Co-Presidents' Message

Dear League members,

The world has changed since our newsletter in January, but our effort to make democracy work is as important as ever. The League has quickly moved to provide resources in COVID toolkits on the LWVMA and LWVUS websites to support your continuing work in this era of social distancing.
Our advocacy has refocused on the immediate election and voting issues posed by the pandemic, to help protect the vulnerable members of our population, and to ensure a complete count is achieved for the Census. In addition to focusing on these immediate issues, LWVMA continues to build momentum for climate emergency action and to follow progress in our other action areas.
 
LWVMA has moved our 100th Anniversary commemoration events online, including upcoming webinars in May and June. We hope you will join us for these events. Watch for additional announcements of events in your email inbox or on social media.

LWVMA's 2020 Council will be held virtually June 13. Details will be provided to local Leagues and members over the next few weeks. LWV's 2020 National Convention will also be held virtually, June 25-27.

We thank everyone for your continued commitment to carrying out the League's work and how you have embraced new tools to achieve our mission. Keep safe and healthy.

In League,





Mary Ann Ashton and  Judy Zaunbrecher
LWVMA Co-Presidents
HAPPENING NOW 
LWVMA Council June 13 Will be Virtual

The LWVMA Board voted to hold our 2020 Council via Zoom videoconference to ensure that everyone can participate safely. The business portion of the meeting will include a financial update, an update on recent LWVMA activities from Executive Director Patricia Comfort, and a vote by local League delegates on a slate of candidates to fill officer and director roles. While only delegates can vote, all members are encouraged to join the Council meeting. Program details are still being finalized, but may include an update on elections in 2020 and breakout sessions. Watch for more details on Council by the end of this week.
Join Our 100th Anniversary Webinar Series

To celebrate LWVMA's 100 th Anniversary, we are hosting a webinar series focusing on our history and future. The webinars are free and open to the public, and most will be recorded and available from our website. You can find all the details here.  A  flyer is available.

The next event is a talk by Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, author of 
The Untold Story of Women of Color in the League of Women Voters.  She was president of the national LWV from 1998 to 2002, the only African-American woman to head the League. She is an authority on the voting rights of African-Americans and currently a professor at the University of North Carolina. Her talk is Wednesday, May 6, at 7 p.m.  Click here to register . Registration is required and limited to 500 people.

Historian and author Barbara Berenson will be presenting
After Suffrage: The Campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment, 1920 - 2020 Her talk will be on Tuesday, June 2, at 7 p.m.  Click here to register.   Registration is required and limited to 500 people.
LWVMA Birthday Gala Rescheduled to December

The festive gala to celebrate LWVMA's 100th birthday, originally scheduled for May 31, will now be held Sunday, Dec. 13. Mark your calendars! All the details remain the same. The event will be a brunch at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Norwood, 1-3 p.m. Our featured speaker will be Dr. Danielle Allen of Harvard. Professor Allen is widely known for her work on justice and citizenship and for Cuz: An American Tragedy, detailing the story of her cousin and the criminal justice system.

Effective Ways to Raise Civic Engagement Among Younger People: Webinar

Join us for a webinar with Nancy Thomas, Director of The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), part of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, Thursday, May 21, at 4 p.m. IDHE serves as a leading venue for research, resources, and advocacy on college student political learning and engagement in democratic practice. She will share information on voting behaviors, patterns, and political activity among college students, and discuss barriers to their participation. Her perspectives can help highlight ways that the League of Women Voters can direct its efforts to engage younger people in civic life. Click here to register.
ELECTIONS & VOTING
Collect Ranked Choice Voting Signatures

Voter Choice for Massachusetts , the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) campaign, is now working on the required second round of signatures needed to get an RCV ballot question on the November ballot. The effort needs 13,374 valid signatures (not from people who signed petitions in the fall) by June 17.

LWVMA has supported ranked choice voting since 2005, and we encourage our members to participate in this next required round of signature gathering. Because of the pandemic, Voter Choice is getting started right now by asking voters to pledge to sign the RCV petition . Voter Choice will make sure those who sign are sent a petition by mail or online as soon as petitions become available May 6 Pledge to sign the RCV petition by completing this form , and please share on Facebook and via email. 

If you would like to get involved to help safely gather signatures from your friends and neighbors, Voter Choice is offering a virtual training session exclusively for League members with the tools and training to support you. Please register now
for this training for League members on Thursday, May 7, at 2 p.m. If each League member gets five people to sign, we'll be close to the goal!
Update on Massachusetts Elections
 
LWVMA and our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition, including Common Cause, ACLU, MassVOTE, Massachusetts Voter Table, MASSPIRG and Progressive Massachusetts, are drafting a bill to deal with needed changes in how Massachusetts runs elections during this pandemic. Those proposals will elaborate on the recommendations the Coalition made in a letter to the legislature. The legislation will cover changes in voting by mail and changes to in-person voting. We hope to file that bill next week, and will ask your support once it is filed. While we are reviewing at least five other bills related to holding elections, we are not supporting any at the present time.
 
We know you are tremendously concerned about how Massachusetts will hold its Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general elections. Rest assured that all of us at the state League share your concerns and are actively working on the problem.  On the federal level, LWVUS is taking action to assure that relief legislation includes funding necessary for elections. Read a summary and get links to the full letters.

Massachusetts currently has a very low 5% vote by mail rate. To increase that to 50% or 75% or more will be difficult. We must prioritize changes in our election infrastructure that are feasible to put in place in four months.  Note that states such as Washington and Oregon which do all their voting by mail put those systems in place over several years as they developed the infrastructure to do so accurately and fairly. We need to do what is possible in the time allowed and in such a way that the elections are well-run and that voters have confidence in them.

LWVUS offers these talking points
on the League strategy of making voting more flexible and providing options such as vote by mail for voters.
2020 Census - Still Counting
 
The 2020 Census count and the outreach to ensure a compete count in Massachusetts continues. The Census Bureau plans to restart field operations on June 1 and has extended the enumeration deadline to October 31.The Census Bureau will seek Congressional approval to delay the reporting of the results to the President by 120 days.

Even though the deadlines to respond have been pushed back, we are continuing to support outreach efforts to hard-to-count communities throughout Massachusetts. While many are focused on the disruptions caused by the pandemic, it is critical to have a complete count so Massachusetts receives its fair share of federal funding, fair share of Congressional seats, and accurate information for fair state and local redistricting.  

Here is how you can help ensure a complete count:
  • Post social media messages encouraging everyone to complete their census form. LWVMA and LWVUS regularly post messages you can share or repost.
  • Write a letter to your local newspaper on the importance of the census.
  • Ask your local officials how you can help support their complete count efforts.
  • Check out the Census Response Rate Map updated daily to see how your area is responding. This can help you focus your efforts.  
The following areas in Massachusetts are lagging in the count:
  • The Cape and Islands
  • Western Massachusetts
  • Cities, such as Boston, Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Medford, Fall River, Springfield, Worcester, Fall River, and New Bedford
If you or your local League would like to contribute to outreach in one of these cities, please contact Judy Zaunbrecher.

Volunteer to Phone Bank to Increase the Count.  MassCounts will continue to conduct phone banks through the end of June every Tuesday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and Thursday from 5-7 p.m. to call residents of census tracts with the lowest self-response rates. Please  sign up  to join a virtual phone bank. You'll need a computer and a cell phone; a 15-20-minute training and a script are provided. Please note you need to sign up for each day you would like to phone bank.

There will be a phone bank training session for League members on Thursday, April 30, 1-2 p.m., to introduce people to the phone bank technology and answer questions you may have from previous phone banking sessions. Please contact Judy Zaunbrecher if you are interested in this training.

Voter Registration During Pandemic
 
LWVUS is offering suggestions on continuing your voter registration efforts during the pandemic. Check out the voter registration guide here.

Our voter engagement committee encourages local Leagues to check out  VOTE411.org  for updates about voting and the coronavirus. You can help keep VOTE411.org up to date:

If your local town election this spring has been rescheduled, please send the updated information to Megan Brown,  the VOTE411 coordinator. This is the information she needs; include your contact information in case she has questions:
  1. The old date of the election 
  2. The new date for the election
  3. The new registration deadline (if it's changed)
  4. The locations for the elections (cities/counties/etc.)
  5. The type of election (primary/general/special/etc.)
  6. Any other information that voters might want/need to know
AROUND THE LEAGUE
LWVUS Convention Will Be Virtual
 
LWVUS has decided to transition 2020 National Convention to a virtual event. The announcement included this information:
  • Business sessions will be held June 25-27, and we are planning the agenda with consideration towards all time zones. 
  • We will host a full plenary and are working closely with our parliamentarian to observe all governance requirements for a virtual space. All requirements around delegates, quorum, and how we conduct our business will remain the same. Detailed instructions will be sent to all delegates ahead of the first plenary session. 
  • All current registrants will receive a full refund. An email from our registration software will be sent with instructions soon. We are also offering registrants the option to convert their registration fee to a donation to the League of Women Voters Education Fund.  
  • We are working with the hotels on all existing hotel reservations. All reservations will be cancelled at no penalty. We will alert you of any action required on your part as we receive that information from the hotels. 
Registration for the virtual Convention will open in early May, and LWVUS will provide further announcements and instructions as available.
New England Regional Conference - Online  

The League of Women Voters New England States Leadership Development Conference , initially scheduled for early April, was cancelled in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The conference organizers have coordinated a series of webinars covering the topics scheduled to be discussed: 

Part one was a talk by LWVUS CEO Virginia Kase, that was held on Monday, April 27. We will try to make that available on the LWVMA website.

Part two is a workshop with Yanna Krupnikov, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Stony Brook University, Monday, May 4, at 2 p.m. Professor Krupnikov will discuss the ways people form political opinions, make political choices, and take political action. Register here .

Part three is a voter engagement panel featuring Professor Krupnikov, Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition Executive Director Mufalo Chitam, and New Hampshire state senator Melanie Levesque, Monday, May 11, at 2 p.m. Register for part three here .

Part four is a conversation about how Leagues are handling the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges it presents for our elections. It will be held on Monday, May 18, at 2 p.m. Register for part four here
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LWVMA Goes to Prison
 
"On a chilly and rainy night in February, three members of the League of Women Voters walked into MCI-Norfolk, the largest medium-security prison for men in Massachusetts. As the trio entered the prison's auditorium, about 100 people-most serving life without parole-stood to applaud. An organization founded a century ago to bring the vote to women had come to meet with a small collective of America's modern disenfranchised class-prisoners."

That's how James Keown, a lifer at MCI-Norfolk, reported on the visit by Colleen Kirby, our criminal justice legislative specialist; Judy Zaunbrecher, co-president; and Pattye Comfort, executive director, after an invitation to speak to the lifers' group. The group wanted to know about LWVMA support for criminal justice reform bills, including requiring a parole hearing for anyone who has served 25 years, and for a ballot question to allow incarcerated people to vote, as well as what the League does generally.  Read more...
Put VOTE411 in Your Signature
 
Many League members include a link to voting-related websites in their email signatures when communicating with League members or sending from League email addresses to stress the importance of voting. LWVMA recommends using VOTE411.org  if you want to use such a signature.

It is important to remember that websites in League-related signatures must be non-partisan. Partisan websites such as those represented or funded by political parties should be avoided, even if they provide links to voter services tools.
Eleven Leagues Receive Scharfman Grants
 
Seven local Leagues received Lotte E. Scharfman Citizen Education grants in January, and four received grants in April.

The January recipients are the Arlington, Concord-Carlisle, Franklin County, Hamilton-Wenham, Waltham, Northampton and Worcester Area Leagues. Read about their projects here.

The April recipients are the Brookline, Needham, Sharon-Stoughton and Wellesley Leagues. Read about their projects here.
COVID-19 Toolkit Available
 
A COVID-19 toolkit for local Leagues to help deal with this crisis is available on the LWVMA website.  It is updated frequently and includes information from LWVUS as well as LWVMA notices on elections, remote meetings, and voter engagement.  

MassTrac, the legislation tracking service we subscribe to, is offering a public blog, blog.instatrac.com
, updated daily, on the status of COVID-19-related legislation.
 
The Mass. League Voter is distributed to all LWVMA members. Anyone can request the Voter by clicking here. Please review this Update for articles of interest to your League and include them in your local Bulletin.
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