Advocacy Challenge 2021!

The new Advocacy Challenge is out, and your Local League could win! The challenge starts now. This friendly competition measures advocacy, proportionate to the size of your Local League. Winners will be notified at Convention in 2021.

The Virginia General Assembly is already filing bills for the Jan 13, 2021 General Session. Here is how you can prepare:

1. Find your state legislators. Click here: whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov and enter your address in the box. Contact info for your state (not U.S.) senator and delegate will appear at the end of the page. Save it or write it down.

2. Attend a town hall and ask your legislator if they will support priority issues. Visit the Virginia Town Halls tracker here: bit.ly/VATownHalls 
If your legislator is not holding a Town Hall, call or write to them. 
Reminder: when advocating, we speak as individuals. Only the president speaks on behalf of the League.

3. Look at our current top priorities and talking points; click here. Summary:

  • Help people access voting: make permanent the temporary legislation that allowed:

        -> Convenient drop off of absentee ballots
            -> Removing witness requirement for absentee ballots 
            -> Letting absentee voters correct procedural errors

  • State level pre-clearance of practices restricted under the federal Voting Rights Act
  • 100% Right to Vote Constitutional Amendment — protecting the right to vote so it is not taken away upon incarceration 
  • Campaign Finance Reform
  • National Popular Vote
  • More Broadband Coverage

4. Log your action! Each time you contact your state delegate and senator, go here to log your action. Bookmark the new link, bit.ly/LWVVAChallenge 

It’s time to contact your elected representatives! Start with Step 1 above.

Learn about the upcoming General Assembly session

LWV-VA Women’s Legislative Pre-Session
Wednesday, December 2
Virtual & FREE in 2020


Every year in December, the League of Women Voters of Virginia sponsors a Pre-Session Women’s Legislative Roundtable before the next Virginia General Assembly Session. Directors and policy and advocacy experts from many nonprofit organizations speak about their priority issues and legislation, and give their predictions on what may or may not happen during the next Session–generally 15 to 20 speakers who each speak for 5 to 7 minutes.
This year, the LWV-VA Pre-Session will be held virtually on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., with a lunch break scheduled around noon. Even if you cannot attend the entire session, please register. There is NO COST.
This year’s keynote speaker is Brian Koziol, Director of the Virginia Housing Alliance, who will speak at 11:30 a.m. VERY timely since local Leagues just held our affordable housing consensus meetings!
In addition to the keynote presentation, the morning program will include:

  • LWV-VA President Deb Wake and LWV-VA Advocacy Chair Julie Turner discussing the League’s upcoming legislative priorities.
  • Commissioner of Elections Chris Piper sharing his observations on the 2020 election.
  • Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey Lane presenting his insights on the the challenges Governor Northam’s administration faces.

Click here to register for Pre-Session.

The Untold Story of Women of Color in the League of Women Voters

Join us online!
Thursday, October 15
4:30pm

Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins
the 15th President of LWV-US from 1998 to 2002

Please register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMtd-6gqTsvHtUHk3v4b4TorOaojEpF8_3U

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

She will speak to us live from her home to your homes via Zoom.
Her latest book is The Untold Story of Women of Color in the League of Women Voters, published in January 2020. Together, we are celebrating 100 years of women’s political power and the League of Women Voters. We are also recognizing – and working to heal – the racism in the organization that can continue to this day. This book argues that the League must learn from the past and make intentional decisions to change for the future to remain relevant in the next phase of its history.

Voting has started for the November 3rd election!

The fall 2020 General Election is the first election in Virginia to have true early voting – the General Assembly changed the law in their spring session so you no longer need an excuse to vote early.

What’s on the ballot?

The JCC/Williamsburg ballot has two sides! The York County ballot has the same information but is formatted differently so all the information is on one side.


Vote in person, early

Williamsburg voters:

Williamsburg City Registrar Office 401 Lafayette Street, Williamsburg, VA 23185, Monday – Friday 8am-4:30pm, and Saturdays October 24 and October 31 8am-4:30pm.

James City County voters:

James City County Recreation Center, 5301 Longhill Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188, Monday -Friday 8am-5pm, and Saturday October 24, and Saturday October 31, 8am-5pm.

York County voters:

  1. Washington Square, 5322 Geo. Wash. Mem. Hwy, Yorktown — Monday-Friday — 8:30 AM-5:00 PM;
  2. Victory Village, 6614 Mooretown Rd., Ste. A, Williamsburg — Tuesday, 8:30-5:00 (as of September 18, Monday-Friday — 8:30 AM-5:00 PM)
  3. Both offices will also be open on Saturday, October 24, and Saturday, October 31, from 9:00-5:00. 

Vote Absentee

Request your ballot to be mailed to you, and then mail it back OR drop it off in the approved drop off locations. The statewide deadline to request an absentee ballot is October 23, 2020. Request online or mail in a paper form to your local voting office.

A special exception for the 2020 General Election because of the coronavirus pandemic:
The Virginia Department of Elections had mail-in absentee ballot instruction sheets and envelopes printed prior to election changes enacted by the recent special session of the General Assembly. Thus, the instructions are confusing many voters. In spite of what is stated in the instructions, voters do NOT need to have a witness sign the return envelope in this election. But voters do need to insert their completed ballot into the enclosed privacy envelope and then put that envelope into the return one that is already postage-paid.

Drop off locations are county specific, and not open 24-hrs a day – they are open at the same locations and times as early voting, listed above.

Vote at your precinct on November 3, 2020

Standard requirements here – vote at your specific polling place listed on your voter registration card, not at the central early voting location in your county. Look at the polling place listed on your voter card, look it up at vote411.org, or at elections.virginia.gov.

Get a printable version of the flyer

Investigate affordable housing

The Virginia State League is using the 2019-2020 year to study affordable housing and formulate a position that will be used for lobbying at the state and local level. Investigate the background information and form your own informed position on fairly priced housing for working class people in your community.

Housing clipart 8 » Clipart Station

Check out the work James City County is doing on this topic.

State League research, so far

A report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC):
The GAP – A Shortage of Affordable Homes

Virginia statistics from the NLIHC

“Connecting Housing and Health in the Williamsburg Region” by Housing Virginia

What does Virginia’s redistricting amendment change?

Printable version

The Status Quo:

Process

Districts drawn by the General Assembly

Zero requirements for transparency or public engagement

Redistricting occurs the year following the Census, but the General Assembly can also choose to redistrict mid-decade

Map drawing criteria

SB717 & the current constitution: contiguous, compactness, equal population requirement, preservation of communities of interest, prohibits partisan and racial gerrymandering

Fallback mechanism

The Supreme Court of Virginia would adjudicate maps if a case is filed claiming districts are gerrymandered. If the court rules new districts must be drawn, the General Assembly continues to be in charge of redistricting

Result: gerrymandering

Commission Amendment:

Process

Districts drawn by a bipartisan-balanced commission with 8 citizens and 8 legislators who must agree on maps by a super majority vote

Transparency mandated through public meetings, hearings, and data

Redistricting occurs the year following the Census and mid-decade redistricting is functionally impossible

Map drawing criteria

Same criteria as the Status Quo + amended constitution: adding historic civil rights protections for racial and ethnic minorities in the Virginia Constitution

Fallback Mechanism

If the commission can’t agree, the Virginia Supreme Court intervenes and will appoint a “Special Master” to redraw districts according to criteria above

Result: a historic improvement

Enabling Legislation:

Process

Districts drawn by amendment’s commission with added requirements from SB203 mandating diversity and restricting previous or active Party employees

Additional transparency through the Freedom of Information Act, open commission application process  and public participation in the Court’s redistricting deliberations

Same timing of redistricting as the Amendment

Map drawing criteria

Same criteria as the Amendment

Fallback Mechanism

If the commission can’t agree, the Court must appoint two Special Masters, allow public participation, and justices who are related to members of the General Assembly must recuse themselves

Result: additional safeguards

What’s on the Virginia ballot about redistricting

We believe that amending the constitution is the only way to clarify a partisan legislature’s role in redistricting. The current method for drawing new districts (which happens every ten years after a census) is outlined inArticle II, Section 6 of the current Virginia Constitution: “electoral districts (are) established by the General Assembly.” However, there are many limitations of the current system.

Read about the
Virginia Redistricting Amendment
on Ballotpedia

This ballot initiative on the November 2020 ballot would amend this Article of the Constitution of Virginia to take the sole power away from the legislature, which usually (because of political party majorities) has an incentive to redraw the lines in favor of one political party or the other. Here’s what the ballot measure says:


Should the Constitution of Virginia be amended to establish a redistricting commission, consisting of eight members of the General Assembly and eight citizens of the Commonwealth, that is responsible for drawing the congressional and state legislative districts that will be subsequently voted on, but not changed by, the General Assembly and enacted without the Governor’s involvement and to give the responsibility of drawing districts to the Supreme Court of Virginia if the redistricting commission fails to draw districts or the General Assembly fails to enact districts by certain deadlines?


The Senate of Virginia unanimously approved a simplified explanation for voters that need extra guidance. It reads:

A “yes” vote supports transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a redistricting commission composed of state legislators and citizens.

A “no” vote opposes transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts to a redistricting commission, thus keeping the state legislature responsible for redistricting.

In other words, if the amendment fails, Virginia’s unfair redistricting laws remain in place. Politicians will continue to have free rein to pick their voters behind closed doors, regardless of which party is in charge. Nothing will be in place to legally require them to change the status quo in 2021.

Print off this postcard and mail it to everyone you know in Virginia!

Print off this postcard and mail it to everyone you know in Virginia!

Get excited! There’s a Redistricting Amendment on the Virginia ballot November 3

Reporting from the Virginia Pilot

Get excited – there’s a big change coming to Virginia politics, and you can be a part of it when you vote this fall. Along with all the famous people on the ballot this fall, there is a new Virginia constitutional amendment for the state’s voters to consider. Two consecutive General Assemblies (first with a Republican majority, second with a Democrat majority) voted to approve this Virginia amendment, and final step to ratify is approval by a majority of voters.

Study the wording of the amendment before you start to vote your ballot this fall – like all constitutional amendments, the language isn’t necessarily easy to read, but you can spend some time with it beforehand so you’re prepared.

Based on how both parties in Virginia have reacted to this amendment, at different times, it doesn’t favor either Democrats or Republicans – it is designed to be a brake on the runaway power of either party. It’s an opportunity for voters to cast a vote not for either party but for a system that prevents either party from making all the rules about who gets to be a representative in Richmond.


What the ballot will say:

Should the Constitution of Virginia be amended to establish a redistricting commission, consisting of eight members of the General Assembly and eight citizens of the Commonwealth, that is responsible for drawing the congressional and state legislative districts that will be subsequently voted on, but not changed by, the General Assembly and enacted without the Governor’s involvement and to give the responsibility of drawing districts to the Supreme Court of Virginia if the redistricting commission fails to draw districts or the General Assembly fails to enact districts by certain deadlines?


Our state has a history of highly partisan districts where legislators run unopposed for years or win over and over in non-competitive races. These districts happen because they are drawn when one party or the other is in power in the state legislature, and they want to preserve their power to keep getting more easy seats for their party. The redistricting amendment is a good faith effort by legislators to limit partisan gerrymandering. It means that future General Assemblies in Richmond will have less power to create voting districts that overwhelmingly favor one party or another; instead, it promotes creating more competitive election districts which limit extreme partisanship.


The Senate of Virginia unanimously approved a simplified explanation for voters that need extra guidance. It reads:

A “yes” vote supports transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a redistricting commission composed of state legislators and citizens.

A “no” vote opposes transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts to a redistricting commission, thus keeping the state legislature responsible for redistricting


For more information, check out the advocacy of One Virginia 2021 and Fair Maps VA. You can print off this postcard in support of this amendment and send it to your friends anywhere in Virginia. Look at interactive maps of the current districts to get an idea of what is there now. Study the wording of the amendment before you start to vote your ballot this fall – like all constitutional amendments, the language isn’t necessarily easy to read, but you can spend some time with it beforehand so you’re prepared.

You can be an election worker!

Get more details and ask questions about being an election worker in our area by joining this Wednesday, August 12, 2020 webinar at 2pm. Dianna Moorman, the Director of Elections for James City County, will join this webinar sponsored by the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists, and a local election officer will also share his experiences.

A voting location in James City County

For the first time ever, Election Day (November 3, 2020) is now a holiday in Virginia, so maybe you’ll be available to serve when you weren’t in the past. It’s a helpful service to the county and local voters, and you get paid for your work. Check out the official information from James City County.

To serve, you need to be a
– registered voter in Virginia
– Willing to work the entire day on Election Day, starting at 5am at your assigned polling location and staying until results are counted, usually around 8pm
– Interested in helping voters in our area have a pleasant voting experience