Six Takeaways from the LWV National Convention

by Les Solomon, Membership Co-chair & LWVUS Convention Delegate

 

Creating a More Perfect Democracy was the theme of the 53th National LWV Convention. More than 1000 League leaders attended the four-day convention that included excellent speakers, workshops, and thoughtful, methodical debate.

My key takeaways:

1. The LWV National is on sound footing. Two years ago, the financial health of LWVUS was not good; this year, they reported an amazing turnaround with more than $5 million in the black, thanks to strategic planning and a rigorous donor campaign.

2. Membership diversity is a key to sustainable growth. The League’s ongoing Transformation Journey and accompanying Roadmap provide evidence that demographically, the League must change. This initiative was seen as so important that all delegates participated in a seminar, Using Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lens to Strengthen Social Impact and Collaboration.

3. There is so much energy at the local level to Empower Voters, Defend Democracy. I found the following sessions to be most interesting, many funded by LWVUS grants:

a. Immigration Sharing Session: Immigration policies should promote reunification of immediate families; meet economic, business and employment needs; and be responsive to those facing political persecution or humanitarian crises.
b. Youth Voter Registration: Learn Winning Tactics. Learn strategies for planning registration events that get the biggest bang for your volunteer buck and help empower young people!

4. Interesting Brochures (contact me for more info)

a. Engaging Members: Moving individuals onto & up the leadership ladder.
b. The Voter Girl Project: A youth citizenship project with the Girls Scouts.
c. National Popular Vote
d. Did you know that the US deports some veterans? #Deportedveterans
e. Why We Should Abolish the Electoral College: Since 1970, the LWV has believed that the Electoral College should be abolished in favor of a direct popular vote.

5. New LWVUS Statements:

a. Mission: Empowering Voters, Defending Democracy.
b. Vision: We envision a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge, and the confidence to participate.
c. Value: We believe in the power of women to create a more perfect democracy. (The Value Statement raised some interesting questions regarding diversity.)

6. August 26, 2020. Get ready to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage marking a century after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Our featured speaker at the banquet was Elaine Weiss, author of The Women’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.

Thank you for the opportunity to be one of your delegates to the 2018 LWVUS Convention.

LWVUS 2018 National Convention: Creating a More Perfect Democracy

by Mary Schilling, President and LWVUS Convention Delegate

More than 1,000 League of Women Voters members from across the country, representing some 762 local leagues, gathered in Chicago for the Biennial LWVUS 2018 Convention. Speakers were inspiring, sessions informative, and camaraderie intense. Most importantly, the body in plenary sessions considered numerous proposals for inclusion in the LWVUS Program for 2018- 2020. Program items create the foundation for national action, advocacy, and lobbying as well as inform both state and local league action and advocacy. Proposals passed by the plenary body include:

• That the LWVUS support gun control, gun safety, and gun ownership limitations a priority in its lobbying efforts.

• That the LWVUS support an emphasis on the ERA this year and every year until the ERA is ratified and becomes a US Constitutional Amendment and that it supports efforts to remove the time limits for ratification of the ERA.

• That the 2018 Convention urgently reaffirm its long-held position that the Electoral College be abolished.

• That the LWV stand united with and in support of efforts to price carbon emissions whether cap-and-trade, carbon tax/fee or another viable pricing mechanism.

• That the LWV reaffirm its commitment to the Constitutional right to privacy for an individual to make reproductive choices.

• That the LWV support a set of climate assessment criteria that ensures that energy policies align with current climate science.

• That the LWVUS adopt an amended 2018–2020 campaign for making democracy work. The campaign includes insuring a free, fair, and accessible electoral system for all eligible voters by focusing on voting rights, improving elections, and advocacy for the National Popular Vote Compact Campaign, finance/money in politics, and redistricting.

• That the national league retain all current LWVUS positions in the areas of representative government, international relations, natural resources, and social policy.

June State Council Report

by Anne Bradstreet Smith, LWV-VA Program Vice President

The Williamsburg League was well represented at the LWV-VA Council meeting in Henrico on June 16. Thirty-eight delegates representing all local leagues were among the approximately 60 people attending. The proposed state budget was presented, and attendees heard Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, Assistant Director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, speak about political behavior and analysis of recent and upcoming elections in Virginia and the nation.

Updates to two LWV-VA positions were presented and formally moved as motions from the LWV-VA Board. Chair Linda Rice (Williamsburg) presented the results and recommendations on Behavioral Health for a total revision of the Mental Health position, now renamed Behavioral Health. The Public Funds for Public Schools Task Force, chaired by Carol Noggle (Prince William), presented a new section to the Education position on School Choice options. Delegates accepted both reports.

Chair Alison Beall (Richmond) presented a preliminary report of the Women’s Rights Task Force. Their review of the Code of Virginia determined that the specific points of the current League position have been addressed by legislative action, thus satisfying the specific charge of the study. However, sexual harassment emerged as a major unaddressed issue. The Task Force requested authorization to extend its study and to make recommendations that update the current position to address sexual harassment. The Task Force will bring its recommendations for action to the LWVVA 2019 Convention. If you are interested in working on this phase of the Women’s Rights study, please let me know. Congratulations to all three Task Forces for their good work during the past year. Having completed their research, now it’s time for all of us to engage in strong advocacy and action.

On a related note, Pat Fishback (Richmond) updated Council delegates on the status of the ERA. Pat has been one of the leaders in this effort; you can view her presentation to the 2018 Virginia House of Delegate on our website under Action and Advocacy / Women’s Rights. You will also find the adopted “ERA Talking Points” in that section of the site.

Candidate Forum Cancelled

by Rubyjean Gould, Voter Services Co-chair

Once again it has been necessary to cancel our League’s attempts to offer citizens an opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the candidates running for office in November.

Immediately after the June primary election, I contacted all the candidates for Congressional Districts 1 and 2 offering several October dates for Candidate Forums in Williamsburg. While the Democratic challengers responded promptly that they would like to participate, I was unable to get a response from the two Republican incumbents. Despite repeated emails, phone calls, and letters over the course of several months, there was no response. Regretfully, on Aug 21 I contacted all five candidates to report that we could not go forward with the public Forums without the participation of all candidates.

While it is no consolation, I understand that this pattern of refusal to meet with the public to answer questions of importance to constituents not unique to Williamsburg or Virginia. Of course, the losers are citizens who deserve an opportunity to hear directly from candidates seeking their vote. Only by Empowering Voters through such voter education efforts as Candidate Forums can the League help to Defend Democracy. We will continue the fight.

Also read President Mary Schilling’s letter published in the Virginia Gazette on August 25, expressing the League’s disappointment that there will be no local Candidate Forum and encouraging readers to ask the candidates to – at least – respond in writing to questions about issues on the website cited in the letter. I encourage you to do the same.

Power Up for Action: Williamsburg Hosts Fall Workshops on September 8

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by Phoebe Kent, The Voter Co-editor

Our Williamsburg League will host the LWV-VA Fall Workshops at Colonial Williamsburg’s Woodlands Conference Center on Saturday, September 8. The morning plenary session includes welcomes by Virginia League President Sue Lewis and Williamsburg President Mary Schilling, consideration of how to attract and energize membership, and a variety of issues relating to voter access and outreach. After lunch, all attendees will focus on advocacy issues. Following an explanation of the difference between advocacy and lobbying, attendees will consider issues including Behavioral Health, Education, Election Integrity, ERA Ratification, and Gun Violence Prevention. We look forward to welcoming to Williamsburg representatives from leagues throughout the Commonwealth for this informative and useful day of sharing strategies and ideas. At this time, 22 Williamsburg members are planning to assist with workshop logistics and attend the programs. The meeting will conclude at 3 pm.

AGENDA 

8:00 – 9:15 Registration

8:45 – 9:15 Local League Presidents Pre-session Briefing: Things you need to know

9:15 Plenary

  • Greeting and Welcome … Sue Lewis, LWV-VA President, Mary Schilling, President LWV-WA Host League

  • 2018 LWVUS Convention through the Eyes of a Local League

9:30 Membership and capacity building … “Attracting and Energizing

  • Transformational Journey

  • Attracting New and Engaging Current Members 

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • Local Leagues Exchange … Community Building and Ideas

  • Fund-raising, Revenue Development, How to Use Social Media

11:00 Voter Outreach/Access

  • Redistricting

  • Registration

  • Voting Rights

    • Election system and process security

    • Voter access

  • VOTE411

  • All About Debates

12:30 Lunch

1:30 Advocacy

  • Advocacy vs Lobbying

  • Behavioral Health

  • Education

  • Election Integrity

  • ERA Ratification

  • Gun Violence Prevention

3:00 Adjourn


NOTE: This year there will be no breakout sessions. Everyone will have access to everything as panels and issues leaders do presentations.

Important Research from the Commonwealth Institute

The Commonwealth Institute in Richmond provides nonpartisan policy research and analysis to advance the well-being of Virginia communities, and improve the economic security and social opportunities of all Virginians. Their values include:

  • Independence
  • Fairness and Equity
  • Integrity
  • Empowerment

Here are a few of their most recent easy-to-understand half sheets:

Voting Rights: Recent Decisions

Have you noticed the US Supreme Court’s three recent decisions about voting rights? The League of Women Voters advocates for voters’ rights and has press releases on each of these major decisions.

    1. Supreme Court Upholds Ohio Law Allowing Voter Rolls to Be Purged After Missing Two Elections
      June 11, 2018
      Should a registered voter ever be removed from a state’s voter lists, and how does a state know when to do so? Ohio has a strict standard for removing voters – missing two consecutive years of November elections can get you un-registered, even if you haven’t moved – and the Supreme Court upheld the state law. (Virginia also removes voters after missed elections, but not as quickly as Ohio – read a short discussion of the process on a William & Mary blog here.) The League’s statement here is opposed to the Ohio law.

2. Supreme Court Clarifies First Amendment Protections at Polling Places
June 14, 2018
Should voters wearing political clothing be allowed in a polling place? Minnesota had a law against it, which the Supreme Court struck down because it was too vague. A future law could prohibit political clothing, if it was more specific about what was not allowed. Read the League position here; read a blog post from the non-partisan Scotus Blog here.


3. The Supreme Court Sends the Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case Back to District Court
June 16, 2018
Who gets to allege that gerrymandering is harmful, and how much proof do they need – and how much time will all that take? Wisconsin voters will need to make a stronger case if they want the Supreme Court to weigh in. Read the League statement here and a helpful blog post from Scotus Blog here.

 

Your next election

hands voting
November elections are familiar, but what’s going on with these spring elections you’ve heard of? Visit the Virginia Department of Elections website for the official source on where and when these elections are held.

The Citizen Portal shows the next election in which you can vote, and which offices, candidates, and issues will be on the ballot. Research information before entering the polling place, since once you’re inside the voting booth it’s hard to get information about the candidates and issues on the ballot.

Most of us have a hard time remembering which congressional district we’re in. Go to vote411.org and enter your address for a quick reminder.

The next election will be the June Primary (June 12, 2018) and both the 1st and 2nd District in Virginia (affecting City of Williamsburg, James City County, and York County) will have Democratic and Republican primaries for the National House of Representatives. Read more about candidates here (links go to vote411.org, a site run by the educational non-profit wing of the League of Women Voters):

Congressional District 1 Republican incumbent Rob Wittman does not have a primary challenger.

Congressional District 1: Democratic Candidates

Congressional District 2: Democratic Candidates

Congressional District 2: Republican Candidates

As we all learned in the last November election, ballots can be confusing. The Virginia Department of Elections publishes a guide to marking the ballot.

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