LWVN Newsletter, Vol 24 Issue 3
Table of contents
- President’s Letter
- Creating Greenways Along the Charles
- LWVN Comments on CPC Applications
- Election Security
- LWVN briefs Lasell Village residents on the 2018 ballot questions
- The View from the League Booth at the Farmer’s Markets
- LWVMA League Leaders Lunch, October 20, 2018
- Best of Luck to Longtime LWVN Member Priscilla Leith
- Welcome, New Members!
- In Memoriam
Dear League members,
I’m sure we’re all glad that election season is over (for now)! It was a busy, confusing, anxious, nerve-wracking time. After a well-deserved break, we can look forward to a number of events for League members and the community at large, focused on issues such as ranked choice voting.
Usually state election years are quieter years for LWVN—but not this year. We started early in the summer, planning candidates’ forums in time for the primary elections. In partnership with NewTV and a number of other local Leagues, we held a forum with Rep. Joe Kennedy and opponent Gary Rucinksi. We planned a forum for Governor’s Council but that fell through at the last minute.
At this point, LWVN began to focus on the three state ballot questions. Both the September and October episodes of LWVN’s program on NewTV, “The League Presents…” were dedicated to discussions of the ballot questions. We hosted LWVN member and ACLU of Massachusetts Board Member Holly Gunner in our review of Questions 2 and 3, on a constitutional amendment about money in politics and about transgender rights, respectively. We also hosted representatives from the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ sides of Question 1, the patient-to-nurse ratio question.
Our first Topic Meeting of the year in October also hosted representatives from both sides of Question 1, as well as both sides of the marijuana questions on the Newton special ballot. The notes were available on our website for those who couldn’t attend. Thanks to Frieda Dweck for organizing and moderating this event.
Lasell Village asked LWVN to help their residents learn more about the ballot questions. Thanks to two LWVN Board members, Alicia Bowman and Alice Donisi-Feehan, who volunteered to lead this meeting.
In addition to these activities, our voter registration crew was extremely busy registering hundreds of new voters in the summer and fall. Led by Sharyn Roberts, the group was visible at Farmer’s Markets, July 4th, Village Days, the Harvest Fair, as well as at both high schools. Thanks to all who participated over the course of the season.
As all this was happening, LWVN’s CPA (Community Preservation Committee) evaluated two proposals this fall: one to fund an appraisal and legal counsel regarding Webster Woods and another to fund a sizable expansion of senior affordable housing at the Golda Meir House. Many thanks to CPA committee members for evaluating the proposals.
So what are our upcoming plans?
- We will soon be delving into the mechanics of the state’s process on ballot questions. This is part of LWVMA’s consensus study—look for more information about an educational meeting in November, followed by an official consensus meeting in December.
- Also in December, LWVN is planning a holiday party this year! We will meet at the Durant-Kenrick House on Sunday, December 9th—more details to come.
- We are also planning a forum on ranked-choice voting, the procedure used in Maine’s state elections, in March at the Newton Free Library.
- LWVN is also hard at work on a civics bee—details are still being worked out, so look for more information and calls for volunteers as we head toward the spring.
- LWVN also has a new committee just starting to work on scholarships for high school students. Again, more details will be forthcoming as they get organized.
And of course, in the spring municipal elections will begin to grab our attention. We will hold our ‘Don’t Just Stand There…Run’ event for those interested in running for office or helping others run for office.
As always, if any of these activities interest you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, We will continue to keep you updated on our activities and other events of interest with our weekly emails.
Newton Free Library Drucker Auditorium
Join us for a panel discussion of the parklands along Charles River in Newton. The panelists will present the history and a vision to restore this heritage, including new bike/pedestrian greenways along the Charles River and the role greenways play in maintaining the health and vitality of the river, the people and the communities.
Herb Nolan, Executive Director, The Solomon Foundation
Dan Driscoll, Director of the Office of Recreational Facilities Planning, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Emily Norton, Executive Director , Charles River Watershed Association and Newton City Councilor
This event is sponsored by the Newton Free Library and co-sponsored by The Riverside Greenway Working Group, Newton Conservators, Bike Newton, The Solomon Foundation, Green Newton and the League of Women Voters Newton.
This past fall, LWVN commented on several applications before the Community Preservation Commission (CPC). Below are excerpts from our letters.
Golda Meir House, $3.25 million
In general, we feel this project has lots of positive aspects. Specifically, the new units fill a large need in the community, have permanent deed restrictions on the affordable units; is aiming for LEED silver construction, will partner with Hearth, Inc., and leverages CPC funding to access other funding, limiting CPC funding to about 11% of the project cost.
Our main concerns are the support of the neighboring community and the question of seniors who should suddenly find themselves in financial difficulty.
Newton Conservators, $30,000
Our recommendation is to approve this application to cover the additional costs related to conservation restrictions for properties purchased with CPA funding. We also recommend that this additional cost be added in to any future application to purchase conservation land.
Allen House, $600,000
Regarding the current application, this is part of a multi-stage project that goes back to 2015. Our readers found that the organization has successfully managed its earlier construction projects and are inclined to recommend this project. However, one reader raised the question about whether or not the proposed theatre space would generate enough income needed to finish the renovations, and wondered if a needs assessment has been done. The idea was raised of possibly generating more income from providing rental space to non-profits and small businesses than from theatre space.
by Pia Bertelli and Linda Morrison
Election Security is a hot topic these days, and on October 16, LWV Wellesley hosted California computer scientist Dr. Barbara Simons at the Wellesley Free library for a very informative presentation regarding voting cyber security: threats and solutions.
Dr. Simons is currently the board chair for Verified Voting, a member of the LWV San Francisco, and is retired from IBM Research and former President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
Verified Voting is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for legislation and regulation promoting accuracy, transparency and verifiability of elections. Verified Voting has concluded that computer voting without verifiable paper back up is “faith-based” voting.
Besides the possibility of Internet hacking, malware in voting software or spy chips imbedded directly into a voting machine, there are many questionable practices adding to the question of election security. Many states have no paper back up to machine voting, recounts of paper ballots are not done by a bi-partisan group, ballots are rejected without notification or review. Many states have laws inhibiting recounts. Even more troubling, voting software companies have refused requests for recounts citing their “proprietary information” Simons offered several examples of questionable voting situations and some solutions.
Georgia, most recently in the news, has had a history of election security issues. In 2002, last minute software patches were made to the Diebold DRE machine’s software just before the election. There was no independent oversight of the software or time to test it. Two incumbents ahead in the polls lost (Cleland, Senate and Barnes, Governor). The system was paperless and provided no opportunity to check the results.
In 2003, there was an independent study of the software, which found gaping security holes: a single key to encrypt all data on every storage device was embedded in the program text: F2654hD4. In 2006, a Princeton team showed how to implant a virus via removable memory. The key to lock the memory card slot was like a hotel bar key – easily picked. See the video of how to remotely hack these machines on www.verifiedvotingfoundation.org. The same machines are still used in GA today, despite a lawsuit calling for marked paper ballots.
Many people believe that voting machines are not vulnerable to hacks if they are not connected to the Internet. This idea is false, as at some point in the counting process, the web or internet may well be involved. Only a few key places need to be hacked in order to change the course of an election. Without a paper trail it is impossible to know if what someone enters onto a screen is what the memory records. The hardware could have a spy chip embedded in it, or it could simply be faulty.
In Carteret County, South Carolina 2004, 4500 votes were lost because the memory on some machines filled up, but did not display an error message so people kept voting on them. More people checked in/out than actual votes entered. The voters above the cut off were never counted. There was no paper trail so the vote could not be verified. As a remedy to this problem, South Carolina called for a Verified Paper Audit Trail but unfortunately, used a thermal continuous roll paper. Thermal paper printing has big problems with disappearing data.
In Virginia, Winvote machines were determined to be the “worse voting machine ever”, even over the Diebold DRE. The machines used wireless technology. When people came in with their iPhones, the machines tried to talk to the iPhones. It was a paperless system so it is unknown how the wireless interfered with the voting results. Other insecurities were an unchangeable encryption key “abcde”, no security updates since 2007 and the password was “admin”. The machines used since early 2000s were decertified after the recent VA midterms. Parties that request a recount are required to pay for it. “Verified Voting” strongly recommends using “post election audits” with hand counts of randomly selected precincts, and other safeguards
Legislation in the House, proposed by a bi-partisan group, called for some of these measures, but it got watered down, and there was never any version in the Senate.
- Broken Ballots: Does your ballot count?, Dr. Barbara Bluestein Simons
- Video – “Stealing America, Vote by Vote (2004 & 2006 election)
Further thoughts: Who “certifies” voting systems? Could the national association of Secretaries of State set standards for voting systems? Or at least publish the non-partisan data from verifedvoting.org?
Voting Security is a core LWV issue!
Lasell Village contacted LWVN to request we present information about the questions on this fall’s ballot to residents. Board member Alice Donisi-Feehan answered the call.
by Sharyn Roberts, Voter Registration
Our goal is to educate our public; and from that stems some lively conversations. I always keep the League of Women Voters standard to never support any particular candidate over any other. In this day and age, it is a real challenge to always take the middle road (high road) and neither agree nor disagree when the person in front of me is lambasting or extolling a particular politician.
I draw attention to the candidates’ forums, where we encourage everyone running to step forward and present themselves to the public, usually in front of a television camera with all the other candidates running for the same office. Also this year, the state League developed a Voters Guide with a live link that delighted everyone when we mentioned it. Candidates running for the same position answered the same questions so the public can compare their responses. Now that the Primary is over, the same link will be used for a Voters Guide for the General Election in November once LWVMA receives their responses. This link is www.InformedVoterMA.org.
Many people are still surprised that we do take positions on issues. They think that we are, or should be, totally non-partisan. To that I usually respond, with a great deal of cheek, that if we never took positions on issues, women would probably still not have the right to vote. That response sets people back on their heels nodding in the affirmative: that makes a lot of sense.
In November’s General Election, when you vote you will receive two separate pieces of paper. The first is the ballot for the state offices, including three ballot questions. They are: 1) nurse to patient ratio; 2) forming a citizens commission on limiting election spending and corporate rights; and 3) transgender anti-discrimination. The second piece of paper asks two Municipal questions (Newton only) on marijuana; if it should be sold in Newton, and how many stores will sell it.
The League says please vote Yes on state ballot questions #2 and #3, with no position on question #1 which we are hoping will either be the subject of a League topic meeting, and/or the subject of our October television show on NewTV entitled “The League Presents…”.
So stay tuned to our weekly emails for the latest updates and see you at the Farmers Market and Harvest Fair on Sunday, October 14th, on the Newton Centre Green.
The League Leader Lunch is the traditional start of League activities for the year and acts as the statewide kickoff to a new year. Newly elected and returning League leaders come together to learn about upcoming studies, events, and resources; to share ideas and challenges that local Leagues face, and to make important connections with other Leagues. The underlying theme is grassroots action and how we as women (and men) can make a positive impact. We are always given the tools to accomplish this feat so we aren’t just tilting at windmills.
We reviewed what state legislation the LWVMA is following and the status of these bills. When the formal part of the 2017-2018 session of the Massachusetts legislature ended on July 31, a number of bills that LWVMA supported had passed, but we also had some keen disappointments. Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), Criminal Justice Reform, Gun Control Safety, and three key bills affecting women became law. Some bills were passed with many but not all provisions that LWVMA supported and then there were the disappointments. A measure to repeal the “cap on kids” banning welfare payments for children conceived after a family qualifies for aid was inserted in the budget. Then the governor amended that provision. The legislature did not accept the amendment, and the Governor vetoed the “lift the cap on kids” provision in the budget. We were disappointed that another League priority, the Safe Communities Act, to make sure local law enforcement officials and local resources are not used to identify, register, and deport undocumented immigrants who pose no known threat, did not pass as filed, and that a State provision added to the budget to protect the rights of immigrants was eliminated from the final version.
The LWVMA Legislative Action Committee of 19 legislative specialists followed more than 75 bills during the 2017-2018 legislative session, submitting written testimony on all these bills and testifying in person at hearings on many of them. More information is on the state League website at www.lwvma.org.
Best wishes to Priscilla and Doug Leith, who are in the process of moving to Needham’s North Hill community. Priscilla made lasting contributions to the LWV Newton, in her work on (what we used to call) Women’s Issues, her many years of service as treasurer, and her leadership in establishing topic Meetings. She has transferred her LWV membership to Needham; their gain is our loss!
We welcome the following new members:
- Susan Loffredo
- Rebecca Kanter
- Rich and Christina Parker
- Rachel Coben
- Karen Manning
- Joanne Mead
- Mark and Joanne Hooker
- Caeden Brynie
- Larissa Hordynsky
- Beckley Gaudette
- Judy Herzig-Marx
- Diane Shufro
Glad to have you all with us!
This past week, LWVN lost a longtime member who was a dedicated Topic Meeting attendee and a kind, engaged person. Doris Lelchook, age 94, passed away on December 5th. Our condolences to her family–we will miss her cheerful personality.