWVUS, click here.

    Putting a Price on Carbon: Reducing Emissions Through the Market Place

    environment for websiteAs concern about human-induced climate change mounts with each new storm, flood and drought, there is growing interest in available solutions that can work on a large scale to reduce emissions and support the transition to clean, renewable sources of energy.  Pricing carbon to reflect its social cost (i.e., health and environmental  impacts throughout the full life cycle of a product – costs typically not borne by the emitters) is a form of market-based environmental reform and is considered one of the most efficient and cost-effective means of reducing emissions.

    Revenues raised through social-cost pricing of fossil-fuel based energy can be designed as largely or completely “revenue neutral” to offset higher fuel costs for businesses and individuals. Funds can also be reinvested in the economy to promote industry and job growth in the renewable energy sector. LWV supports carbon pricing through fee and rebate approaches that are revenue neutral or revenue positive and cap and trade systems as long as low- and middle-income households receive rebates or tax cuts to protect them from financial impacts and protections are put in place for vulnerable businesses.

    LWVMA is a member of the Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future, a growing coalition of environmental, business, faith and civic organizations dedicated to passing carbon pricing legislation and policies that assure Massachusetts continues its national clean energy leadership.

    In the 2017-2018 legislative session LWVMA supports carbon pricing legislation introduced by Senator Michael Barrett (S1821) and by Representative Jennifer Benson (H1726). Fact Sheets on each have been prepared by the coalition.

    S1821, An Act Combating Climate Change*

    Sponsored by Senator Mike Barrett

    100% of the revenue would be returned to households, businesses, and institutions. For the CO2 charges paid by people, each state resident would receive an equal share of the total money collected. For charges paid by businesses and other institutions, each would get a rebate in proportion to its share of total employment in Massachusetts. Additional rebates would be provided to households in rural areas and to businesses that are energy-intensive and face stiff out-of-state competition. The fee would start out at $10 per ton of CO2, rising $5 a year until reaching $40 a ton.

    H1726, An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Create Jobs*

    Sponsored by Representative Jennifer Benson

    80% of the revenue would be returned via rebates to households and employers, while 20% would be used to fund green infrastructure investments in transportation, clean energy, and protection against the impacts of climate change. By rebating a high proportion of the funds through a progressive formula, the bill would ensure that low- and moderate-income households do not come out behind. Because the bill rebates funds to employers based on their number of employees, most business sectors would come out ahead or about even, and there would be a net gain to employment in the state. The fee would begin at $20 per ton of CO2, and rise $5 a year until it hits $40 per ton, the same as in S1821.

    *Source http://climate-xchange.org/massachusetts-campaign/about-the-bill/

    In the prior session LWVMA gave testimony on carbon pricing legislation introduced by Senator Barrett: S1747, An Act Combatting Climate Change.

    While pricing carbon to reflect its true cost to society would have the greatest and fastest impact if enacted at a national and global level, action at the state level has often paved the way for action on a broader scale by providing working models and experience, as well as leadership. California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia signed an accord in 2013 to coordinate their carbon emissions pricing systems where possible, opening the door to regional agreements. State level carbon pricing legislation is gaining momentum, with New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington joining Massachusetts to introduce carbon pricing legislation. Interest in carbon pricing is growing across North America. Canada is requiring all provinces to implement carbon pricing by 2018. Mexico is adding cap and trade to its carbon pricing system. For a comprehensive description of carbon pricing approaches and implementation efforts, click here.

    How you can help

    Talking points: Why LWVMA supports strong carbon pricing legislation

    The threat from global warming: Climate change – also called climate disruption – is the greatest environmental threat facing the planet. Its impact has already begun to effect locations around the world, including the United States through rising sea level, worsening drought and flood conditions, more intense “super” storms, and accelerated relocation and extinction and relocation of many species..

    Goal: cut climate pollution. Massachusetts state law requires that we cut greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane) to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and to at least 80% below 1990 by 2050. This will require a dramatic shift from fossil fuels to clean energy such as solar and wind, as well as heightened efforts to improve energy efficiency in existing and new structures and systems.

    How: add a carbon pollution charge to fossil fuel prices. Most economists, from conservative to liberal, agree that the most cost-effective way to cut carbon pollution is to add a charge that raises the prices of fossil fuels such as natural gas and gasoline (electricity generation would be exempt, because it is already covered by other programs). This would give energy producers and consumers a strong incentive to shift to clean energy – while having the freedom to decide how to do so.

    Where would the revenue go? Carbon pricing could be revenue neutral, with all funds returned to residents, businesses and institutions, or carbon positive with most revenue returned to those who pay the fee, but some dedicated to boosting energy efficiency and clean energy adoption. Any approach considered must ensure that living standards and competitiveness are protected.

    IMPACTS

    Pollution will fall: the CO2 and methane pollution that causes climate disruption would be cut by more than any single regulatory policy that the state operates now or is considering.

    Households and businesses will be protected: modeling shows that we could give back to low- and moderate-income households at least as much money as they would pay in higher costs for fossil fuels. After getting rebates, almost all businesses would face quite small changes in their net costs, positive in some cases, negative in others.

    Employment will rise: mainly because the carbon pricing  will shift billions of dollars currently spent to going out of state to import fossil fuels to spurring  the growth of in-state businesses, and jobs in the innovation, energy efficiency and clean energy industry, keeping those dollars in MA

    The economy will benefit: there would be little overall impact on the state economy, with small gains in important measures such as average personal income and Gross State Product.

    LWVUS Local League Toolkit for Climate Change

    The LWVUS Climate Change Task Force encourages League members to consider adopting a Climate Initiative as part of their local program at their annual meetings this year.  There are two issue areas in particular where Leagues can make a real impact on greenhouse gas emissions — energy efficiency in buildings and renewable energy. The Grassroots Action Priorities section of the LWVUS Climate Action Toolkit includes detailed information about climate solutions. To share your League’s story, please send your answers to these questions to Task Force Chair, Eleanor Revelle (er@revelle.net).

    Equality and Justice

    Criminal Justice

    In the 1970’s and 1980’s the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts developed strong positions on our courts and corrections systems; since then, however, our rate of incarceration has more than tripled. For the last several years, LWVMA has been actively advocating for criminal justice reform. For more information click here.

    Immigration

    Immigration is primarily governed and enforced through federal law and federal agencies. The League of Women Voters position on immigration was developed after a national study in 2006-2008, and was adopted by the LWVUS Education Fund board in April 2008. For more information on LWVMA’s current work on immigration click here.

    Meeting Basic Human Needs

    More information will be available soon.