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VOTES Act Heads to Governor’s Desk

MEDIA CONTACT: Patricia Comfort
pcomfort@lwvma.org | 857-452-1712

Voting Rights Advocates Urge Governor Baker to sign the VOTES Act into Law

Boston, MA — With the VOTES Act now on Governor Baker’s desk, after the Massachusetts House and Senate voted today to enact the comprehensive election reform measure, groups are calling for the Governor’s swift signature. Voting rights advocates, public interest groups and a network of state and local organizations praised the legislation advanced by the House and Senate. The bill, An Act Fostering Voting Opportunities, Trust, Equity, and Security or the VOTES Act, is the largest expansion of voting access in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in years.

The VOTES Act will make permanent a number of emergency changes to Massachusetts’ election laws made in 2020 to deal with the pandemic, including allowing voters to vote by mail without an excuse and expanding early voting options.  The bill also assures that eligible voters who are incarcerated are helped to register, request a ballot, and vote, and requires the Commonwealth to join the 30-state Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to keep voter registration rolls up-to-date. The bill reduces the deadline for voter registration prior to an election from 20 days to 10.

The bill, sponsored by State Representative John Lawn and Senator Cindy Creem, is strongly supported by the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition, a coalition of advocacy organizations working to modernize the Commonwealth’s election laws.

“We are excited that the VOTES Act is one step away from making Massachusetts a national leader in election administration and voter access,” said Geoff Foster, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “We urge the Governor to quickly sign this bill into law, to speed up implementation of the changes before this year’s primary election.”

“Voters embraced mail-in voting and expanded early voting in 2020,” said Beth Huang, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table. “Once the VOTES Act becomes law, we will educate voters, especially in communities of color and working-class neighborhoods, about these permanent expansions of voting rights.”

“We applaud the legislature for moving these crucial election reforms forward, and call on Governor Baker to swiftly sign the VOTES Act into law,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “At a time when so many other rights are under attack nationwide, Massachusetts must do all it can to strengthen our democracy and improve access to the ballot box so all eligible Bay Staters can participate in the electoral process.”

“We are proud Massachusetts is actively supporting voters and look forward to the Governor signing this bill,” said Patricia Comfort, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “We expect voters to use the mail and early voting options as soon as the Sept. 6 primary election.”

“We are thrilled that both the House and Senate have voted in support of the VOTES Act,” said Vanessa Snow, Policy and Organizing Director at MassVOTE. “Even though this version of the VOTES Act does lack a provision we have long supported – Election Day Registration – we are very glad to see that popular pro-voter policies like mail-in voting, expanded early voting, and jail-based voting are included, and will soon become law. We urge Governor Baker to sign the VOTES Act as quickly as possible.”

“Whatever sport you’re following right now, signing this bill is either a home run, a slam dunk, or a hole in one. All of us win when voting is made more accessible and that’s what the VOTES Act will accomplish,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. 

Nationwide, some state legislatures are creating barriers to their residents’ right to vote. Since the begin­ning of 2021, 18 states have passed laws to limit voting access – laws that can dispro­por­tion­ately affect voters of color. Another 574 bills that restrict voter access or election administration are currently pending.

Governor Baker has ten days to sign the bill, veto it, or return it to the legislature with recommended amendments. Any veto by the governor can be overridden with a two-thirds vote in both legislative branches.

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The Election Modernization Coalition is made up of Common Cause Massachusetts, ACLU of Massachusetts, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, MASSPIRG, and Lawyers for Civil Rights.

VOTES Act Released from Conference Committee

MEDIA CONTACT: Patricia Comfort
pcomfort@lwvma.org | 857-452-1712

Voting Rights Advocates Applaud Progress on Comprehensive Voting Bill

Boston, MA — The Massachusetts VOTES Act Conference Committee today released its version of the comprehensive election reform bill, which will now head to the House and Senate for final procedural votes before being sent to Governor Baker’s desk.

Voting rights advocates, public interest groups and a network of state and local organizations praised the legislation advanced by House and Senate conferees today. The bill, An Act Fostering Voting Opportunities, Trust, Equity, and Security or the VOTES Act, is the largest expansion of voting access in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in years.

The VOTES Act will make several permanent changes to Massachusetts’ election laws, including: allowing voters to vote by mail without an excuse; expanding early voting options; making sure that eligible voters who are incarcerated are able to request a mail ballot and vote; and ensuring that the Commonwealth joins the 30-state Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to keep voter registration rolls up-to-date; and more. The bill also reduces the voter registration blackout period prior to an election from twenty days to ten.

The conferees dropped from the final bill a popular reform passed by the Senate that would have allowed voters to both register and vote on Election Day and early voting days.

The VOTES Act, sponsored by State Representative John Lawn and Senator Cindy Creem, is strongly supported by the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition, a coalition of advocacy organizations working to modernize the Commonwealth’s election laws.

“We are excited that the VOTES Act is one step away from becoming law. We’d like to thank Senate President Spilka and Speaker Mariano for making voting rights a priority this legislative session and Chairman John Lawn and Senate Majority Leader Creem for their leadership as sponsors,” said Geoff Foster, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “We look forward to seeing the Governor sign the bill into law.”

Voting by mail and in-person early voting made it easier and safer for people to vote during the pandemic and should continue to improve turnout in our elections.  The League applauds the legislature for making these reforms permanent, and we encourage legislators to continue to improve access to the ballot box by taking up same-day voter registration in the next session,” said Patricia Comfort, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

“With the passage of the VOTES Act, now is the time to double our commitment to equity. This means ensuring that people of color, hourly workers, naturalized citizens, and renters can use mail-in voting and early voting this fall. That’s why we’re launching voter education initiatives in communities of color and working-class neighborhoods across the Commonwealth,” said Beth Huang, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table, a coalition of community organizations. “Doubling our commitment to equity also means that we will continue our efforts to pass same-day registration in 2023. Same-day registration would reduce barriers to registration for renters, who are disproportionately people of color in a state with a widening racial homeownership gap.”

Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “At a time when so many other rights are under attack nationwide, Massachusetts must do all it can to strengthen our democracy and improve access to the ballot box. We are grateful that legislative leadership has made it a priority to advance these voting reforms this session, and look forward to continued partnership on Beacon Hill to make sure that all eligible Bay Staters who want to cast a ballot are able to do so.”

“As we’ve all learned over the last few years, voting can look different in different states,” remarked Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “Our coalition wants Massachusetts to be at the top–with access, efficiency, and modern systems. With this bill, we move a step closer.”

“Three years ago – prior to the COVID19 pandemic – none of us thought mail-in and expanded early in-person voting would be the reality in Massachusetts,” said Vanessa Snow, Policy and Organizing Director at MassVOTE. “But three years later, after both policies proved immensely popular throughout the pandemic, we are thrilled to see the legislature move one step closer to permanently implementing these reforms. We are disappointed that Election Day Registration will not be included in the final bill, but we will fight tirelessly for this reform in the years ahead, as we know it is one of the most effective tools to increasing voter turnout amongst Black and brown, low income, and immigrant communities.”

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The Election Modernization Coalition is made up of Common Cause Massachusetts, ACLU of Massachusetts, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, MASSPIRG, and Lawyers for Civil Rights.

Letter: Advocating for Offshore Wind Energy

LWVMA and our partners in the New England for Offshore Wind Coalition encourage swift action on H.4524/S.2842, An Act advancing offshore wind and clean energy. In the final version of the bill, we urge the Conference Committee to include: responsible development and expansion of offshore wind, infrastructure and investment in clean energy development, and reform of offshore wind procurement. Read the Coalition’s letter to the Conference Committee here.

Letter: Decarbonizing the Commonwealth’s Buildings

LWVMA is committed to identifying and advocating for the essential building decarbonization strategies, legislation, and regulations that will allow Massachusetts to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets and get us to net zero emissions by 2050. Read the letter to legislative leadership that we signed with our partners Elders Climate Action Massachusetts and Climate Action Now Western Massachusetts here

April 2022 Scharfman Grants Awarded to Four Local Leagues

Four local Leagues received Scharfman grants in April 2022:

LWV Framingham: LWV Framingham was awarded a grant to create a website that will provide visitors easy access to information such as upcoming election dates, voter education events, how to register to vote, where to vote, information about local government structure and leaders etc.

LWV Hamilton Wenham: LWV Hamilton Wenham was awarded a grant to  host a production of “Ruth Bader Ginsburg – I Dissent” on May 25th, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. at the H.W. Library. This live event is part of an effort to reengage with their membership and the general public. The event will be publicized in conjunction with the library and  through the League’s monthly newsletter and social media platforms.

LWV Needham: LWV Needham was awarded a grant to work with the Needham High School (NHS) Social Studies Department to support students as they complete the required eleventh grade student civics projects.  See details here

LWV Worcester Area: LWV Worcester was awarded a grant to participate in the Central MA Conference for Women. Their table will offer voter registration, feature fun quizzes about voting rights and local state and federal government and promote use of Vote411.org. LWVWA is also collaborating with a Worcester Public Schools middle school, Forest Grove Middle School, in a pilot School Civic Celebration Project. This year, Worcester implemented civics education at the middle school level; civics will be implemented in high school starting in the 2022-2023 academic year.