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)
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.
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.
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.”
Detailed information on the survey available upon request.
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.
LWVMA is a member of the Equal Pay Coalition, which has issued the following press release:
BOSTON – On Thursday, July 14th, the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.4509, An Act to Establish Pay Equity by a vote of 158-0.
Massachusetts was the first state to pass an Equal Pay law in 1945 and members of the legislature have been filing a bill since 1998 to fill gaps in this law. With today’s passage, the Commonwealth can now celebrate passing the most comprehensive pay equity legislation in the country. The bill aims to tackle the gender wage gap that currently affects women in Massachusetts: on average, they make 82 cents to every dollar their male counterparts earn – African American women earn 67 cents and Latina women earn 58 cent to their male counterparts.
The pay equity bill will help address the gender wage gap by providing a more comprehensive definition of comparable work – the most inclusive out of the 23 states in the United States that have such a definition in their books. The bill allows employees to discuss their salaries without the threat of retaliation from their employer and bans the practice of requiring salary history on job applications before a job offer is made. The bill also encourages employers to evaluate their own pay practices and implement changes to end pay disparities voluntarily. These four components make the bill amenable to businesses and employees alike.
The establishment of these practices will help women in Massachusetts reach their true earnings potential in the workplace and help lift women and families out of poverty. Overall, the bill is good for women, good for families and good for business and the economy.
“Today is a historic day in Massachusetts and I would like to thank our legislative leaders in both the House and the Senate for recognizing the importance of working towards closing the gender wage gap. This bill supports working families, communities, and companies by ensuring equal pay for women and men. It will make Massachusetts more competitive in a global marketplace” said Victoria Budson, Chair of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.
“The Women’s Bar Association (WBA) of Massachusetts was proud to work as part of the Equal Pay Coalition to advance this bill. The WBA is dedicated to the full and equal participation of women in Massachusetts and this legislation brings us one step closer to achieving equality in the workplace and economic security for women and families across the Commonwealth,” said Kristin Shirahama, President of WBA.
“The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women (Mass NOW) is thrilled that Massachusetts is leading on the critical issue of equal pay. We look forward to the day that everyone who identifies as a woman around the country having as much equality as we do in Massachusetts” says Sasha Goodfriend, Co-President of Mass NOW.
The bill now goes to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions before a final vote in both chambers.
The Equal Pay Coalition is a coalition of non-profits, unions and other organizations hoping to eliminate the wage gap for women and people of color and they have been working on passing this legislation since the beginning of the 2015-2016 legislative session.
Boston – July 6, 2016 – In response to a Politico Massachusetts article, released yesterday, titled “Cities and towns fret over costs of early voting,” the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition has released the following statement:
“The Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition believes that Early Voting is a vitally important reform that will modernize our democracy and enhance voters’ ability to participate in elections. That’s why we led the campaign for the 2014 legislation that established early voting in our commonwealth, and that’s also why, over the last year, we have led a follow-up campaign to help ensure a robust implementation of the new law. To that end, we have released recommendations for best practices for early voting based on the experience of other states, and have worked with grassroots activists in local communities across Massachusetts to advocate for these goals.
Cities and towns have significant discretion under the new law, and we urge them to use this flexibility to provide more opportunities for voters by extending voting hours over the weekend and evenings of the early voting period. We also urge large communities to offer at least one voting site for every 35,000 people. The Coalition will be awarding gold and silver “medals” later this fall to those communities that rise to the challenge and meet our recommendations.
In the course of this effort, we have heard from some local officials like those in the Politico article who are concerned about the cost of implementing early voting. As part of our recommendations, we suggest cost-saving measures such as having a town hall shift some of their normal business hours during the 11-day early voting period to incorporate evening or weekend hours without adding to the budget. There is also discretion in the number of staff required to be present that may reduce some of the cost estimates. A number of smaller communities have told us their plans are in place with no additional costs.
Our coalition believes that an effective and successful implementation of early voting is crucial, and robust policies will be important to making sure the new law truly meets its goals: easing access to the ballot for Massachusetts voters, shortening lines at polling locations, and improving the voting experience for citizens and elections administrators alike. We urge all cities and towns to make every effort to provide more opportunities for voters to cast their ballots.
For more details on the Election Modernization Coalition’s recommendations and implementation campaign, please go to www.earlyvotingma.com/
The Election Modernization Coalition is comprised of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and more.