2018 League Leaders Lunch Explores Partnerships, Governance

The October 20, 2018 League Leaders Lunch in Harvard brought together 66 leaders from around the state for a day of learning and sharing.  The day’s agenda included an update on what’s been happening at LWVMA and LWVUS, presentations on League advocacy and voter service, a preview of the Ballot Question study, and an interactive exercise to generate ideas related to the League’s 100th anniversary and expanding our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion

The day also included two outstanding panel discussions:

The first, moderated by Linda Matys O’Connell of LWV Springfield, focused on building stronger partnerships with like-minded, diverse organizations.  As Linda said:  “In both its voter service and advocacy work, LWV benefits from working in partnership with other like-minded organizations. Partnership amplifies our collective voices, increases our impact, and improves our outcomes…Partnership is especially important in the current political environment…And our partnership must include diverse voices.”  We are grateful for the participation of the following panelists:

The second panel, which was moderated by Marilyn Peterson of LWV Acton Area, focused on different forms of local League governance.  We are grateful for the participation of Carin Kale (LWV Hamilton-Wenham), Jo-Ann Berry (LWV Acton Area), and Courtney Rau Rogers (LWV Norwood).

Many thanks to our co-host, LWV Harvard, who made us feel welcome in a great venue in a central location.





Press Release: LWVMA to Co-Host Second Congressional District Debate Oct. 15

For Immediate Release:  Oct. 9, 2018/Boston, MA–U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, and Tracy Lyn Lovvorn, R-Grafton, will meet in a debate at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15 at Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St., Worcester.

Admission is free and open to the public, with the debate being held in Washburn Hall, on the second floor of the historic meeting place.

Congressman McGovern, an 11-term incumbent, is facing his first challenge in a final election since 2010. Among his duties, he serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Nutrition. Three years ago, he sponsored and pushed for an attempt to replace the then 14-year-old Authorization for Use of Military Force with a new authorization in the battle against ISIS. Ms. Lovvorn, the Republican primary winner, is founder and ceo of Evolution Physical Therapy, Grafton. She brought suit in a 2009 case in which a chain of nursing and rehabilitation services ultimately settled with federal authorities and eight states for $38 million over allegations of substandard Medicare and Medicaid nursing services.

The debate is being sponsored by the Telegram & Gazette, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts and also the LWV of the Worcester Area, the Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition, and Mechanics Hall.

Questions for the candidates, including questions submitted by residents of the Second Congressional District, will come from a three-member panel: Meryl Kessler, executive director, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts; Irene Hernandez, vice president, Central Region, Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition; and Tony Simollardes, editor of the editorial pages of the Telegram & Gazette, who also will act as moderator.

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.

# # #

LWVMA Scores Legislative Wins with Automatic Voter Registration, Women’s Issues, Criminal Justice Reform, Gun Control

The formal part of the 2017-2018 session of the Massachusetts legislature ended July 31, with passage of a number of bills LWVMA strongly supported, but also some keen disappointments.

A top League priority, automatic voter registration, passed both houses in the final hours and was signed into law by Governor Baker Aug. 9. It goes into effect before the 2020 election year. Massachusetts becomes the 14th state to enact automatic voter registration.

Another major priority, a strong criminal justice reform package, won approval in the legislature and the Governor’s signature earlier this year.

Three key bills affecting women became law: the pregnant workers’ fairness act; the ACCESS bill to provide contraceptive coverage without co-pays or deductibles; and the repeal of archaic laws targeting abortion and contraception.

In the important area of clean energy and climate change, after the Senate passed a bold, comprehensive energy bill in June, advocates had high hopes for strong, comprehensive energy legislation. However, the bill that passed on the last day of the session was a variation on several less-comprehensive House bills. This clean energy bill, which was signed by the Governor, did not include such important reforms as carbon pricing, but did include these provisions LWVMA supported:

  • An increase to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (2% rather than 3%)
  • Establishment of a 1,000 megawatt energy storage target for 2025
  • An additional 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind resources, including new offshore wind transmission systems
  • Improvements to energy efficiency programs
  • Direction to utilities to explore ways to upgrade their distribution networks that do not involve building large transmission projects
  • A requirement that the Department of Public Utilities more effectively manage and quantify natural gas leaks.

A project-based civics education proposal which we supported was passed by both houses. The Governor sent the bill back to the legislature with amendments, and a committee is working to resolve those issues and return the bill to the Governor.

The extreme risk protection order or “red flag” gun control bill to enable family members or law enforcement officials to petition a court to remove guns from people considered a likely threat to themselves or others passed following the highly-publicized school shooting in Parkland, FL.

A health care bill to require that insurance documents with confidential health information be sent only to the patient was signed into law.

Legislation aiding low-income and moderate-income people which passed included a bond bill to preserve and to create additional moderate-income and affordable housing; and an earned income tax credit, included in the budget.

A measure to repeal the “cap on kids” banning welfare payments for children conceived after a family qualifies for aid was inserted in budget, then the Governor returned that provision to the legislature with an amendment. The legislature did not accept the amendment, and the Governor vetoed the “lift the cap on kids” provision in the budget.

We were disappointed that another League priority, the Safe Communities Act, to make sure local law enforcement officials and local resources are not used to identify, register and deport undocumented immigrants who pose no known threat, did not pass as filed and that a Senate provision added to the budget to protect the rights of immigrants was eliminated from the final version of the budget. LWVMA hopes the legislature takes up bills to protect the immigrant community at the very beginning of a new session in January.

Here is what happened with other legislation LWVMA followed this session:

Bills which were active until the end of the session but were not enacted:


  • Modernize Foundation Budget school funding formula; competing versions did not get out of conference committee
  • Healthy Youth Act for accurate, age-appropriate sex education; passed Senate, stalled in House

Energy & Environment:

  • Carbon pricing
  • Ban toxic flame retardants on furniture and other products sold in Massachusetts
  • Increased funding for Community Preservation Act
  • Tax credits for donating land for conservation

Health Care:

  • New classification of advanced dental hygiene therapists
  • License midwives practicing in out-of-hospital settings


  • Bicycle and pedestrian safety omnibus bill

Water Resources:

  • Authorize municipalities to assess a “water-banking” fee on large-scale water users to mitigate the impact of major new and increased developments on water resources

Women’s Issues:

  • Require gender-neutral individual disability insurance


Bills which did not get out of committees and did not reach the floor for a vote:

Affordable housing:

  • Zoning bill to permit construction of more low and moderate income housing

Children’s issues:

  • Require training in domestic violence recognition for child advocates

Elections & Voting:

  • Election Day registration
  • Disclosure of tax returns before presidential candidate can be on Massachusetts primary ballot
  • Allow overseas/military voting by email (LWVMA opposed)
  • Require photo ID to vote (LWVMA opposed)


  • Require producers to be responsible for discarded electronics
  • Prohibit consumers from being charged for “lost gas” from leaks
  • Repeal bottle deposit system (LWVMA opposed)

Good Government:

  • Bar establishment of government registries based on identity or citizen monitoring

Health Care:

  • Establish single-payer health care
  • Study costs of single-payer vs. conventional health care systems


  • In-state tuition at state colleges and universities for certain non-citizen students

Basic Human Needs:

  • Repeal requirement that homeless families spend one night in an inappropriate location before qualifying for shelter
  • Establish a common application for social safety-net services
  • Bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness

Water Resources:

  • Regulations to maintain streamflow and water levels to protect aquatic life
  • Authority to require water conservation during a drought
  • Require a Massachusetts water quality and pollution control program report
  • Transfer administration of the pollutant discharge elimination system from federal EPA to state Department of Environmental Protection (LWVMA opposed)

In total, our Legislative Action Committee of 19 legislative specialists followed more than 75 bills during this current legislative session, submitting written testimony on all the bills and testifying in person at hearings on many of them. You can see a list of that legislation and our written testimony here.

To mobilize League members across the state to contact their own legislators in support of these bills, LWVMA sent out 19 Mass. League Action newsletters and 22 separate Action Alerts. We organized two lobby days in support of automatic voter registration with our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition and participated in lobby days organized by other coalitions we work with, particularly on women’s issues and energy and environment issues.

A special thanks at the formal end of this legislative session to the members of the Legislative Action Committee over the past 18 months:   Nancy Brumback, chair, and Clare Gordon, Louise Haldeman, Palma McLaughlin, Colleen Kirby, Terry Yoffie, Karen Mazza, Pat Costello, Linda Freedman, Launa Zimmaro, Loring Schwarz, June Michaels, Carolyn Lee, Jennifer Muroff, Sue McCalley, Janice Goodell, Karen Price, Lois Levin, Tanya Roy and Jess Sullivan.

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)


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:  Patient-to-Nurse limits

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:  Commission on Limiting Election Spending and Corporate Rights

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:  Transgender Anti-Discrimination

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.