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.

Clean Energy Roadmap Webinar May 24

The LWVMA Climate and Energy Solutions Series continues with a WEBINAR
The Clean Energy Roadmap: Pathways to a Clean Energy Future.

Watch the webinar.

View the webinar presentation.

Roadmap flyer

DOWNLOAD THE FLYER

 

 

 

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.

 

 

“Beyond the March” Speakers Share Insights, Inspiration, and Ideas for Action

Women have long played a key role as agents of change here in Massachusetts, and today women especially are feeling energized to “do something” to fix political institutions that are widely perceived as broken.

Our full-day conference on April 28, 2018, Beyond the March:  Women Leading the Way in Massachusetts, brought together elected officials, an historian, political scientist, and 150 citizen activists from across the state to explore lessons from women’s activist past, the key role of women leaders today, and concrete steps we can all take to strengthen our democracy going forward.

Speakers included:  Congresswoman Niki Tsongas; Barbara Berenson, author, Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: Revolutionary Reformers; Lisa Wong, Deputy Director, Asian American Civic Association, former Mayor, Fitchburg; Ruthanne Fuller, Mayor, Newton; Yvonne Spicer, Mayor, Framingham; Sarai Rivera, City Councilor, Worcester; and Daniel Ziblatt, Professor of Government, Harvard University, co-author, How Democracies Die.

LWVUS Press Release: Census Citizenship Question Will Result in Inaccurate Count

March 27, 2018/Washington, DC – The League of Women Voters president Chris Carson issued the following statement in response to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to include a question pertaining to citizenship in the 2020 Census:

“Including a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census will damage the chances for an accurate count of our country’s population. This unprecedented change to the way we count the number people living in the United States is a betrayal of the idea that in America, every person counts.

“Make no mistake: this decision isn’t about improving demographic data on citizenship. It’s designed to frighten immigrants—citizens and noncitizens alike—so they won’t participate in the Census. It’s a blatant political maneuver meant to disenfranchise these groups and deny them equal representation. So Secretary Ross’ claim that this question helps enforce the Voting Rights Act is preposterous. Indeed, including this question on the Census undermines the rights of eligible voters and threatens a process vital to our democracy.

“For more than 200 years, the Census has collected information about the geographic distribution of our population so we can provide representation and invest in our communities equitably. A fair and accurate Census is essential to the way the federal government allocates resources for infrastructure, education, and transportation. Census data is critical when determining resources for fire, water and trash collection. Without a complete count of our nation’s people, businesses will not have the tools to make sound investment decisions that keep our communities thriving.

“Adding this question to the Census now is not only unnecessary and jeopardizes the accuracy of the report, but it comes at a huge financial expense. Taxpayers should not be held responsible for the time and cost of changing the forms and making the report less accurate.

“The United States Constitution mandates an accurate count of all people living in the United States – not all citizens. Non-citizens are an integral part of our economy and need to be included in the 2020 Census to paint a complete picture of our great country. The clock is ticking toward 2020. We call on Congress to take action and correct this issue before it is too late.”

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LWVMA Urges Speaker DeLeo to Bring AVR Bill to a Vote

On March 26, 2018, the League of Women of Massachusetts 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.  The text of the letter is here:

AVR DeLeo letter LWVMA-FINAL

Secretary of State William Galvin Joins Statewide Groups in Calling for Automatic Voter Registration in Massachusetts

March 22, 2018/BOSTON, MA -Secretary of State William Galvin today announced his support for Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) in Massachusetts and urged the legislature to pass the  AVR bill (with new bill number H.4320) as soon as possible this session.

“I look forward to working with the Elections Modernization Coalition on the successful implementation of automatic voter registration in Massachusetts and to achieve our shared goal of continuing to increase access and voter participation in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary Galvin at a State House press conference this morning, where he was joined by members of the Coalition.

The AVR legislation, 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.

“We’re pleased to have Secretary Galvin’s support for automatic voter registration in our state,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “AVR will make our election system more accurate, secure and efficient. It is critical for the legislature to pass it as soon as possible.”

The bill has popular and growing support in both legislative chambers. It has 84 House co-sponsors and 22 Senate sponsors and has passed out of the Joint Committee on Election Laws. The legislation is also endorsed by 61 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups.

“AVR will remove real obstacles to political participation, ensuring that more voices can be heard. Democracy works best when it works for everyone, and AVR will move us one step closer to that ideal,” added Meryl Kessler of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, Executive Director of MassVOTE said, “MassVOTE is very pleased Secretary Galvin is supporting the AVR bill. It is a step in the right direction to removing one more barrier that disproportionately affects our most disenfranchised communities. We believe it will increase voter participation and turnout while continuing to modernize our election process.”

“Voting is the bedrock of our democratic process, and increased voter participation makes our democracy stronger,” said Carol Rose, executive director of ACLU of Massachusetts. “It’s time for Massachusetts to join the growing national trend and pass automatic voter registration to promote access to the ballot.”

“In addition to the statewide organizations, many new activists have been inspired by the automatic voter registration campaign,” said Joyce Hackett, an activist from Western MA. “Indivisible Massachusetts, People Power, Action Together, Lift Every Vote – we’re all working in concert with the Election Modernization Coalition to pass this bill because we’re inspired by the chance to help so many new, eligible voters participate.”

“Regardless of these nor’easters, we hope the Legislature will quickly ‘spring’ into action, and pass automatic voter registration now,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.

In Oregon, the first state to implement AVR, 230,000 voters registered in its first six months, and more than 265,000 inaccurate registrations were updated during the same period. About 97,000 new voters participated in the 2016 election because of the reform. Eleven 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, Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Washington.

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

LWVMA Statement on Gun Control

The tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida has shocked and mobilized the country.  Students are leading the way and saying #Enough, and those of us who are committed to civic engagement are heartened by their response and eager to do our part to support them.

The LWVMA Board and staff share this urgency, and encourage each of us to find a way to take action on the issue at this critical juncture.  As League members, we can be proud of the work that we’ve done in Massachusetts on this issue, but now is the time to let young voices know that we’re with them and willing to continue to do our part.  Each of you can make a difference.

The League has a strong position on gun control, including supporting a ban on assault weapons. You can read the entire Massachusetts position in Where We Stand, page 47, and the LWVUS position here.  Local Leagues and League members can organize actions, contact legislators, write letters to the editor, and generally take action in favor of stronger gun controls based on these positions.  Leagues should refrain from targeting specific legislators to avoid appearing to endorse or oppose candidates, but are free to act in support of gun law reforms.

Here are some specific things you can do today and in the coming weeks:

  • Educate yourself and community members about the laws that Massachusetts has already enacted.  Massachusetts has already enacted laws that require a permit to purchase, require an owner license, require a carry permit for handguns, prohibit assault weapons, restrict magazine capacity, and require background checks for private sales.  Additional resources for understanding the current laws can be found here.  Marblehead League members put together a resource guide to educate themselves about the issue, and they’ve shared it with the rest of us.  It was completed in December, so there is more news and links that could be added, but it’s a great place for other Leagues to begin. LWVMA is a member of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and there are resources on the coalition’s website.
  • Offer to register students to vote during one of the school walkouts on March 14 at 10 a.m. (#NationalSchoolWalkout). You can find out if schools in your area are participating here. Leagues that are interested in offering voter registration should contact the students organizing and the school administration first; in most instances, this walkout will be a very brief 17-minute demonstration, so the time may not work for registration on this particular day.Perhaps you can offer another opportunity to register students, leveraging their engagement around this issue. The LWVMA office has postcards on how to register to vote online and on pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, which you can make available to schools. If you would like to request postcards for the March 14event, please contact Brynne Gorman by Monday, March 5.
  • Participate in one of the March for Our Lives rallies being planned nationwide on Saturday, March 24.  In Massachusetts there are already marches planned for Boston, Worcester, Chelmsford and Northampton, and more may be in the planning stages.  LWVMA is planning to offer voter registration at the rally in Boston, and we urge other Leagues around the state to do the same in their towns.  As the Florida students keep pointing out, if legislators won’t pass stronger gun laws, “vote them out.” We can help make sure every proponent of stronger gun laws is registered to vote.  We can also participate with signs and a strong presence.  If you’d like to help with the Boston event, please contact LWVMA Voter Service Co-Chair Judy Zaunbrecher.  If you’re planning action in your community, let us know and we will share that with other members.  We will have more information on the March 24 rallies coming soon.
  • Urge your U.S. Senators to oppose the Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill, HR38.  That bill has already passed the U.S. House.  Even though Senator Warren and Senator Markey oppose this bill, they need to hear from constituents.  This bill would allow someone granted a concealed carry permit in any state to carry concealed guns in any other state, regardless of that state’s laws.  See the LWVUS letter for talking points.
  • Join LWVMA’s Legislative Action Committee (LAC) as a volunteer specialist on gun control legislation.  This is currently an open position on the LAC that we are eager to fill. If you are inspired to take a more active role in working with current and future Massachusetts legislation on this issue, please contact Nancy Brumback, LAC chair.
  • Contact your state legislators and urge passage of a current bill before the legislature, the Extreme Risk Protective Order bill, H.3081, which establishes a civil procedure for removing guns from people who pose a significant danger of causing physical harm to themselves or others.  Since LWVMA does not have a gun issues specialist, we have not taken a position on this bill. But you can contact your legislators as an individual and urge passage!
  • Review the LWVMA Citizen Lobbyist Handbook for pointers on legislative advocacy and offer to share this publication with students and other community members; you can also offer to meet with students to review the materials and answer questions.
  • Include questions on gun control in candidate forums and voter guides as it is appropriate.  This is another way to keep this issue in front of voters.

The entire Board and staff encourage you to find a way to get involved with this issue and to add our voices to the building momentum.  If your League is planning action around these items, please share any calendar updates with Brynne Gorman so we can add them to the LWVMA calendar, and share your successes with all our members.

We are so glad to be partnering with you and our communities.

Mary Ann Ashton, President

Kate Boland

Lee Bona

Nancy Brumback

Kris Eastman

Scotti Finnegan

Donna Hooper

Andrea Kozinetz

Cindy Ku

Marilyn Peterson

Karen Price

Judy Zaunbrecher

Meryl Kessler, Executive Director