A Voice for Citizens, a Force for Change
October | 2020
Message from the Steering Committee
A Message From This Month's Chair, Trish Farrington
November 3 is almost here and what an unusual election cycle it has been (an understatement, I know!). But despite the limitations--restrictions due to Covid19, shifts to virtual communications, changes in how, when, where to vote-- our league has continued its dedication to educate and encourage voters.  
   We celebrated the centennial of the 19th amendment by a walk through downtown Amherst with signs and suffragist outfits. We organized a car parade through neighborhoods to remind residents of the importance of voting. We, through our Voter Services team, continued to register new voters at places like the Survival Center and Farmers' Market. Our opening meeting in September, which was open to the entire community, was a successful Webinar with speaker Traci Parker, who gave us the history of Black voting rights. We even lobbied the Town Council on our ideas for which precincts should be open for elections.
   As November 3 draws closer we are putting up VOTE signs all over town including a large banner downtown. Some of us are writing letters to the newspaper, posting voter updates on our Facebook page, volunteering at the polls, and finding ways to publicize an explanation and our stand on question 2--Ranked Choice Voting (YES).
   In addition to these specific election activities, we continue to work on completing the census, expanding a task force on racial justice, planning a film and discussion called "Standing on My Sisters' Shoulders" ---among other programs.
   Our new league motto should be------WE PERSEVERE!!
If you missed our virtual opening meeting, fear not! You can find the introductory comments, links to the meeting, and slides at our Virtual open meeting link below!
2020 Election

The League of Women Voters of Amherst would like to advise voters about their rights at the polls on Nov. 3, and of protections under the law. (Volunteer opportunities are also available for voters statewide interested in election protection activities.)

  • Massachusetts state laws prohibit the intimidation of voters and interference in the duties of election officers. Violations are punishable by fines or imprisonment. Both federal and state laws protect citizens against threats and coercion, including verbal or physical confrontation, and requests for documentation where none is required.
  • If someone interferes with your right to vote through threats, intimidation or coercion, or you become aware of any election interference, contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office Civil Rights Division at (617) 963-2917. (If you need immediate assistance, dial 911 or contact your local police department.)
  • Massachusetts law requires that local police officers be at polling places to assist local election officials and assure that voters are not obstructed. However, police officers working at election sites are prohibited from interfering with or intimidating voters. Police are generally barred from entering an immediate voting area, unless the site’s chief election official has requested their help.
  • State law requires that all elections be conducted in a manner open to public observation. Poll observers are allowed inside polling places, but under no circumstances can observers intimidate, threaten or coerce voters. Observers can be removed for conduct that is disorderly or obstructs voter access
  • The Voting Rights Act permits federal observers to monitor voting conditions in certain eligible jurisdictions to ensure that the right to vote is protected.
  • Federal laws bar federal employees and the military from using their official powers to interfere with an election or intimidate voters. Armed federal law enforcement officers are barred from polling sites except to “repel armed enemies of the United States.” Federal, state and local administrative employees face criminal sanctions if they interfere with a Presidential or Congressional election.
  • Massachusetts law makes it illegal for groups of people to organize as private militias without permission from the state. All 50 states prohibit private, unauthorized militias from engaging in activities reserved for the state militia, including law enforcement.

Election Protection Opportunities

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is partnering again this year with Lawyers for Civil Rights and the Safe Elections Network, to help assure the election runs smoothly and fairly. Options include a statewide hotline to troubleshoot Election Day issues from your home, a mobile field program to independently observe polling locations for outdoor violations, and social media and news monitoring.

Training opportunities are available here https://www.safeelectionsma.org/, along with further information: https://www.safeelectionsma.org/election-protection

--Marla Jamate
The Positions of LWVMA and Amherst: Vote Yes on 2! 

The Amherst League urges a vote for Question 2, Ranked-Choice Voting. Our support is based on the State League's policy supporting Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) To read it, Click here and then click on Where We Stand and go to page 15. 
Major arguments for RCV are: 

  • We will have a winner supported by a majority of voters (including perhaps voters for whom the winner was not their first choice) No more winners with 45% or 35% or fewer votes!
  • We can rank first the person we really like best, without worrying that as a result a candidate we really don't support can win (think Ralph Nader): bye bye “spoiler effect!” 
  • We will have less negative campaigning because candidates will want to be voters’ second or third choice, if not first.
  • We will have more women and minority candidates to elect.
  • If you don’t want to rank candidates, you won’t need to: ranking is itself a choice.

If you’d like to see how RCV works, there are a number of helpful short videos available. Click here for a quick video; others are given at LWVAmherst's website here. 
For additional info on RCV, see an interview with our own LWVAmherst's Susan Millinger for the LWVNewton's "The League Presents," click here


The Amherst League cannot take a position on Question 1, Motor Vehicle Mechanical Data, more commonly called Right of Repair, because neither LWVMA nor LWVUS has a position which can be used to support or oppose it.  
LWVFramingham interviewed here spokespeople for both sides on Question 1.

For more information, see the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Information for Voters (the Red Book, online here ) or LWVMA’s info on the ballot questions: click here and then click on resources.

Don't be concerned if you have additional ballot questions, as some towns do: they are non-binding public policy questions, added by successful petitions by voters in either a senator's or a representative's district

The LWVBoston invites you to a

When: Monday, October 19, at 7:00 pm
Where: Virtually from your home
Why: To inform each other regarding the pros and cons of Questions 1 and 2
Topics: Right to Repair and Ranked Choice Voting

Members of the LWVB will present each side of the issue. We encourage you to have your Red Book handy. It is available online here if needed.
The League does support Ranked Choice Voting as an official position; however, the mission of the League is to foster civic discussion and debate.

Join the forum using the following information:
Passcode: 977006
See you next week!
 If you're looking for additional information on Ballot Question 2, click here to see a forum on Ranked Choice Voting that took place at the EM Kennedy Institute.

--Submitted by Susan Millinger and Adrienne Terrizzi
Calls to Action
Action Needed! 
Different versions of a policing bill passed the Massachusetts Senate and House (H.4860/S.2820) and have gone to conference committee. Police unions oppose many provisions of the bills. 
In a letter to Speaker DeLeo urging release of the final bill, the LWVMA states “…we are making our voice heard to ensure the passage of police reform and accountability legislation in Massachusetts. Our 48 local MA leagues and 3,050 members stand as allies and in partnership with the 100+ grassroots advocacy organizations in this fight for justice…When the final bill is released, our members will be contacting their legislators to vote affirmatively for Black lives.” 
If you haven’t done so already, please contact your legislators and ask them to contact the conference committee to urge them to release the police reform bill and then ask your legislators to support the bill.
You can also contact the committee members themselves below, or for more information, click here and then click on the July 28 Action Alert "Act Today on Police Reform and Racial Justice."
Conference Committee Members:
Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (Boston, only Senator in the Black and Latino caucus) Sonia.Chang-Diaz@masenate.gov
Senator William Brownsberger (Belmont, Senate President Pro Tempore) William.Brownsberger@masenate.gov
Senator Bruce Tarr (Gloucester, Senate Minority Leader) Bruce.Tarr@masenate.gov
Representative Clair Cronin (Easton, House Judiciary Chair)  Claire.Cronin@mahouse.gov
Representative Carlos González (Springfield, Chair, Black and Latino Caucus) Carlos.Gonzalez@mahouse.gov
Representative Timothy Whelan (Brewster) Timothy.Whelan@mahouse.gov

--LWVMA, submitted by Susan Millinger
 Act Now to Protect Reproductive Rights

There is a real possibility the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade with the appointment of a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 
Massachusetts state law should protect that right for Bay State women, regardless of Supreme Court action. The ROE Act (S.1209/H.3320), pending in the Massachusetts legislature, would codify the right to an abortion in Massachusetts, allow minors to get an abortion without parental or judicial consent, and would permit an abortion after 24 weeks if a fatal fetal abnormality is diagnosed. 

Faced with the real possibility that the Supreme Court could soon undermine reproductive freedom, Massachusetts must lead. Our state lawmakers must ensure that all Massachusetts women have access to the reproductive health care they need. And we must make sure they act.  

Contact your Massachusetts state senator and representative by October 23rd so there is time to get this bill to the floor and vote on it before any holiday recess and ask them to work to pass the ROE Act at this critical time.
Below is a sample email you can use. To draft your own email, see League testimony on the ROE Act here. Legislator contact information is here.

The time is NOW!

Sample Email:
Dear (Senator/Representative Name),

Please contact the legislature's leadership and urge them to bring the ROE Act, the abortion access bill, to the floor for a vote now, before the session ends. I and the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts urge you to support this bill when it does come up for a vote.

There is the very real possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade and abolish the right to an abortion on the federal level. Massachusetts must lead in showing that states will affirm a woman's right to her own reproductive health decisions. Passing the ROE Act, S.1209/H.3320, will affirm the right to safe, legal abortion in Massachusetts and ensure that our citizens have equitable access to reproductive health care.
Please act now.  
Thank you.
(your name and home address)

--LWVMA, submitted by Susan Millinger

NOT to Define Biomass as Carbon-Neutral 
Members of the Sustainability and Climate Action Committee urge you to join with them in writing the legislators on the joint committee to reconcile two major climate bills, urging them NOT to define biomass as a “non-carbon emitting” fuel. LWVA’s Energy Committee studied biomass over a decade ago, and learned that it produces more CO2 than coal does, as well as particulates dangerous to health. 

A large biomass plant is being planned for Springfield: yes, that US city with the highest rate of asthma: if biomass gains this new “clean” definition, the plant is likely to gain the financing to go ahead. This is a matter of racial justice also, since polluting plants like this tend to be built in areas home to minorities and lower-income people. 

For more information and the list of committee members with their addresses, click here. It would also be useful to contact your legislators, telling them that you have written and asking them to contact their colleagues. 
Sustainability and Climate Action is reviving from its summer dormancy; if you would like to get our action alerts and news of other activities, please contact Susan Millinger
News from our Committees
The Vote! street banner is coming! From October 26-November 1, look for the new LWVA banner flying over Pleasant Street in downtown Amherst, displaying the dates for early voting and Election Day. It’s one more way that the League reminds people to exercise their right to vote. 

It is time to set up your ‘Vote-It Counts!’ yard sign! Mail-in voting has already begun, and early voting starts on October 17. Just remember that the League is nonpartisan, so League signs can’t be located next to candidate signs. Please let me know if you can display a sign for your neighborhood. Send an email to Bonnie Isman

League members have been providing voter registration information at the Amherst Survival Center and at the Amherst Farmers' Market over the past month. Questions ranged from when will I receive my mail-in ballot to a new resident asking how to register to a couple of flat refusals to participate in elections. Rep. Mindy Domb stopped by to talk about Ranked Choice Voting, aka Question 2. She recommends this short video by Senator Elizabeth Warren to help explain how Ranked Choice Voting works: link to video

You can show your support for Ranked Choice Voting with a yard sign. Contact Launa Zimmaro for information about where to get lawn signs with RCV in subject line.

--Bonnie Isman
*above photo from Daily Hampshire Gazette
Affordable Housing Issues: 
The Zoning Board of Appeals continues to consider the proposal to build 28 studio apartments on a lot on Northampton Road. As of the beginning of October the ZBA was talking about design issues – where the smoking area should be, etc. – but had not yet taken any votes on conditions nor discussed the crucial issues for the project, particularly the proposed number of units. The developer continues to work with neighbors and some have apparently changed from being opponents. 
Other issues the Housing Trust is working on: 
An Emergency Rental Assistance Program to assist Amherst residents who are having trouble paying their rent. The program is currently in round 2 for applications. 

Requesting funds from the Community Preservation Act for continuing to hire a consultant to help further various projects for affordable housing. 
--Elisa Campbell
League members are reminded to send in membership renewals. If it can’t be found call or email Phyllis Lehrer. Thank you.

We express our condolences to the families of our members Maurianne Adams and Margola Freedman.

--Phyllis Lehrer

Black Women’s Struggle for Civil Rights: Film Discussion

Offered as a follow-up to Traci Parker’s talk at Opening Meeting, the Centennial Commemoration Committee will hold a Zoom discussion of the documentary film, Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders. The film is the story of the achievements of the heroic women of the Civil Rights Movement from the fields of the Mississippi Delta to the floor of the U.S. Congress. You can watch this video (little more than an hour long) on your own, the trailer can be viewed on Youtube: here.

To see the entire film use Kanopy (available through the catalog of the Jones Library, here and at many other libraries: sign up with your library card number and password or pin #.
Don't have a Jones Library card? No problem, all residents of MA can get a Boston Public Library e-card here and access Kanopy though their Online Resources/Streaming and Downloadable Media links.

Then, please join the discussion, led by LWVA’s Andrea Battle and moderated by Jessica Ryan, at 7 p.m. on November 12. Registration will be available soon on our website and through a mini-bulletin

Sponsored by LWVA’s Centennial Commemoration Committee.

--Susan Millinger
LWVMA 100th Virtual Birthday Gala

Sunday, December 13, 2020 at 1 p.m.
Featuring Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America, as our featured speaker. Look for registration information later this fall. Click below for more details.
CEO Virginia Kase’s
Democracy is Worth Waiting For —it is well worth reading

“….Let’s think this through. We want complete and accurate local and state election results. So, if we are waiting while ballots are counted―instead of rushing―we won’t learn the election outcomes on November 3, but it means our system is working. It means that everyone’s vote will be counted, and their voice heard…” 

Click on link below to read full blog post
2021 LWVUS Legislative Priorities Available 

To read LWVUS ’2021 Legislative Priorities Guidance providing valuable information on the League’s anticipated priorities for 2021 State and Local legislative sessions across the country, click link below. The guidance uses input from League leaders collected during the August policy webinar on legislative priorities and additional information from previous legislative surveys to create a framework for the upcoming year. 
Resolution Condemning Violence Against Women Politicians  
The League endorsed a resolution introduced by Representative Tlaib that condemns violence against women politicians. The Resolution is cosponsored by Representatives Omar, Pressley, Speier, and Ocasio-Cortez. For more information and to read the League's quote on this important resolution in the press release from Representative Tlaib's office click here.

This monthly message is for anyone interested in the League, not just members. If you know someone who might be interested, forward this message and invite them to subscribe themselves, using the link below.
The Editor of the LWVAmherst e-bulletin, Jessica Ryan can be contacted here. The Associate Editor is Trish Farrington; Janice Ratner and Phyllis Lehrer proofread the issue; Kay Fite checks the links. Contributors to the October 2020 e-bulletin include LWVA members Elisa Campbell, Trish Farrington, Bonnie Isman, Marla Jamate, Phyllis Lehrer, Susan Millinger, Material on LWVMA comes from either the League Leader Update or Mass League Voter or from letters from LWVMA selected by Susan Millinger.