Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition Applauds Governor Baker for Enacting the Country’s Most Comprehensive Civic Education Law

As a member of the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition, LWVMA applauds the legislature and the governor on the passage and signing of the state’s new civic education law, S.2631. The Coalition’s statement is below:

Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition Applauds Governor Baker for Enacting the Country’s Most Comprehensive Civic Education Law

The State’s new civic education law will provide thousands of students across Massachusetts with a high quality civic education.

Boston, MA [Nov. 8, 2018]  – The Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition (MCLC) applauds Governor Charlie Baker for signing into law bill S.2631, giving Massachusetts one of the nation’s most innovative statewide civic education programs. The new law, which Gov. Baker signed today, provides for funding for the professional development of teachers to teach civics effectively, the opportunity for students to participate in civics-based projects, and establishes civic education as a priority for school districts across the state.

The Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition (MCLC) thanks the State Senate, the House of Representatives and the Governor for their leadership in this legislation. This will help ensure that students across the Commonwealth will have access to a civic education curriculum that teaches them the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, fundamental knowledge about government, such as the functions of each branch and the electoral process, as well as key 21st century skills such as media literacy.

We commend the Legislature and the Governor for giving teachers the support they need to implement and teach the curriculum and facilitate civics projects to prepare students for thoughtful and informed participation in civic life. Specifically, MCLC appreciates the commitment to securing robust funding to implement the bill, including the provision of funds for teacher professional development through the Mass Civics Trust Fund.

“With the enactment of this law, Massachusetts has leapt to the forefront of civics education, joining states such as Florida and Illinois to take an innovative — and necessary — step to ensure that every young person in the state is prepared and engaged in civic life,” iCivics Executive Director Louise Dubé said. “This is a critically important law, passed at a critically  important moment for our state and our country.”

Arielle Jennings, Generation Citizen’s Massachusetts Executive Director said, “Young people often have a hard time seeing the political process as relevant to them and are disengaged from it as a result. This law will help strengthen our democracy by educating a new generation of active citizens.”

The Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition is a roundtable of twenty civics education organizations, research institutions, school districts, and stakeholders committed to improving the quality and implementation of K-12 civic education for students across the state. Members of the coalition include: The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation, Generation Citizen Massachusetts, iCivics, and other organizations committed to civic education reform.

For further information on MCLC, please visit

October 2018 Scharfman Grants Awarded to Ten Local Leagues

Ten local Leagues received Daniel Scharfman Citizen Education grants in October 2018:

LWV Brookline:  This League will produce a booklet that will include information on Brookline History, Government Structure, Voting Registration, Elective Offices, Boards and Commissions and Contact Information of Brookline Resources.  The booklet shall be made available to all Brookline citizens, with a focus on the issues of greatest concern to new residents. It will be a memorial to Sanford (Sandy) Ostroy who faithfully served the Brookline League as our Vice President, and who passed away in April 2017.  He had participated in LWVMA deliberations which developed the consensus materials for Local League Consensus Meetings and had organized those meetings for the Brookline League.

Central Berkshire Unit:  The Central Berkshire unit will register a minimum of 50 students per high school – 4 schools total – and with each registration provide a birthday tool kit for voter registration in MA, including a book mark of important voting dates, names of  all candidates and position they are running for, useful phone numbers and contact information. Buttons that say, “I Can Vote”, have been designed by a high school.  The unit will also print buttons that say: “ I Registered to Vote.”  Each kit will have either a birthday card (student designed) to read , “ Happy Birthday…you CAN REGISTER TO VOTE! or for 18 year-olds, “Happy Birthday…YOU CAN VOTE…LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!” With this card and verification that they have registered, students will receive a free coffee, hot chocolate or birthday treat from the school cafeteria. This will be ongoing and year round. Each month, a photo will be taken of all the students who registered and posted on our LWV Facebook page.

LWV Chelmsford: The Third Congressional Candidates’ Forum was a voter education activity.  It was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Chelmsford, the League of Women Voters of Concord, the Acton Area League of Women Voters and the League of Women Voters of Westford.  All expenses were paid by the LWV Chelmsford.  The forum was held at the Chelmsford High School Performing Arts Center.  All 10 Democratic primary candidates for the congressional seat attended; the Republican candidate was invited but chose not to attend.  It was moderated by a member of the League of Women Voters of Lexington. The public was invited; it is estimated that 500-600 people attended.

LWV Concord-Carlisle:  LWVCC co-sponsored with the LWV of Acton Area candidates forum for two hotly contested primary races—the 14th Middlesex State House seat and the 3rd Congressional District seat—on July 23, 2018 at the Harvey Wheeler Community Center in Concord.  All candidates on the September 4 ballot were invited and all candidates in the Democratic primary for both races attended the forum.  The forum was also videotaped and made available for viewing after the event.

LWV Franklin County: The LWVFC will host our newly elected legislators for a Q&A with the community at a local restaurant on a Saturday morning. Members will bring baked goods, while the restaurant will supply coffee/tea/water etc. This event was held last November to great success with enthusiastic feedback.

LWV Greater Haverhill: LWVGH has been attending Naturalization Ceremonies in Lowell. These funds will be used to purchase miniature flags to hand out with voter registration forms to new citizen candidates as they enter the auditorium. A League member will explain to the candidates how to complete the form and that completed forms will be collected at the end of the event and mailed to their local city or town clerk.

LWV Hamilton-Wenham: Funds will be used to enhance Voter Registration Support Materials to expand voter registration efforts.  This includes: creating two additional voter registration kits and replenishing and updating the current kit; adding one to two small portable sandwich board signs to display “LWV Register to Vote Here” posters; offering some giveaways to first time voters such as buttons, stickers, or pens/stylus with the LWV logo; and reprinting educational materials, such as the “Running for Office” booklet.

Springfield Unit: The Springfield unit of the Northampton Area League of Women Voters has established a robust collaboration with the Springfield Public Schools and Springfield College to produce a community event incorporating the classic LWV civics bee, for SPS high school students, into a larger event involving college students, the Springfield City Council and School Committee, and the general public in a current-events trivia competition. The mission of Civics Fest 2018 is to foster civic knowledge and celebrate democracy in order to build community, to increase informed voter participation, and to promote critical thinking about government as a tool for change. Ninety Springfield high school student are currently signed up to participate.

LWV Waltham: This League had two sign boards made:  one with the City of Waltham Election calendar, and the other one displayed the LWV Mission Statement.  The signs were displayed at several voter registration events, culminating with National Voter Registration Day, September 25, 2018, an all-day voter registration event at the Waltham Public library.

LWV Wellesley: This League featured Barbara Bluestein Simons, a voting cyber security expert and a member of the LWV of San Francisco, who will present a program entitled “Election Security:  Threats and Solutions” at its Opening Meeting, which was free and open to the public on Tuesday, October 16, 2018.   This was a non-partisan and educational topic and quite relevant as we approach the mid-term elections in November.




Recording of Webinar on “Barriers to Voting” with Prof. Erin O’Brien Now Available

October 31, 2018/Boston, MA–A recording of the Oct. 29 LWVMA webinar on “Barriers to Voting” featuring Professor Erin O’Brien is now available here.  In this webinar, Professor O’Brien presents an excellent overview of systemic voting barriers as well as policy reforms that can help get out the vote.

Professor O’Brien is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her areas of specialization are poverty politics, campaigning & elections, race in American politics, and American public policy. She is a regular commentator on all things public policy and Massachusetts politics for WGBH and numerous other media outlets. Her scholarship and commentary have been featured in outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, MSNBC, Time, and Newsweek.

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.

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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: