Statewide Groups, AG Healey Ask Legislators to Pass Automatic Voter Registration in Massachusetts

January 31, 2018/BOSTON, MA – Attorney General Maura Healey joined hundreds of citizens and dozens of organizations today in urging the legislature to pass Automatic Voter Registration (H.2091 and S.373) as soon as possible this session. Teachers, veterans, environmentalists, immigrants, and union members were among those who came to the State House from all over to state to support Automatic Voter Registration (AVR).

“Voting is the most basic and essential right in a democracy,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “I am pleased to join Common Cause and the Election Modernization Coalition in making sure that right is available and accessible to all eligible voters in Massachusetts.”

The AVR legislation, introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem and 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.

The bill has popular and growing support in both legislative chambers, with 84 House co-sponsors and 22 Senate sponsors and received a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Election Laws last summer. The legislation is also endorsed by 61 organizations including environmental, civil rights, consumer, community, labor, and good government groups (see list below).

“The momentum for Automatic Voter Registration is building,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “We had a tremendous show of support today from organizations, individuals, and opinion leaders from every corner of our state who are passionate about giving all Bay Staters a voice in elections. AVR is a small change with a big impact that will make our election system more accurate, secure and efficient. It is critical for the legislature to pass it as soon as possible.”

“AVR removes obstacles to full participation in our democracy and moves us one step forward to ensuring that every eligible voter has a chance to have an equal voice in the political process,” added Meryl Kessler, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

Carol Rose, executive director, ACLU of Massachusetts said, “Voting rights are under attack.  And, as we say in the streets, ‘What do we do? Stand up, fight back!’  With Washington aggressively peddling voter suppression, this is the time for states to be bold leaders in expanding access to the ballot for every eligible voter. Automatic Voter Registration will knock down an unnecessary barrier and simply let people vote.”

“Massachusetts has played a historic role in American democracy,” said Jonathan Cohn of Progressive Massachusetts. “It’s time for us to deliver on that democratic promise by joining the the ten other states (plus D.C.) that have adopted Automatic Voter Registration.”

“While there’s nothing automatic about passing Automatic Voter Registration into law, the momentum has been building with support from all corners of our state. We hope the Legislature will soon put our state in line with all the others which have already passed this important reform,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.

“MassVOTE is proud to stand with the Coalition and so many grassroots supporters to continue urging the Legislator to pass this important piece of legislation,” MassVOTE’s Executive Director Cheryl Crawford added.

In Oregon, the first state to implement AVR, 230,000 voters registered in its first six months, and more than 265,000 inaccurate registrations were updated during the same period. About 97,000 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 Election Modernization Coalition, which organized the Lobby Day, is led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters or Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, the ACLU of Massachusetts, and Progressive Massachusetts. A full list of organizations endorsing AVR can be found here, and more information about AVR can be found here.

LWVMA Responds to Announcement of September Primary Date by Secretary Galvin

January 10, 2018/Boston, MA–Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has announced that the date for the 2018 Massachusetts primary election will be Tuesday, September 4, the day after Labor Day.  The Secretary’s announcement included that he is filing legislation for a period of five days of early voting ahead of the election, and seeking funding for local elections officials to support the costs of early voting.

While the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) is pleased that Secretary Galvin has embraced our recommendation to extend early voting to the primary and that he recognizes the benefits of early voting for voters, we are disappointed in the timing of the primary, which is earlier than the dates LWVMA recommended.  Voting on the day after Labor Day will prove challenging for voters in the Commonwealth, especially for families preparing children for the start of school, and for candidates who are eager to get their message out to voters.

We hope that the legislature will support Secretary Galvin’s legislation for early voting in this and future state primary elections and that he will be successful in identifying funding to support early voting.  We also hope that he and his office will be prepared to roll out a robust public relations campaign to make voters aware of the date of the primary, and options for early and absentee voting.

LWV Statement on the Shut-down of the ‘Election Integrity’ Commission

January 3, 2018/Washington, DC – League of Women Voters president, Chris Carson issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s Executive Order terminating his ‘election integrity’ commission.

“Today voters win. We are pleased that the Trump Administration has at last dissolved their discredited ‘election integrity’ commission.

“As has been said time and time again, the purpose of this effort was to justify President Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 elections. This travesty of a commission was nothing more than a tactic of voter suppression and an unnecessary distraction from legitimate threats to our democracy.

“It is now time for our leaders to focus on the the very real work of securing our elections against foreign interference, while making sure all eligible voters are free to exercise their right to vote.”

Contact: Caitlin Rulien | 202-263-1329 | crulien@lwv.org

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

LWVMA Opposes Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Provisions in Gov. Baker Bill

September 8, 2017–The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts supports efforts to address the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, but we do not support the provisions in Governor Baker’s bill to add to existing mandatory minimum sentencing in the case of a drug sale leading to death.

The Massachusetts Sentencing Commission has been thorough in its examination of the sentencing guidelines in Massachusetts and has found that conventional drug enforcement and treatment of offenders is most effective in reducing drug consumption or drug-related crime. The Commission is currently working on reforming and updating these guidelines. We are concerned that Governor Baker’s provision will increase drug overdose deaths if some people fear reporting an overdose.

During this time of increasing deaths due to opioids, we want to encourage everyone to report overdoses so that the most lives are saved. We applaud Governor Baker’s concern over this crisis, but we fear the mandatory minimum sentencing provision will slow progress.

League Condemns DACA Policy Reversal

September 5, 2017–The League of Women Voters today condemned the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) program.  Read the full statement from LWV President Chris Carson here:

“This administration’s decision to rescind the ‘Dreamers’ program is shameful and does not serve national interest.

“As a country of immigrants, we are made stronger by our diversity. Yet time and time again, this administration has discriminated against immigrants and communities of color.

“Reversing the DACA policy will have a devastating impact on our economy. Ending this program will increase unemployment.

“Thousands of the Dreamers protected by DACA were brought to this country as babies and have no memories of their birth country. These individuals are paying taxes, contributing to Social Security and Americans, in everything but the name.

“The League of Women Voters is opposed to deportation of non-criminal undocumented immigrants and we urge congress to pass a clean Dreamers Act to protect, not turn away, the 800,000 young people who were brought to the United States as children.”

 

 

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.

 

Massachusetts League of Women Voters Announces New Leadership Team

BOSTON, MA/June 30, 2017-Mary Ann Ashton of Acton and Linda Matys O’Connell of Springfield begin their two-year term as co-presidents of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) July 1.  Ashton and O’Connell were elected, along with other LWVMA board officers and directors, at the biennial LWVMA Convention in Framingham this spring.

The other Massachusetts League officers and their local Leagues are Marilyn Peterson, Acton Area, first vice president; Lee Bona, Worcester Area, second vice president; and Andrea Kozinetz, Newton, treasurer.

Elected as LWVMA directors are Kate Boland, Hingham; Nancy Brumback, Sudbury; Kris Eastman, Marion-Mattapoisett-Rochester; Scotti Finnegan, Cape Cod Area; Donna Hooper, Lexington; Karen Price, Needham; and Judy Zaunbrecher, Concord-Carlisle.

The Massachusetts League’s priorities over the coming two years will be improving the state voting system, including lobbying for the implementation of automatic voter registration; advocating for campaign finance reform; promoting civic education and civil discourse; educating voters about climate change and the environment; and addressing issues of justice and equality, including criminal justice reform.

LWVMA includes 44 local Leagues across the state. The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.

Additional information is available at www.lwvma.org.

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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“Making Democracy Work in My Community” Student Video Contest Winners Announced

May 12, 2017 / Boston, MA – The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) has announced the winners of its “Making Democracy Work in My Community” Student Video Contest.

The winners are:

First Place:  Owen Doherty, Jake Latini, and Luke Marcheski, Quincy High School (The Voters of America: Making Democracy Work)

Second Place:  Natalie Harder and Emily Belt, Newton South High School (L’ Taken: Learning How to Make Democracy Work in Our Community)

Third Place:  Maggie Stefanowicz, Millis High School, (Ms. Ziemba; A Democracy Advocate)

Honorable Mention: 

Jacob Applebaum, Wellesley High School, (Boston Stands for Democracy);

Tyler Hamlin, Marblehead High School, (Making Democracy Work in Marblehead)

The League invited Massachusetts high school students to create to create a two-minute video showing how someone is making democracy work where they live.LWVMA will distribute and publicize the winning videos and others from the contest.

Many students participated in the contest, and the winning videos were selected from entries submitted from across the state. The Judging Committee selected the winning videos based on their clear and compelling messages, memorable content and delivery, and creativity.  The winners will receive awards of $500 (first place); $250 (second place); $100 (third place); and $50 (honorable mention).

“We were thrilled to receive so many very creative and powerful videos,” said LWVMA Executive Director Meryl Kessler.

“We are proud of all of the young people who shared their visions and messages through this contest,” said Jean Cherdack, president of LWVMA. “And we are proud that the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts provided them with a platform to make their voices heard.”

An award ceremony to honor the winners will be held in June. More details on the ceremony will be provided soon.

The contest was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Citizen Education Fund, which supports programs designed to encourage the active and informed participation of citizens in democracy and increase understanding of public policy issues.

Support for this program was provided by the Salem Five Charitable Foundation.

 

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