After Low-Turnout Election, Coalition Calls for Automatic Voter Registration in Massachusetts

Nov. 9, 2017/BOSTON, MA — Citing very low voter turnout in Tuesday’s municipal elections, advocates from the Election Modernization gathered at the State House in Boston today to urge the Massachusetts legislature to adopt Automatic Voter Registration. The coalition is led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and Progressive Massachusetts.

Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) 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. The AVR legislation, introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Peter Kocot, has popular support in both legislative chambers, with 80 House co-sponsors and 22 Senate sponsors, and received a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Election Laws this summer.

“In this moment, when the health of our democracy is a great concern, and the security of elections is under scrutiny, our legislature can adopt a policy change that will make voting simpler, reduce government bureaucracy, and enhance democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “AVR could register nearly 700,000 eligible Massachusetts citizens into and give them an opportunity to have their voices heard. At the same time, it would update and modernize our election system by increasing its accuracy, security, and efficiency.”

The legislation is also endorsed by 53 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups (see list below).

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. 97,000 voters participated in the 2016 election because of the reform. Ten 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, and Connecticut.

“The League strongly supports automatic voter registration as the next logical step in the modernization of the electoral process here in Massachusetts,” Meryl Kessler, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, said. “AVR will improve the accuracy of voter rolls, create a more efficient and reliable voting system, help control the costs of voter registration over time, and improve the voting process on Election Day.”

“Automatic voter registration is a step in the right direction,” added Cheryl Clyburn Crawford of MassVOTE. “It would remove one of the barriers that disproportionately affects our most disenfranchised communities. We strongly believe that automatic voter registration in Massachusetts will increase voter participation and turnout while continuing to modernize our electoral process.”

“This is a bipartisan, common sense, 21st century bill which will make voter registration more accessible, more secure and less costly in the Commonwealth,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “We have Republican and Democrat supporters in the Legislature, while the Republican Governor of Illinois signed a similar bill into law this summer. In a time of hyper-partisanship in this country, we’re inspired to call for this bill’s passage.”

Advocacy organizations behind the effort, including Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, Progressive Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice have worked together for many years to promote voting access and reform. They see automatic voter registration as a continuation of earlier efforts in the state, like early voting, to improve access to the ballot. Early voting was a resounding success; In its first debut, over one million voters cast their ballots early in October 2016, accounting for over 22% of registered voters and 35% of those that voted.

53 (and counting) endorsing organizations (alphabetical order):

Action Together Western Mass

American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts

AFSC – Cambridge

Berkshire Democratic Brigades

Berkshire Women’s Action Group

Black Directors Network

Boston Democratic Ward 4 Committee

Boston Teachers Union

Cambridge Democratic City Cmmtt

CAST (Cambridge Area Stronger Together)

Clean Water Action

Coalition for Social Justice

College Democrats of MA

Common Cause Massachusetts

Corporate Accountability International

Democracy for America

Democracy Matters

ELM Action Fund

ForwardMA

Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association

Green Tea Party

Indivisable Pittsfield

Jewish Association for Law and Social Action (JALSA)

Jewish Community Relations Council

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice

League of Women Voters MA

Lift Every Vote Berkshires

Mass Law Reform Institute

Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Organization

Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

Massachusetts Peace Action

Massachusetts Sierra Club

Massachusetts Teachers Association

Massachusetts Voter Table

MASSPIRG

Mass Affordable Housing Alliance

MassVOTE

NAACP Boston

National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter

Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts Education Fund

New England United for Justice

Our Revolution Cambridge

PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts)

Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts

Progressive Democrats of America Boston chapter

Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts

Progressive Massachusetts

SEIU Local 509

SEIU Massachusetts State Council

Sierra Club

Small Planet Institute

Union of Minority Neighborhoods

Young Democrats of Massachusetts

Election Modernization Coalition Statement on Illinois Governor Rauner’s Signing of Automatic Voter Registration Bill

Boston, MA/August 28, 2017–Today, Illinois became the tenth state, along with the District of Columbia, to successfully enact automatic voter registration (AVR). Republican Governor Bruce Rauner signed into a law a bill that creates more accessible and secure elections by automatically registering voters unless they opt out of the program. The bill won bipartisan support and passed unanimously in the legislature earlier this year.

The new law will add roughly one million new eligible voters to the voter rolls. Similar laws in other states have been proven to increase turnout and make elections more secure by modernizing the voter registration process. It is a common sense and long overdue reform.

As organizations that have worked tirelessly together for many years to remove barriers to voting, we applaud the action of Governor Rauner and the Illinois state legislature and call on the Massachusetts legislature to pass Automatic Voter Registration in our state. As the cradle of liberty, Massachusetts should lead the way towards removing unnecessary barriers for voting and ensuring that every Bay Stater has a voice in our democracy.

Pam Wilmot, Common Cause Massachusetts

Meryl Kessler, League of Women Voters, Massachusetts

Beth Huang, Mass Voter Table

Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG

Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, MassVOTE

Jonathan Cohn, Progressive Massachusetts

A pdf of this statement is available here.

 

Election Modernization Coalition Applauds Ruling On Voter Registration Deadline

Boston,MA/July 24, 2017–A decision handed down today by a Suffolk Superior Court judge opened a huge window that has been shut to many eligible voters. As a result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts, MassVOTE, and the Chelsea Collaborative, Judge Douglas Wilkins ruled that the 20-day voter registration deadline in Massachusetts disenfranchises thousands of potential voters and is unconstitutional.

As organizations that have worked tirelessly together for many years to remove barriers to voting, we are thrilled with this decision and we applaud the work of the plaintiffs and their attorneys. We are also gratified that the decision refers to the successes of early voting and online voter registration, reforms for which we advocated for years.

We still have more barriers to voting in Massachusetts than we should tolerate, and more solutions—such as automatic voter registration and election day registration—than we are using. We look forward to continuing our work to make democracy thrive in Massachusetts.

Pam Wilmot, Common Cause, Massachusetts

Meryl Kessler, League of Women Voters, Massachusetts

Beth Huang, Mass Voter Table

Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG

Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, MassVOTE

Jonathan Cohn, Progressive Massachusetts

LWVMA Thanks Secretary Galvin for Refusing to Comply with Voter Record Request

The League strongly condemns the recent request from President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission for voter records, including private information, from all 50 states; at the same time, LWVMA applauds Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin for refusing to comply with the request and has sent him a letter thanking him for his stance.  We encourage LWVMA members to also contact Secretary Galvin to thank him for his refusal to comply with the commission’s request.

The letter to Secretary Galvin from LWVMA Co-presidents Mary Ann Ashton and Linda Matys O’Connell reads:

July 5, 2017

Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
McCormack Building
One Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108

 

Dear Secretary Galvin,

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts applauds you for your refusal to turn over voter records to the Election Integrity Commission, as reported in several media outlets this past week.  We thank you for your continuing efforts to ensure that voters’ right to privacy and to vote are protected in our Commonwealth.

The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) has issued a strong statement condemning this week’s request from Kris Kobach, vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, for state voter records.  We agree with you that the law in the Commonwealth has established that the voter record is not a public record, and stand firmly with you that these records should not be released and that voter’s privacy should be protected.

With our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition, we have worked with your office to improve and protect elections, and recognize that you are committed to ensuring that there are no opportunities for voter fraud or for voter suppression in our state.  We thank you for your many efforts on behalf of the Commonwealth’s voters, and look forward to continuing to work with you.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Ann Ashton                                                       Linda Matys O’Connell
Co-president                                                               Co-president

League Condemns Kobach Voter List Request

The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) has issued a strong statement condemning this week’s request from Kris Kobach, vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, for state voter records.  In addition, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts applauds Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s refusal to comply with the Commission’s request.

The statement from LWVUS President Chris Carson appears below:

WASHINGTON, DC/June 30, 2017- The request for voter records confirms fears of Kris Kobach continuing his tactics of voter suppression and the genesis of the Elections Integrity Commission in general. The League of Women Voters president, Chris Carson released this statement on the issue:

“There is no justification for this giant fishing expedition. The Commission itself is a distraction from the real issue of voter suppression, and that efforts to ‘investigate voter fraud’ threaten our most fundamental voting rights.

“This most recent move by Mr. Kobach is an indicator that the so-called Election ‘Integrity’ Commission is not interested in facts, but false accusations and dangerous policy recommendations.

“State laws govern the release of voter registration information, and, at a minimum, election officials must follow those laws before releasing data. The League stands with those state leaders who have already come out to support their voters and refuse these requests from Mr. Kobach and the EIC.”

One Hundred Citizens Attend Automatic Voter Registration Day

Advocates voice support for modernizing elections in Massachusetts through adopting Automatic Voter Registration

BOSTON, MA/June 28, 2017 — Advocates for modernizing Massachusetts’ elections showed up in force for a lobby day on Beacon Hill today, held by the Election Modernization Coalition led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and Progressive Massachusetts. Citizen activists from 41 cities and towns and 55 State Representative districts attended: Acton, Amherst, Andover, Arlington, Beverly, Boston, Brockton, Brookline, Cambridge, Charlestown, Chelmsford, Chelsea, Eastham, Georgetown, Gloucester, Hingham, Jamaica Plain, Kingston, Lexington, Marblehead, Mattapoisett, Medford, Milford, Millville, Needham, Newton, North Dartmouth, Norwood, Plymouth, Quincy, Roxbury, Salem, Somerville, South Dennis, South Hamilton, Sudbury, Topsfield, Waltham, Wareham, Watertown, Westborough, and Westwood.

Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) would establish a system for eligible citizens in Massachusetts to automatically register to vote when they interact with a state agency like the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The AVR legislation, introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Peter Kocot, has popular support in both legislative chambers, with 80 House co-sponsors and 22 Senate sponsors and received a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Election Laws earlier this month.

The legislation is also endorsed by 48 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups (see list below).

“By passing Automatic Voter Registration, Massachusetts can lead the way towards giving all citizens a voice in their government,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, who led a training about the legislation. “The system would give the nearly 700,000 eligible Massachusetts citizens that are not registered to vote an opportunity to have their voices heard through our election process. At the same time, Automatic Voter Registration would update and modernize our election system by increasing its accuracy, security, and efficiency.”

Eight 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, and Connecticut. In Oregon, the first state to implement Automatic Voter Registration, 230,000 voters registered in its first six months, and more than 500,000 inaccurate registrations were updated. About 100,000 (97,000) voters participated in the 2016 election because of the reform.

Nancy Brumback, Legislative Action Chair of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, led a session on how to lobby the legislature. “The League strongly supports automatic voter registration as the next logical step in the modernization of the electoral process here in Massachusetts,” she said. “AVR will improve the accuracy of voter rolls, create a more efficient and reliable voting system, help control the costs of voter registration over time, and improve the voting process on Election Day.”

Cheryl Clyburn Crawford of MassVOTE, who led one of the event’s breakout groups, said, “Automatic voter registration is a step in the right direction to removing one of the barriers that disproportionately affects our most disenfranchised communities. It is our strong belief that automatic voter registration in Massachusetts will increase voter participation and turnout while continuing to modernize our electoral process.”

“This is a bipartisan, common sense, 21st century bill which will make voter registration more accessible, more secure and less costly in the Commonwealth,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG who also led a breakout group. “We have Republican and Democrat supporters in the Legislature here, the Republican Governor of Illinois indicated that he would sign similar bill into law that passed the legislature unanimously a few weeks ago, and in a time of hyper-partisanship in this country, we’re inspired to call for this bill’s passage.”

Advocacy organizations behind the effort, including Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, Progressive Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice have worked together for many years to promote voting access and reform. They see automatic voter registration as a continuation of earlier efforts in the state, like early voting, to improve access to the ballot. Early voting was a resounding success; In its first debut, over one million voters cast their ballots early in October 2016, accounting for over 22% of registered voters and 35% of those that voted.

48 (and counting) endorsing organizations (alphabetical order):

Action Together Western Mass

AFSC – Cambridge

Berkshire Democratic Brigades

Berkshire Women’s Action Group

Black Directors Network

Boston Democratic Ward 4 Committee

Boston Teachers Union

Cambridge Democratic City Committee

Clean Water Action

Coalition for Social Justice

College Democrats of MA

Common Cause Massachusetts

Democracy for America

Democracy Matters

Environmental League of MA Action Fund

ForwardMA

Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association

Green Tea Party

Indivisible (Many chapters)

Jewish Association for Law and Social Action (JALSA)

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice

League of Women Voters of Massachusetts

Lift Every Vote

Mass Affordable Housing Alliance

Mass Law Reform Institute

Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

Massachusetts Peace Action

Massachusetts Senior Action Council

Massachusetts Teachers Association

Massachusetts Voter Table

MASSPIRG

MassVOTE

NAACP Boston

National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter

Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts Education Fund

New England United for Justice

Our Revolution Cambridge

PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts)

Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts

Progressive Democrats of America, Boston chapter

Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts

Progressive Massachusetts

SEIU Local 509

SEIU Massachusetts State Council

Sierra Club

Small Planet Institute

Union of Minority Neighborhoods

 

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LWVMA Testifies in Support of Automatic Voter Registration

BOSTON, MA/June 8, 2017– Advocates for modernizing Massachusetts’ elections showed up in force for a hearing on Beacon Hill today, held by the Joint Committee on Election Laws. The hearing was in support of the Automatic Voter Registration bill, which would establish a system for eligible citizens in Massachusetts to automatically register to vote when they interact with a state agency like the registry of motor vehicles. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Peter Kocot, has popular support in both houses; with 80 House co-sponsors and 22 Senate sponsors as of hearing time.

More than twenty leaders from the labor movement, universities, environmental groups, political organizations, civil rights and good government advocacy organizations testified on behalf of the legislation, while dozens of supporters looked on. Many spoke of how automatic voter registration ensures that all eligible citizens in Massachusetts have the opportunity to participate in elections.

“By passing automatic voter registration, Massachusetts can lead the way towards giving all citizens a voice in their government,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “The system would give the nearly 700,000 eligible citizens that are not registered to vote an opportunity to have their voices heard through our election process. At the same time, Automatic Voter Registration would update and modernize our election system by increasing the accuracy, security, and efficiency of the process.”

Eight 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, and Connecticut. In Oregon, the first state to implement Automatic Voter Registration, 230,000 voters registered in its first six months and more than 500,000 inaccurate registrations were updated. About 100,000 (97,000) voters participated in the 2016 election because of the reform.

Representatives from several other leading citizen organizations testified for the bill, including Nancy Brumback, Legislative Action Chair of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “The League strongly supports automatic voter registration as the next logical step in the modernization of the electoral process here in Massachusetts,” she said.  “AVR will improve the accuracy of voter rolls, create a more efficient and reliable voting system, help control the costs of voter registration over time, and improve the voting process on Election Day.”

Cheryl Clyburn Crawford of MassVOTE said, “Automatic voter registration is a step in the right direction to removing one of the barriers that disproportionately affects our most disenfranchised communities. It is our strong belief that automatic voter registration in Massachusetts will increase voter participation and turnout while continuing to modernize our electoral process.”

“…Our Commonwealth must set an example on voting rights for the nation to follow,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy in written testimony submitted to the Committee. “We need to prove how strong a system can be when it is inclusive, progressive and fair. The rollout of early voting in 2016 was an enormous success, with over one million residents casting early ballots. Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) must come next.”

“This is a bipartisan, common sense, 21st century bill which will make voter registration more accessible, more secure and less costly in the Commonwealth,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “We have Republican and Democrat supporters in the Legislature here, the Republican Governor of Illinois indicated that he would sign similar bill into law that passed the legislature unanimously a few weeks ago, and in a time of hyper-partisanship in this country we’re inspired to call for this bill’s passage.”

Advocacy organizations behind the effort, including Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, Progressive Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice have worked together for many years to promote voting access and reform. They see automatic voter registration as a continuation of earlier efforts in the state, like early voting, to improve access to the ballot. Early voting was a resounding success; In its first debut, over one million voters cast their ballots early in October 2016, accounting for over 22% of registered voters and 35% of those that voted.

 

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Election Modernization Coalition Awards Early Voting Medals at State House

election-mod-coalitionBOSTON– October 19, 2016 – On the eve of Massachusetts’ first experience with early voting, beginning October 24th, the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition today honored 201 of the state’s 351 municipalities with Gold and Silver Medals for offering voters substantial early voting options.

“We are thrilled that so many communities have stepped up to go beyond the minimum required by law and are offering evening and weekend early voting hours,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts during a Coalition press conference and ‘medal ceremony’ at the State House. “Early voting promises to shorten long lines at busy polling places, improve the voting experience, and give Massachusetts citizens more opportunities to participate in democracy,” she said.

The Coalition campaigned for passage of the 2014 Election Modernization Law that established early voting and other reforms. Last fall, it launched the Early Voting Challenge to encourage municipalities to go beyond the floor set by the law (one location operating during business hours) and meet the Coalition’s recommended standards, based on a Common Cause report on best practices from other states.

“The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is proud to have worked with this coalition to bring robust early voting to Massachusetts,” said Meryl Kessler, executive director. “And we are inspired by all of the cities and towns who went above and beyond the minimum requirements of the early voting law to ensure that voters throughout the state will have a convenient, flexible, and positive voting experience in 2016.”

The Coalition awarded Gold Medals to 34 communities that offer one early voting site for every 35,000, at least two evenings of weeknight voting for each week in the early voting period, and six or more hours of weekend voting. 167 municipalities earned the Silver Medal for offering an adequate number of sites, at least one weeknight of evening voting each week in the two-week early voting period, and four or more hours of weekend voting. Towns under 10,000 people qualified with three hours on the weekend.

“Today we celebrate the cities and towns that have embraced early voting,” said Rahsaan Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “We believe that voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest. By increasing access to the polls through early voting we ensure that as many citizens as possible have a voice in the preservation and growth of our democracy. Communities with significant numbers of people of color, people living under the poverty threshold and English language learners, who have been historically underrepresented in electoral politics, will benefit the most from this very necessary modification of our voting practices.”

Sophia Hall, staff attorney for the non-profit legal organization, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice echoed the sentiment. “The Lawyers’ Committee’s mission is to provide a safeguard for the civil, social and economic liberties of residents throughout the Commonwealth. On behalf of the communities of color and low-income communities that we serve who disproportionately utilize early voting, we applaud each awardee for their efforts to expand access to the ballot box,” she said.

Cheryl Crawford of MassVOTE added, “MassVOTE was founded to fight for political, racial and economic equality with a mission to increase voter turnout, modernize election laws and engage the next generation.  We have been working to address these challenges by educating residents on early voting, and convincing others to become more civically engaged in this critical program.”

Beth Huang from the Massachusetts Voter Table said that early voting will, “help make the voices heard of the Rising Massachusetts Electorate, especially in communities of color and among low-income people, young people, women, and new citizens.”

MASSPIRG Education Fund executive director Janet Domenitz agreed. “For more than 40 years, MASSPIRG has been campaigning to make democracy more transparent and more accessible—particularly for our youth, in whose hands the future lies. Early voting is one tool that helps us realize that goal.”

The Coalition plans to monitor the early voting process and will make recommendations on improving it for future elections.

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The Election Modernization Coalition is made up of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, MassVOTE, and more.

League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Publishes Online Voters’ Guide

August 18, 2016 / Boston, MA – To assist Massachusetts voters as they go to the polls on Thursday, September 8 for state primary elections, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) has published an online Voters’ Guide, www.VOTE411.org, that features biographical information about all candidates in contested state primary races, as well as responses by those candidates to questions posed by the League.

The VOTE411.org online guide will allow voters to access personalized ballot information simply by entering a street address.  Voters will also be able to find in-depth information about candidates, voter registration, voting requirements and rules, and poll locations. LWVMA is bringing this digital platform to Massachusetts voters across the state for the first time for the September 8 primary; only those candidates who face a challenger in the primary election on September 8 have been asked to respond to this primary guide.

Later this fall, the information on www.VOTE411.org will be updated for the November 8 general election and all candidates will respond to a new set of questions.  The general election guide will contain complete information about candidates for the presidential, congressional, state legislature, sheriff, Governor’s Council, register of deeds, and county commissioner races, as well as about the statewide ballot questions.

“We hope Massachusetts voters will use this Voters’ Guide to help make informed choices as they vote on September 8,” said Jean Cherdack, president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.  “We are pleased to be able to provide this information and thank the candidates for their willingness to participate in the guide.”

The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.  Since its founding in 1920, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has been a respected and trusted voice for citizen participation in our democracy.  With 44 local Leagues throughout the state, LVWMA has been at the forefront of efforts to empower and educate Massachusetts voters and effect change on a wide range of issues. Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages. For more information, please go www.lwvma.org.

Support for this program was provided by Lincoln and Therese Filene Foundation and an anonymous donor.

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Election Modernization Coalition Releases Status Update on Implementation of Early Voting in Massachusetts

election modernization pictures

BOSTON – August 4, 2016 – With Massachusetts’ first experience with early voting beginning in just over two months, the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition today said that nearly 40% of the state’s municipalities are in the final planning stages for early voting, 35% have started planning, and 13% had no plans as of July 20th. The information came from a phone survey of all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns conducted by Common Cause, MASSPIRG, and the League of Women Voters in June and July. 12% of Massachusetts communities could not reached.

“If communities have enough hours and locations, early voting promises to shorten long lines at busy polling places, improve the voting experience, and give Massachusetts citizens more opportunities to participate in democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts during a Coalition press conference at Boston City Hall. “Today, we are very pleased to report to that many cities and towns in Massachusetts are well on their way to a successful implementation of early voting.”

“For 96 years, the League of Women Voters has worked to ensure that voting and elections are free, fair and accessible, and early voting in Massachusetts is one more important step toward improving access to the voting booth for all voters,” said Meryl Kessler, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “We are heartened by the progress many municipalities have made toward robust implementation of the new law, and we hope other municipalities will follow suit.”

The Coalition campaigned for passage of the 2014 Election Modernization Law that established early voting and other reforms. Last fall, it launched the Early Voting Challenge to encourage municipalities to go beyond the floor set by the law (one location operating during business hours) and meet the Coalition’s recommended standards, based on best practices from other states, to ensure robust early voting opportunities for Massachusetts voters. These standards include providing at least one early voting site for every 35,000 people in a given community and providing evening and weekend hours for voting.

The Coalition plans to award Gold and Silver medals to cities and towns that meet those standards later this fall. The Gold Medal will go to communities that offer an adequate number of sites, at least two evenings of weeknight voting per week, and six or more hours of weekend voting. The Silver will go to communities that offer an adequate number of sites, at least one weeknight of evening voting per week, and four or more hours of weekend voting.

This phone survey obtained information from 313 of the 351 cities and towns in the state and found that 138 municipalities had already made final or nearly final plans, 126 had tentative plans, and 49 had not yet started planning for early voting.

Currently, nine municipalities appear to be progressing towards a Gold Medal, and 40 towards the Silver Medal. 175 communities plan to offer extended evening hours, and 83 will offer weekend hours.

Coalition members stressed that the data is preliminary and very much in flux.

Election officials from the City of Boston joined the groups to tout their comprehensive early voting plan that includes nine sites, as well as evening and weekend voting.

“In Boston we are proud to support early voting and have worked hard on a comprehensive plan that will make voting more accessible to all residents,” said Dion Irish, Commissioner and Chairman of the Boston Election Commission. “Feedback from the community was an important part of determining the final plan for early voting in Boston, and we were encouraged by the positive responses from people who are thrilled to have the opportunity to vote at a time that is convenient for them. As we look forward to November, it is our hope that early voting will expand access to ballot for residents of Boston.”

The Coalition was also joined by Salem City Councilor, and Chair of the Salem Early Voting Task Force, David Eppley, who spoke about the robust early voting plans in his city.

“Salem has been proactive as a community in bringing together various stakeholders and public officials with our Early Voting Task Force,” said Councilor Eppley. “We are aiming to have an early voting poll site for weekend hours in a largely Latino neighborhood as well as extended hours on separate days at our centrally located high school. This is in addition to a dedicated special site within city hall for the entire early voting period. We are already discussing how we might expand in future elections. Early Voting is a big win for our citizens, for our voter turnout, and for democracy.”

Despite widespread progress towards expanded early voting, the Coalition noted that some communities are lagging behind and need to do better.

“Although lots of communities are doing a great job on early voting, many others don’t yet have concrete plans to provide sufficient access for their residents,” said Gavi Wolfe of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “There’s a particular need for Gateway Cities to step up. In mid-size municipalities with more than 35,000 people and lots of them working extra jobs to make ends meet, it’s essential to offer multiple early voting sites and weekend hours. These details really matter if we want to make sure people can actually exercise their right to vote.”

The Coalition plans to continue to monitor progress in each city and town and will award final Gold and Silver Medals at a ceremony later in the fall.

The groups noted that a successful implementation of early voting will have a particular impact on those with multiple jobs and minimal resources.

“Early voting is particularly crucial for communities of color and low-income communities” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. “This initiative provides flexibility and additional options for voters who cannot afford to take time off of work or who work more than one job, as well as single parents without childcare.”

“Studies show that if you cast your first vote at age 18, voting becomes a habit for life,” added Janet Domenitz, executive director of MassPIRG. “Expanding the time frame in which young people can cast their first vote will, we hope, create more good-habit voters for life.”

“Momentum is building across Massachusetts for early voting,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford of MassVOTE. “Although we still have work to do, local officials have been working hard preparing to implement the new law, and many are meeting our recommendations to expand voter participation and voting rights in Massachusetts. We hope every community will help early voting realize its full potential.”

For more, please go to www.earlyvotingma.com.

Detailed information on the survey available upon request.

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The Election Modernization Coalition is made up of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, MassVOTE, and more.