It’s time for automatic voter registration
If you’re like me, you’re wondering what is happening to our country right now. I have been riding this rollercoaster of anger, sadness, and a desire to take action since last November. We’re very fortunate to live in a city where people can protest relatively safely in the Boston Common and other public spaces, but it shouldn’t stop there. Protesting helps us build solidarity, but changing our laws is where we can really make a difference.
One practical, proven, all-around good step to improve our democracy is automatic voter registration (AVR). All Massachusetts residents have the right to vote, but 680,000 eligible Massachusetts voters aren’t registered. Seriously, 680,000 people! AVR can help these people register, make voter information more secure, and save our state money in the long run.
So how does it work? When Massachusetts residents provide their information at places like the RMV and MassHealth, that information would also be automatically sent to local registrars without having to do extra paperwork. The registrars can then add people to the official voting roll if they are eligible but haven’t registered yet. You can always opt-out if you don’t want to be registered, and that decision won’t be made public.
With less people and paper involved in voter registration, there is less of a chance for error. And for those worried about voter fraud, Massachusetts would join the Electronic Registration Information Center, a national clearinghouse that collects registration information and compares it to voter information from other states to find and eliminate duplicates and other problems.
Most of all, it works. AVR has already passed in 10 other states and Washington D.C. with successful results. In Oregon, more than 230,000 eligible voters were added to the voting roll in just six months after AVR was passed. It also fixed 265,000 inaccurate Oregon addresses and helped more than 97,000 new voters participate in the 2016 election, many of whom were from low-income and highly mobile populations.
There are currently two AVR bills in the Massachusetts State House: S. 373 and H. 2091. Thankfully, Sonia Chang-Diaz, Elizabeth Malia, and Jeffrey Sanchez have already shown their support for these AVR bills, but they need to know that AVR is a priority this session. When it comes to our democracy, the right choice should be the easy choice. Massachusetts prides itself on being a progressive leader in our country, so let’s not lag behind on this simple, yet effective, voting upgrade. Now is the time for automatic voter registration. Not later.
Jamaica Plain resident
Community choice energy
The hurricanes that hit Houston and Florida, and the deadly monsoons in Bangla Desh and India this summer were horrifying – and should be a call to more action to prevent further climate change. Storms are getting more extreme, the sea level is rising, and we are all vulnerable. Even in Jamaica Plain we’ll suffer if subways and roads flood, power fails, and the city’s economy shuts down. Public health will suffer in the short-term and will have long-term consequences.
Fossil fuels – oil and gas – are driving the climate crisis. We must do everything possible to cut Boston’s fossil fuel use. As Sandra Storey pointed out (“Boston needs to opt for cleaner energy,” JP Gazette 7/28/17), the fastest way to bring down our emissions right away is called Community Choice Energy, which would bring clean green electricity to every household in the city without hiking our electric bills.
The Boston City Council is holding a hearing on Community Choice Energy at 2 pm on Tuesday October 3. Come to City Hall if you can, or call Mayor Walsh at 617-635-4500. Councilor Matt O’Malley is a sponsor of the Community Choice Energy authorization, and we need to register our support as well.
Logan airplane noise
I’m one of the many people in JP affected by our being in the Logan Airport flight path. I’m also a writer, and I was inspired to write a poem about my experience related to this ever-present noise.
It seems like every day
It starts around 5:00 a.m.
An ominous rumble
Then a rapid crescendo
To a deafening roar
Like the sky being torn open above you
Or bombs being dropped
Or a large meteorite barreling through the atmosphere
You always think “Something woke me up, and now I can’t get back to sleep…”
“…Because of the planes”
Somehow it doesn’t dawn on you
It was the planes that woke you up
Just as it is the planes that cause you to reawake
Every time you think you’re about to drift off
You turn on fans, air conditioners, air cleaners
White noise, pink noise, gray noise, blue noise
To drown it out
But nothing else is so loud
And each day you give up
And get up
Make it through the day more drowsy than the day before
Never catching up
Is it Jamaica Plain?
Jamaica Plain resident
In the July 28 issue of the Gazette, Sandra Storey wrote re: “Community Choice Energy (CCE)” that “when it comes to climate change, no reasonable opportunity to lessen the effects of fossil fuels on the environment should be turned down” (p.5). The local [email protected] group’s Climate Legacy Committee has compiled a list of such reasonable opportunities and actions that all of us might take to decrease our individual, and thereby our collective, carbon footprint.
As a group of elders who are aging in place in their homes in JP and concerned about the health implications of climate change for themselves and their descendants, [email protected] would like to offer these ideas to the larger community. While joining a growing group of other local, state, national, and international agencies groups concerned with Climate Change, these are things of which each of us is potentially capable, from behavior that requires minimal commitment and financial investment to actions may demand more personal energy and ability to invest in a healthier environment:
Free to low financial cost behavior includes: turning off lights (including screen savers) when not in use, recycling, becoming informed and staying aware, washing clothes/dishes with cold water when possible, drinking tap water (Our Boston water is some of the best!) instead of bottled, adjusting thermostat and water heater settings to require less fuel use, and unplugging chargers for electronics when not in use. Walking more, bicycling, and driving less requires more personal energy, but has its own health rewards. Maintain home furnaces/water heaters/air conditioners and car engines/tires to keep optimal fuel efficiency.
Actions that require more financial output or energy include: the purchase and use of recyclable shopping bags, changing light bulbs and installing programmable thermostat, sealing drafts in windows and doors, insulating the water heater, composting kitchen scraps; plant deciduous trees on the south side of the house to get shade in summer and natural sunlight heat in winter. Also, signing petitions for environmental protections and attending local meetings of others concerned with climate change can make you feel more connected to the effort and more optimistic.
More costly, but very helpful are: replacing appliances with newer energy efficient models when available, and installing ceiling and attic fans and insulation for cooling. Installation of solar panels, energy efficient windows, and light reflective rooftops all ultimately help with cost maintenance after their initial high cost.
Roberta J Apfel