I attended the conference at Worcester State University, representing Indivisible Outer Cape. Because I assisted with the sign-in of attendees, I got to see how many were in attendance and the range of groups and areas they represented…I was told there were about 500 people registered, although I also observed a lot of walk-ins. They came from all over the state, and from affiliated groups like Progressive Massachusetts as well as Indivisible groups.
The morning consisted of plenary sessions, featuring a number of dynamic speakers. A highlight was Senator, Elizabeth Warren, whose talk I recorded have attached below. Other speakers included a Congressman, Jim McGovern, a Dreamer from United We Dream, a rep from Massachusetts for Equality and Racial Justice, the Statewide Field Director from Maura Healy’s Campaign and others. The range of speakers attests to the high regard with which the Indivisible movement is held by the progressive community and other organizations.
Some of the groups present:
Freedom for all Massachusetts – www.freedommassachusetts.org Fighting against the attempt to roll back a state law that protects transgender people.
Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts – www.ProgressiveDemsofMass.org which works to define and build a progressive agenda at the state and local level.
Emerge Massachusetts (Women Leaders for a Democratic Future): www.emergema.org This group would be a good fit for the work that Tracy is doing.
Lift Every Vote — https://lifteveryvote.net Educates activists about voting rights issues.
Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation –
www.armscontrolcenter.org These sister organizations work on national security issues around reducing and eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
People Govern Not Money – https://peoplegovernnotmoney.org This group is working on a 2018 MA ballot initiative to accelerate the passage of a 28th amendment to the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and get concentrated money out of politics.
Sister District – www.sisterdistrict.com This organization works to channel the resources of blue areas to red states. And while we have local races we need to support in 2018, having a lab that works with Sister District can help us learn which races, like the current Senate race in Alabama, we should help support.
Other groups that were mentioned that are worth exploring are: Mass Alliance http://massalliance.org, Our Revolution https://ourrevolution.com, Progressive Massachusetts http://www.progressivemass.com (they are a good source for information about current MA bills and scorecards on MA reps and senators
Lunchtime Organizing Meeting
Over the lunch break, I participated in a smaller working group that explored the idea of creating a state-wide process to support local groups. This is not meant to create an organization or bureaucracy as much as to create a network for communication and support. After discussion, it was agreed to look at creating a regional group with reps from local groups. The regional groups would then send reps to a statewide organizing committee. There are already a number of consortia active in the state which are effective at doing this for local groups. Two that were represented at the lunch are: Force Multiplier, which covers a number of towns in the Newton area (they raise money for out of state candidates from their member groups), and Pioneer Valley Resist Coalition in Western MA, which has 26 groups under its umbrella.
In the afternoon, there was two workshop sessions, and attendees had to choose from among a number of options. I attended two that had to do with voting. My takeaway from these sessions (only reinforcing something I believed going in which led me to select these options) is that, as one speaker said Voting Rights is the most important issue here today. When we look at what the GOP has done over the past number of years since 2010, it becomes clear that, without a major pushback, our votes will not be counted and our voices on all of these other issues will not be heard. Kris Kobach led this effort in Kansas, and he wrote many of the voter suppression bills that have passed in red states. Trump has now empowered him to do this nationwide. We need to fight back against this to ensure our democracy.
Speakers from CT, and MA addressed the elements that are needed for safe and secure elections. Some states have a number of these. They are:
- Online voter registration (with a driver’s license). 30 states have this.
- another option is automatic voter registration (AVR). CT has this and there is a move to have this in MA. (more about this below)
- Early voting
- Mail-in voting combined with in-person voting (not just one option)
- Same day registration
- Maximum opportunities for people who have lost voting rights for felonies to be able to vote.
- Pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds
- State enrollment in ERIC. Eric is a duplicate detection system developed by the nonpartisan Pew Charitable trust. It is much more accurate than the CrossCheck system used by Kris Kobach, which only compares records on two points (not social security numbers or birthdates). 27 states are in Cross Check and between 2014-2016 1.9 million records were removed from the voter rolls (22% of registered voters in Indiana).
- The use of paper ballots, not electronic voting machines. The existing machines are easily hackable and should be outlawed. (Christian fundamentalists control all four companies that make and maintain the existing machines).
- 10. Transparent counting software
- 11.Robust risk limiting audits (this is currently done in two states, Colorado and Anew Mexico)
Automatic Voter Registration
Joyce Hackett seems to be the driving force behind a move to get AVR in MA. There are currently bills in both the state house (H2091) and Senate. I attended her session and learned she is working to get these bills passed right after the Dec 15-Jan 1 recess. For more information about this issuer go to LiftEveryVote.net. There is currently money ($45 million) in the state budget of HAVA money that is earmarked for voter modernization. These funds can pay for the conversion to AVR statewide. I think our group should work to support this effort.
Other things she mentioned that are useful:
- We need to use the right language when speaking about voter issues. Avoid terms like ‘voter suppression” “voter rights” and ‘voter fraud”. A better way to talk about this is to use the phrase “Fair and secure elections are important to us all.”
- In Florida, formerly incarcerated people are stripped of voting rights for life. Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is petitioning to put this issue on the FL ballot. For IOC members who will be in FL this winter, this is an effort worth supporting.