General Assembly Results and Observations

Excerpted from a Voter Express article by Carol Noggle, Voter Protection Officer, State League of Virginia

Yes, it was a “wild” General Assembly session, as one newspaper headline stated. All sorts of unanticipated drama involving constitutional officers, but the legislative process continued with the LWV-VA and others in attendance. Observers could see during floor sessions some differences in the House and Senate culture, protocol and decorum, including somedebate obstruction. “Will the Gentleman yield?” “No, I will not yield.” Each side of House attempted to “hijack the rules.” Frequent Point of Personal Privilege (PPP) statements were very “pointed” from both sides on various bills including those regarding firearms in churches, ERA ratification, limiting the power of the Governor, changes to long-standing Rules, teaching Bible literature in the schools, and even on which June Tuesday to have the Primary elections. The House, with many subcommittees, affects the disposition of bills differently than the Senate. The House subcommittees have been described as “powerful gatekeepers” because a successful bill in the full Senate will fail in a House subcommittee that has only seven members.

What actually happened? Of 93 election related bills, 24 passed; among them:

• No-excuse absentee voting, though only for seven days.

• Absentee polling places will stay open properly for voters who are in line at 7pm.

• Preventing split precincts and establishing proper boundary lines advanced.

• Yet to be determined is whether or not voters will be considered “provisional” while waiting for verification of Social Security numbers.

• Improved ballot order to list candidates before the ballot questions will ensure that voters see the candidates first.

• Recount procedures for tied elections were clarified.

What didn’t pass?

• Requiring Voter Registration and information in Commonwealth high schools;

• Restoration of voting rights and voter registration information in regional jails; Extending the deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots;

• Allowing the Photo ID of a student enrolled at an out- of-state university;

• Extending the expiration time allowance for a DMV Photo ID;

• Most gun safety legislation including a “Red Flag” or Extreme Risk Protective Order bill;

• Ranked choice voting in local elections.

Environmental bills that passed included one on coal ash mitigation. Legislators prohibited any carbon dioxide cap-and-trade efforts by the Governor or a state agency. Regarding firearm safety, legislators rejected a “red flag” bill or Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) and a bill related to allowing firearms in churches. One successful opioid-related bill expanded who can possess and administer naloxone or other opioid antagonist, after completing training. Below are articles relating on the successful passage of a bipartisan commission on redistricting and inaction on the ERA. The redistricting bill, aimed at limiting gerrymandering, needs additional steps to be added as an amendment to the Constitution.

The April 2019 newsletter is here, & we’ve been busy!

Mary Schilling, President
Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy.

While it’s easy to get discouraged these days, there have been some positive signs of responsible engagement in the challenging issues of the day. Our League consistently was well represented at the weekly Women’s Legislative Roundtables during General Assembly. Each week also included opportunities to meet with our Delegates and Senators to advocate on legislation on which the we have League positions.

Don Shilling (left) and Mary Schilling & Bobbi Falquet (right) welcome former ambassadors Nancy Ely- Raphel and Thomas Pickering to Great Decisions on March 4. Career Ambassador Pickering, our speaker, served more than four decades as U.S. ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, Jordan and the United Nations, as well as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs—the third highest post in the State Department. His partner Ely-Raphael served as ambassador to Slovenia and legal affairs in the State Department.
Don Shilling (left) and Mary Schilling & Bobbi Falquet (right) welcome former ambassadors Nancy Ely- Raphel and Thomas Pickering to Great Decisions on March 4. Career Ambassador Pickering, our speaker, served more than four decades as U.S. ambassador. His partner Ely-Raphael served as ambassador to Slovenia.

The February/March Great Decisions lecture series was a huge success with outstanding speakers addressing eight of the thorniest and most critical issues in current foreign affairs. With approximately 270 in attendance each Tuesday morning, the signature program helps us reach out to the broader Williamsburg community.

William & Mary’s Students Demand Action group planned a full week of programs and events on gun violence prevention, culminating in a March to End Gun Violence at the Colonial Capitol Building on DoG Street on Saturday, March 23. The featured speaker at the rally was Rep. Elaine Luria, representing Virginia’s 2nd Congressional district. Our League Advocacy and Action program committee members have been hard at work examining Election Integrity issues and exploring initiatives in Civics Education in the public schools. As part of the Gun Violence Prevention initiative, Christine Payne has invited Lori Haas, Virginia Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to speak on Monday, May 13 at 7 pm at Stryker Building. I urge you and interested friends to attend.

While these programs and events may seem modest, this is what democracy looks like.

We are excited about the upcoming LWVVA Biennial Convention in Norfolk, May 17- 19. Our thanks to Anne Smith, vice president for programs on the State Board and a member of our own Board, for her masterful job in developing a substantive convention program. The speakers’ and session topics are timely: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Election Security and Integrity; Redistricting; Defending Democracy; Women’s Issues-Sexual Harassment. While these programs and events may seem modest, this is what democracy looks like. Remember, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” You can make a difference.

read the full newsletter

Medicaid: Bridging the high cost of health care in Hampton Roads

Our votes affect health care policies, but what information are we missing to make solid decisions? The Virginia General Assembly just last year accepted the expanded Medicaid coverage offered by the Affordable Care Act; what is happening in our area to prepare for implementation, and how will this affect recipients of Medicaid and health care providers in our area? Come learn from an experienced panel of health care practitioners.

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This event is on January 24, 2019, 7pm at the Williamsburg Library Theater.

Panelists:

• Jennifer Mellor, Ph.D, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, William and Mary
• Fran Castellow, President of Operations, Patient Advocate Foundation
• Dr. William J. Mann, Executive Medical Director, Old Towne Medical & Dental Center
• Donna Briggs, Regional Sales Manager, Optima Health

Local League president, Mary Schilling, says, “Since the Virginia General Assembly voted to expand Medicaid in their last session, Virginians have a particular interest in this topic, plus health care’s continuing high cost was the top issue for many voters in the 2018 midterm elections. Our elected officials also make decisions on health care costs, particularly in regard to Medicaid. We hope that our panel experts who know the situation firsthand can help us be better informed voters.”

There is no cost to attend. The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, political organization that never endorses candidates or political parties at any level of government. Its mission statement encourages “active participation in government.”

Action and Advocacy Interest Groups Are Underway

Linda Rice, Action and Advocacy Coordinator

You can join one (or more!) of these groups! 

Become an interest group member to become more engaged with our League mission: Empowering Voters, Defending Democracy.

 

At its October 3 meeting, the LWV-WA board adopted a policy presented by Action and Advocacy Coordinator Linda Rice to guide interest groups. The policy describes what advocacy efforts members may undertake in support of positions that the League has reached through research, dialogue and consensus. The policy, including guidelines for interest groups, can be accessed here.

Several local League interest groups have formed to focus on League priorities. Each group will meet regularly to conduct research in depth, track relevant legislation introduced in the General Assembly (GA), and advocate, either in support or opposition, with our legislators during the GA session. Interest groups may organize panel discussions on topics of general interest that the group identifies. Fall reception attendees had an opportunity to join individual groups; some committees are complete, others actively seek additional members.

Nine members have joined the Election Integrity Committee; no more are needed. I chaired the recent state study on Behavioral Health that resulted in an expanded state position; our knowledgeable committee will continue its advocacy work.

The Education interest group, Loretta Hannum, Susan Nelson, Laura Tripp, and Sudie Watkins, will select a chair at their first meeting; additional members are welcome.

Christine Payne is the point of contact for advocacy on Gun Safety legislation.

Jo Solomon is our League liaison to the LWV-VA Redistricting Committee. The state League has been an active partner with OneVirginia2021 since its inception in 2013.

The League supports passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and your involvement in VAratifyERA.org would be welcome.

Contact Linda Rice with questions.

To Vote or Not to Vote

Mary Ann Moxon, Public Relations/Outreach

Why do Americans choose to vote—or choose not to exercise that most basic right? And how do we as League members help to reduce the divide between voters and nonvoters?

Mediocre voter turnout has become the trend in America despite warnings that “democracy is not a spectator sport.” Voter turnout in the U.S. is among the lowest in the world, having declined sharply since 1900. Many people consciously choose to stay on the sidelines of democracy; others find formidable obstacles to exercising their right to vote.

Reasons are many: people say they are too busy, don’t like their choices or don’t know enough to vote. Many are focused on getting to work or paying their rent. In many states voter ID restrictions keep people from voting. Too many do not realize that midterm elections also carry enormous political stakes. For example, governors and state legislators elected this fall will determine redistricting decisions following the 2020 census.

Young first-time voters may show up at the polls on November 6. But many youth are suspicious of politicians and political parties – as are many other citizens. 1914 was the last time that more than half of eligible voters turned out for a midterm election. Only 33 percent of eligible voters voted in the 2014 midterms; among18-29-year-olds about 20 percent cast a ballot. Polls focused on “likely voters” predict that just 37 percent of young voters will vote in the upcoming midterms.

There is a “renaissance of political engagement” among some Americans experiencing a new civic spirit—calling their elected officials more often, marching in opposition to or in support of causes, donating money, running for office and joining organizations such as the League of Women Voters. Partisan and racial gerrymandering has energized many voters in Virginia and other states where voters are demanding that they pick their legislators, rather than legislators picking their voters through gerrymandered district lines.

The League of Women Voters, NAACP, numerous churches, campus groups like Vote21 and political parties have worked to register voters for the fall elections. On National Voter Registration Day, September 25, a record 800,000 new voters registered. But far surpassing that is the number of voters who have been purged from voting rolls in many states or barriers imposed to reduce participation at the polls.

So what can League members do to further our mission to Empower Voters and Defend Democracy? Encourage friends and family to be informed voters by seeking opportunities to hear directly from candidates. Promote the League’s online resource, Vote411.org, where voters can compare candidates’ responses to questions. Offer to assist in getting voters to the polls. Work to reduce onerous ID requirements. Long-term, support making Election Day a national holiday. And to those cynics, who believe that their one vote does not matter, remind them that a tie election in 2017 saw the Virginia House of Delegates majority determined by the drawing of a name.

W&M President Rowe praises civic engagement

William and Mary president Katherine Rowe was the featured speaker of our fall membership meeting. Read the Virginia Gazette Coverage here!

by Amelia Heymann
aheymann@vagazette.com

 

Katherine Rowe, president of the College of William and Mary, said the school was celebrating 100 years of women at the college. Rowe said while changes were happening at the college, Virginia, its home, rejected the ratification of the suffrage amendment in 1920. The Commonwealth did not symbolically ratify suffrage until 1952.

“In alignment with these centennials, we find the opportunity to reflect on that generation who brought the franchise for women, particularly the women of that generation,” Rowe said. “I want to say that in our current generation of students now, I see a generation that is prime to make a similarly great impact on the world.”

Rowe discussed student civic engagement and was named the first honorary member of the Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters at its fall membership meeting Wednesday night.

One of the reasons Rowe said she felt the current generation of undergraduate students were poised to make an impact on the world was because they were more engaged with their communities than past generations.

“The world is here all the time and (students) are in it,” Rowe said. “There is no more bubble of college anymore…for better or for worse.”

She added while students are more aware of the immense challenges they have inherited, they are also are still optimistic about searching for solutions. Rowe said she is especially inspired by undergraduates’ sense of responsibility to build better communities.

“This generation of undergraduates are going to be the critical partners in sustaining our democracy,” Rowe said. “So we need to be listening and learning from them as they too need to be listening and learning from us.”

A member of the audience asked Rowe how the League of Women Voters could attract a younger and more diverse membership population. Rowe said she suggested simply asking younger voters what they thought.

“As a teacher, I would partner with students in the class because they knew things about what their learning process was like that I didn’t know, and if I engaged them as partners I would always come to better solutions,” Rowe said. “So my answer to you is ask, and you will get fantastically exciting ideas.”

Another member of the audience asked Rowe about the college’s Neighborhood Relations Committee. She said most people in the surrounding neighborhoods used the committee to complain about issues with college students. The woman asked Rowe if the committee could be used to create more positive interactions between the community and students, rather than just being used as a sounding board for complaints.

Rowe said she enjoyed the idea another person had brought up that evening, which was inviting college students over for dinner to get to know them.

“You have chosen to live right next to a college campus. It has its challenges, it has extraordinary benefits, so I would think about how we can embrace the vitality of that 18-22-year-old moment,” Rowe said. “And it starts with a nice dinner at midterms.”

At the end of the night, Mary Schilling, president of the Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters, named Rowe the first honorary member of the Williamsburg League.

Rowe reflected on her first memory of voting from when she was 6 or 7 years old. Rowe’s said she was allowed by to follow her mother into a voting booth by their local League of Women Voters. There Rowe looked up curiously as her mother cast a ballot.

“It was thrilling to be able to watch an adult vote,” Rowe said.

Later in life, Rowe said she volunteered for the Judge of Elections in Philadelphia.

“It was inspiring to be part of a democratic process,” Rowe said. “I owe a lot to the League of Women Voters, and to everyone who has helped to foster a commitment to (civic) participation.”

Absentee Voting: Final Countdown!

Absentee voting is great if you know you will be unable to vote because of a commitment on Election Day.

Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, October 15, 2018. Check your voter registration at the official state site.

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Deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is Tuesday, October 30, 2018. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m.

Deadline to vote an absentee ballot in-person is Saturday, November 3, 2018. Please check with your registrar for office hours.

York County Registrar’s Office is open Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 and Saturday, November 3, 2018 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. for absentee voting.

City of Williamsburg is open Saturday, October 27, and Saturday, November 3, from 8:30am to 4:30pm, for absentee voting.

James City County is open Saturday, Oct. 27 and Saturday Nov. 3 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for absentee voting.

You cannot vote absentee on Monday, November 5, right before the election, unless it is a specific type of emergency, so don’t wait till then!

Source: Virginia Elections Site

Absentee Application

You will need to fill out this piece of paperwork before casting your absentee ballot. You can do it at the office; you can even download the form here and bring it with you.

York County:

(757) 890-3440

City of Williamsburg:

(757) 220-6157

James City County:

(757) 259-4949

 


COMPLETING AN ABSENTEE BALLOT APPLICATION
– https://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/absentee-voting/index.html

Am I eligible to vote absentee?
Check Here

You may vote absentee if you are unable to go to the polls on Election Day because you …

  • are a student or the spouse of a student outside the City of Williamsburg
  • will be away from the City of Williamsburg on business
  • will be at your workplace for 11 or more hours between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
  • will be away from the City of Williamsburg on personal business or vacation
  • are unable to go to the polls because of illness or disability
  • are the primary caretaker of a confined family member
  • have a religious obligation
  • are confined awaiting trial are confined having been convicted of a misdemeanor
  • are an election official
  • are on active duty in the military
  • are the spouse or dependent residing with a member of the military
  • are an overseas citizen whose most recent United States residence was in [Williamsburg, James City County, or York County]

COMPLETE IN-PERSON

Before visiting your local registrar’s office, check your registration status or call your registrar’s office (phone numbers available on Virginia voter registration application). Also review the application to insure you have all of the information necessary to complete the process. If you are not already registered, you will have to wait five days after registration before you can be issued an absentee ballot (exception for military and overseas voters only). If you have a Virginia DMV license or ID card, you can register online using our OAB application.

  • Within 45 days prior to the election in which you wish to vote, visit your local registrar’s office to vote absentee in-person.
  • At the registrar’s office, fill out an Absentee Application. You must show an acceptable form of photo ID. To view a complete list of acceptable IDs, please visit our Voting In-Person page.
  • After completing the application, you will be allowed to vote absentee in-person using a voting machine in the registrar’s office. Accessible equipment and/or curbside voting is available upon request.

An application completed in person can be made up to three days before the election in which the applicant wishes to vote and completed in the office of the local registrar. The applicant signs the application in the presence of a registrar or the secretary of the electoral board. Some large localities offer satellite locations for in-person absentee voting. Check with your local registrar for locations and times.

An applicant generally cannot both register to vote in person and vote absentee in person at the same time. If you register to vote in person, your absentee ballot cannot be issued until five days after you are registered. The only exception is absent military and overseas voters eligible under a federal law.

Registered voters who vote absentee in person are subject to the same rules that apply to voting at the polls. If acceptable identification is not provided, a provisional ballot will be offered and the voter is allowed until the following Friday by noon after the election to provide a copy of acceptable identification to the electoral board. Provisional voters receive a notice to remind them of the deadline and right to attend the electoral board meeting.

 

Sources:

Williamsburg Election Office
Official State Elections Site

 

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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