At Opening Meeting an engaged group of about 50 enjoyed a presentation by Stuart Naifeh, a voting rights lawyer, currently senior counsel at Demos. Demos is a think tank whose main purpose is well-expressed in this quotation from its website: "The freedom to vote must be protected. Money in politics must be reduced. The democratic process must reflect our diverse electorate. Demos is committed to creating an inclusive democracy."
Demos, we learned, has a small staff, so works locally with groups that share its goals. Given their shared focus on voting rights, Demos has often worked with the League. Demos goes where it has the ability to gain the most voters their rights, not where partisan politics might benefit.
Naifeh talked about the different varieties of voter suppression, which produces in the U.S. the lowest voter turnout in the developed world. Asked how Massachusetts fares, he commented that the annual town/city census does not meet federal rules designed to prevent keeping people off the rolls. Naifeh also referred to the situation in Springfield, which John Bonifaz talked to us about several years ago, when too few polling places, poll workers, and machines created long lines which turned away people with jobs to go to.
Our speaker was very open to questions, and given that his topic is near and dear to LWV hearts, there were a lot of questions as well as comments from LWV members with related experience. Naifeh's knowledge is so interesting and relevant to us that it was generally felt that we should invite him back.