Fall Elections Bill Signed into Law

LWVMA congratulates everyone involved in the passage of H.4820, An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19, which Governor Baker signed Monday.

This important measure will assure that our Sept. 1 primary election and Nov. 3 general election are held in a way that increases the safety of voters and poll workers, eases the workload on local election officials, and creates confidence in the conduct of these elections.  The final bill passed unanimously in the Senate and by a 157-1 vote in the House.  Thanks to all of you who urged your legislators to act on this bill.

The law requires the Secretary of the Commonwealth to mail an application for a mail ballot to every voter registered by July 1 by July 15 before the primary election and by Sept. 14 to every voter registered by Sept. 1 before the general election.

An online portal to apply for ballots will be available by Oct. 1.  In the meantime, you can also download an application for a mail ballot here .

In-person early voting is Aug. 22-28 before the primary and Oct. 17-30 before the November election and must include some weekend hours.

Voter registration deadline is 10 days before the election instead of 20 days, so Aug. 22 for the primary election and Oct. 24 for the general election.

Postage-paid return will be provided for applications and mailed ballots.

See the Secretary’s website here for frequently-asked questions on voting by mail.

We particularly thank our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition for their continued dedication to improving voting in Massachusetts:  Common Cause Massachusetts, ACLU Massachusetts, MassVOTE, MassPIRG, Massachusetts Voter Table, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

LWVMA Urges Governor to Sign Election Bill

The legislative conference committee reconciling the House and Senate versions of the election law addressing COVID-19 concerns for the fall elections has released the final bill, which is expected to pass the House and Senate in the next day or two.
LWVMA urges Governor Baker to sign this bill immediately.  It’s going to take time for our elections officials to implement the needed reforms in this bill so that our Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general elections operate both safely and efficiently.  The sooner they can get started, the better.
The final bill, H.4820, provides for applications for mail ballots to be sent to all voters before each election, expands early voting, calls for an online portal so voters can request a mail ballot, and allows election officials to begin processing mailed ballots before Election Day, along with other changes.  See the Election Modernization Coalition’s press release here.

Senate Passes Bill to Mail Ballot Applications

LWVMA and our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition applaud the Massachusetts Senate for unanimously passing S.2755, a bill which makes necessary changes to protect our Sept. 1 primary election and Nov. 3 general election, including sending every voter an application for a ballot to be returned by mail.  We urge the legislature to quickly reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill and get a final version to Governor Baker for his signature.
Read the coalition press release here.

“Teen Voting Rights Challenge” Winners Announced

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) has announced the winners of “Teen Voting Rights Challenge” Student Video Contest. View a playlist of the winning entries here.

The winners are:

First Place:  “I Can’t Vote” by Julia Cote, Caroline Han, Cristina Perez, and Rachel Dasey, Needham High School

Second Place: “Why 16 year olds Should Vote: By the Facts” by Noah Kassis and Adeena Bromberg, Northampton High School

Third Place: “A Stronger Democracy” by Jacob Swenson, Sandwich High School

Honorable Mention:

“16-Year-Olds Don’t Need the Vote to Have Influence” by Adeline Van Buskirk, Hingham High School

“Why 16-Year-Olds Should Have the Right to Vote” by Ian Buchanan, Amherst Regional High School

“16 Year Olds – Let Them Vote!” by Ryan Arruda, Dartmouth High School

LWVMA invited Massachusetts high school students to create videos addressing the question “should 16-year-olds have the right to vote?” The winning entries were selected from a large group of entries from across the Commonwealth. A panel of judges scored each video on criteria including clarity of message, memorability, presentation, and creativity.  The winners will receive awards of $500 (first place); $250 (second place); $100 (third place); and $50 (honorable mention).

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. Additional support for this program was provided by the Salem Five Charitable Foundation.

Election Modernization Coalition Praises House Election Legislation

On Thursday night, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed election legislation allowing every voter who wishes to vote by mail to do so. Some provisions of the legislation include: requiring mail ballot applications to be sent to every registered voter for both the September 1 and November 3 elections, creating an online portal for mail ballot applications, expanding early voting, mandating changes for safer in-person voting, and shortening the voter registration deadline to 10 days before the election. For more information about this legislation, see the Election Modernization Coalition’s press release here.

June 13 Council 2020 Recap

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts conducted its 2020 Council on June 13 via Zoom. Over 150 members representing 32 local Leagues and Units attended the meeting.
One of the key events of Council was the election of Officers, Board, and Nominating Committee members, completing the LWVMA Board’s transition to staggered terms. At the 2019 LWVMA Convention the Bylaws were changed to move to this staggered term approach.
We would like to report on the election and introduce the slate of Officers and Board members and Nominating Committee members elected at Council.
Officers of LWVMA:
  • Elizabeth Foster-Nolan, a Member at Large, for the office of Co-President for a two-year term
  • Amy Smith, from LWV of Topsfield-Boxford-Middleton, for the office of 2nd Vice President, for a two-year term
  • Tanya Roy, from LWV Wellesley, for the office of Treasurer, for a two-year term
  • Courtney Rau Rogers, from LWV Norwood, for the office of Secretary, for a one-year term
Directors for a Two-Year Term:
  • Marie Gauthier from LWV Franklin County
  • Vedna Lacombe-Heywood from LWV Plymouth
  • Susan Millinger from LWV Amherst
  • Brenda Safford from LWV Worcester Area
Directors for a One-Year Term:
  • Jo-Ann Berry from LWV Acton Area
  • Karen Callanan, a Member at Large
  • Susan Flicop from LWV Wayland
For the Nominating Committee:
  • Sharon McCarthy, as chair from LWV Harvard
  • Sharyn Roberts from LWV Newton

We thank the Board members who have completed their terms: Mary Ann Ashton (Co-President), Lee Bona (Second Vice President), Andrea Kozinetz (Treasurer), Kate Boland, and Nancy Brumback. Their years of dedication and leadership have strengthened LWVMA. We appreciate their service.

Direction was provided to the new Board via the chat function in Zoom and is shown in the Council minutes . If you would like to provide direction (a specific program item, project, or about the management and goals of LWVMA), please send it to  lwvma@lwvma.org . The newly elected Board will review this direction and report back to the membership on the actions taken.

After the business meeting was adjourned, Ricardo Ramírez, from the Voting Rights and Election Center of the Brennan Center for Justice, was the keynote speaker on “Voting during a pandemic: What we need to do over the next 5 months and beyond.” You can review Mr. Ramírez’s presentation here.

On behalf of the LWVMA Board, we look forward to working with you over the next year to empower voters and defend democracy for all.

LWVMA’s Statement on Violence Against Black People Throughout the United States

To our fellow League members,

The Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts wanted to share with you our statement in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as those of the League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota.

As the Massachusetts League, we grieve and share the horror at the brutal acts toward our fellow Black citizens. We demand accountability at all levels of our government which is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Here in Massachusetts we commit as individuals and as a League to hold ourselves accountable: to listen to Black voices in our communities and the Commonwealth, to educate ourselves better and stand against the racism prevalent in our society, and to advocate for policies and practices to eliminate systemic racism in Massachusetts. We dedicate ourselves: to vigorously advocate for the opportunity for everyone to vote safely in this fall’s elections, to ensure that each member of our communities, statewide,  is counted in the Census, to address the inequities in our society that the coronavirus pandemic has so dramatically exposed, and to speak out against racism. Every resident in Massachusetts deserves equal protection and safety as we go about our daily lives. Every member of our communities should be welcomed with open hearts into our institutions and our organizations. As civically engaged members of our communities from every corner of the Commonwealth, we must set the example with our words and actions for our children and grandchildren to demand a Massachusetts which is just and fair for all.

And we amplify this call to action: the road to change lies at the ballot box, and the most significant change can happen in elections closest to home. We must exercise our rights to safeguard them. Protecting rights for everyone means standing against injustice toward anyone. Vote.

Mary Ann Ashton and Judy Zaunbrecher, Co-Presidents
On behalf of the LWV Massachusetts Board

LWVMA Urges House to Strengthen Bill Dealing with Vote by Mail

The Joint Committee on Election Laws has reported a bill dealing with the fall elections, H.4762, out of committee.  It is now before the House Ways & Means Committee and is expected to come up for a vote in the House on Wednesday.

LWVMA and our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition consider the bill a significant step in the right direction, but we urge the legislature to add four provisions that will do even more to safeguard the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general elections from the impact of COVID-19.

The bill calls for the Secretary of the Commonwealth to mail an application for absentee ballots to all registered voters by July 15.  Voters can use that application to request ballots for both the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general elections.  This compromise replaces the provision we were supporting to mail the actual ballots to all voters before the Nov. 3 election without an application.

The bill calls for an online portal to apply for absentee ballots.  It removes the requirement for checkout tables at the polls to reduce the number of poll workers needed and removes restrictions on who can be a poll worker.  It provides one week of early voting before the primary, including weekend hours.  Early voting is already a requirement for the November election.

We urge the legislature to strengthen the bill by adopting four critical provisions, all of which were in the coalition’s original bill:

  • Allow local election officials to process mail ballots before election day in a central location
  • Count all ballots mailed by election day (for the general election only)
  • Provide return postage for ballots (and applications if possible)
  • Provide more time for voter registration before the elections

The League also asks for a provision that return of absentee ballot applications as undeliverable is not a basis to challenge voters or remove them from the voter rolls.

The Election Modernization Coalition is comprised of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, and the Massachusetts Voter Table.

Read the coalition statement here.

Read the text of H.4762 here.

Read an editorial in the Boston Globe about mail-in voting here.

Voting Rights Groups Call for Urgent Action on HD 5075, a Bill Supported by Over 100 Organizations to Safeguard Fall Elections

Voting rights organizations including Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the League of Women Voters, and the ACLU of Massachusetts testified before the Joint Committee on Election Laws today in support of HD 5075, An Act Ensuring Safe and Participatory 2020 State Elections in Response to COVID-19. They called for the Committee to act quickly to support the bill.

HD 5075 – filed by Representatives Michael Moran and John Lawn – has been endorsed by over 100 organizations in Massachusetts, as of Thursday afternoon. More endorsements are pending.

Read the coalition press release here.

LWVMA Asks Legislature to Pass Bill to Safeguard Fall Elections

LWVMA and our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition are asking the legislature to send all registered voters a ballot for the November general election.

A bill, HD.5075, filed Tuesday, May 5, calls for ballots to be mailed to all voters, with prepaid return postage, at least 19 days before the Nov. 3 election. Ballots will be returned to city or town election offices, which would also install secure dropboxes where voters could deposit ballots.

In-person voting will still be an option, and the bill requires the Secretary of the Commonwealth to adopt regulations to safeguard the health of voters and election workers at the polls.

The bill’s chief sponsors are Rep. Michael Moran, assistant majority leader, and Rep. John Lawn, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws.  Sen. Eric Lesser and Sen. Adam Hinds are sponsoring it in the Senate.  The bill would also:

  • Expand early voting in person to two weeks before the Sept. 1 state primary election and three weeks before the Nov. 3 election
  • Cut the deadline to register to vote in the two elections from the current 20 days to 10 days
  • Create an online portal for voters to apply for absentee ballots
  • Establish that concern about Covid-19 qualifies as a “physical disability” and permits any concerned voter to vote by absentee ballot
  • Permit local election officials to scan absentee and early voting ballots in their offices before election day, rather than deliver them to individual polling places to be counted on election day; no results will be determined or announced before polls close.

The Election Modernization Coalition includes LWVMA, Common Cause, ACLU Massachusetts, MassVOTE, MassPIRG, Massachusetts Voter Table, and Lawyers for Civil Rights.

See the Coalition press release here.

See the text of the bill here.