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 www.macivicsforall.org.

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.

LWVMA Announces Winners of “Get In the Game and Vote!” High School Video Contest

May 14, 2018 / Boston, MA – The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) has announced the winners of its “Get In the Game and Vote!” High School Video Contest, part of LWVMA’s election 2018 statewide voter engagement initiative.
 
The winners are:
First Place:  DJ Charles, Concord Academy (Get In the Game and Vote)
Second Place: Zichen Zhou, Skyeler Sandison, Leah Baker, Nick Qvarnstrom, Romell Brown, Eli Patrick, Nauset Regional High School (Change)
Third Place:  Ashley Murphy, Meghan Joyce, Katelyn McDevitt, Quincy High School, (Democracy)
 
Honorable Mention:

In addition to the individual prizes, West Roxbury Academy in Boston will receive the Catalyst Award, special recognition for a single school’s inspiring submissions to the contest. The following students from West Roxbury Academy will be recognized with this award: Odalys Abreu, Scath Bograd, Kamari Boseman, Kyle Bourget, Isaiah Brown, Miguel Cabrera, Idalys Calderon, Alex Demosthene, Winda Durand, Phaica Etiverne, Quavante Granberry, Gamailel Pena, and Katherine Peguero.

To help get out the vote for the 2018 Massachusetts elections, the League invited Massachusetts high school students to create 30-second public service announcements encouraging eligible voters to register and turn out at the polls.  LWVMA will widely distribute and publicize the winning videos and others from the contest as part of MOVE 2018, a statewide voter education and engagement initiative, beginning in late summer and leading up to the November election.

Over 250 students statewide participated in the contest. The Judging Committee–composed of LWVMA members, as well as outside judges Hilary Allard (The Castle Group), Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg (CIRCLE, Tufts University), and Nicole Porter (DigitalMass)–selected the winning submissions 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). West Roxbury Academy will receive a prize of $250 for the Catalyst Award.  An award ceremony at the Massachusetts State House will be scheduled for June.
 
“The terrific videos we received demonstrate, yet again, that young people are not spectators to our democracy, but are leading the way for all of us” said LWVMA Executive Director Meryl Kessler.
 
“We are proud not only of the winners but of all the young people who stepped up to share their important messages through this contest,” said Mary Ann Ashton, president of LWVMA.
 
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 and the Lincoln & Therese Filene Foundation.

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.