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

Welcome New Members!

We had a wonderful new members’ reception and enjoyed getting to know each other better. We hope each member can find an aspect of the League that helps them become more involved in local policy issues!

New 2019 Members

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.”

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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President’s Column – May 2018

by Mary Schilling, President, LWV-Williamsburg Area

Again this year, Great Decisions, our signature foreign affairs lecture series, was a huge success—with sold-out crowds plus standbys. Doug Wood managed speaker selection and logistics while Doris and Harvey Margulies orchestrated registration, check-in procedures and correspondence. Mary Anne Miller coordinated hospitality. A special thanks to the team and their many volunteers who provided support. Great Decisions has earned high visibility in the community, and already subscribers are looking forward to next year’s series.

During General Assembly the LWV-VA’s Women’s Legislative Roundtable brought into focus the incredible array of bills proposed in the House of Delegates and the Senate. Each Wednesday a Williamsburg League contingent trekked to Richmond to hear non-profit executives, Delegates, and elected officials discuss bills as they moved through the legislative process. In direct conversations with our local Delegates and Senators we were able to advocate for League positions on a variety of bills. Our League consistently had the largest number of members present, and on one occasion, seated in the House Gallery, we were recognized by the Speaker. Concurrently, a number of League members wrote emails, sent letters, and made phone calls advocating on individual bills. The advocacy efforts were tracked as part of a challenge launched by the LWV-VA.

The March for Our Lives galvanized and mobilized persons of all ages and from diverse communities on issues of sensible gun legislation. What was conceived as a march in our nation’s capital ultimately became hundreds of marches across the country and even abroad on Saturday, March 24. A large crowd gathered at Colonial Williamsburg’s Capitol for speeches, then marched down Duke of Gloucester Street. Many League members joined in the march to demand common-sense solutions to curb gun violence. Others joined the March for Our Lives in DC where nearly a million people gathered near the US Capitol for speeches, videos, and music performances. Similar to other historic marches, these events provided opportunities for the exercise of free speech focused on a critical issue of our day.

“Empowering Voters, Defending Democracy” is the new LWV slogan! As noted by LWVUS, “Voting is a critical cornerstone of our democracy. We must protect the right to vote with laws and policies that make sure all eligible voters are free to exercise that right.” It is imperative that we work to expand voter access, work to register all eligible Americans to vote, and guard against any covert or overt attempts to suppress the right to vote. Further, we need to be vigilant and ready to stand up and speak out when our democratic institutions, norms, and rights are threatened. These are serious times.

Please join us for our Annual Meeting on Thursday, June 7, 4:30-6:30 pm, in New Town’s Legacy Hall. The event includes a reception, brief business meeting, and remarks by the Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. Passionate about openness and inclusion in state government, Secretary Thomasson assists the Governor in recruiting and appointing Virginians for boards, commissions and councils. Her portfolio includes management of clemency petitions, restoration of civil rights, extraditions, authentication of documents and commissioning of Notary Publics. She is the Governor’s liaison to Virginia’s Indian Tribes as well as the Council on Women and was appointed by former Governor McAuliffe to the Virginia Information Technology Advisory Council. We look forward to seeing you at the meeting!

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Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy.

Certified Candidates and Ballot Order for 2018 June Primary (June 12)

Virginia Department of Elections has released the official count of candidates and ballot order for the June 12 primary. The 1st and 2nd Districts for the National House of Representatives are affected – this includes City of Willamsburg, James City County, and York County.

See the full list here.

Certified Candidates and Ballot Order for June 12, 2018 Primary Elections

Democratic Party

House of Representatives

District 1 Candidate Names    

Vangie A. Williams

John B. Suddarth

Edwin Santana Jr.

District 2 Candidate Names    

Elaine G. Luria

Karen Powers Mallard

 

Republican Party

House of Representatives

District 1 Candidate Name    

Robert J. “Rob” Wittman (unopposed)

District 2 Candidate Names    

Scott W. Taylor

Mary K. Jones

 

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President’s Column (Mary Schilling, LWV-WA President)

Having spent most of my life as a student or an administrator in higher education, I still think of my personal calendar in terms of fall and spring semesters. So at the moment, I’m feeling a bit like Janus, simultaneously looking back at fall semester and toward the spring semester.

During the fall, we were clearly focused on the November election with efforts toward voter registration, voter education and getting out the vote, culminating with working at the polls on Election Day. Most notable was the election outcome, making national news, which succeeded in bringing not only significant diversity but also near party parity in the House of Delegates in the Commonwealth. In collaboration with the Virginia Civic Engagement Table we hosted a training session in November on Activism for Busy People for our members and representatives of other community organizations who are committed to responsible activism and strategic advocacy. Sharing stories with legislators about how specific policies affect the lives of real people proves to be a highly effective advocacy strategy. Featuring the work of a William & Mary class of both law school and undergraduate students, an impressive program on Legislative Re-districting and Geographic Information Systems provided a great example of the application of technical research to the real-life political issue of re-districting. At the LWV-VA Legislative Pre-Session in Richmond, our robust Williamsburg contingent of 13 heard a number of non-profit agencies discuss their issues priorities related to proposed bills in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

Turning toward the spring semester, we are thrilled to offer our signature Great Decisions program, featuring eight Tuesday morning lectures on topical areas selected by the Foreign Affairs Association. Our thanks to Doug Wood and Doris Margulies for planning and promoting this popular series. The Women’s Legislative Roundtable on Wednesday mornings during General Assembly offers members an outstanding opportunity to exercise advocacy on issues based on League positions. I hope you consider joining us for one or more Wednesday programs. Watch for details on an important program in collaboration with W&M’s School of Education, the Village and the WJCC PTA Council. The program features a documentary film, “Backpack Full of Cash,” exploring the impact of privatization and the need to support funding for public education.

In one final look back, Don and I were delighted to host the League’s Holiday Party. Such a great turnout and a wonderful blend of long-time and new members! Thanks to Mary Anne Miller, Kathy Suslik, and all who brought food and wine to share. Study Updates From the LWVVA Program Director Anne Bradstreet Smith, VP. Williamsburg, LWV-VA Program Director All three League studies are progressing beautifully. The School Choice led by Carol Noggle (Prince William) and the Behavioral Health study led by Linda Rice (Williamsburg) have broad representation and great depth of expertise. Both teams have great enthusiasm for the subject and have developed substantive materials.

Mary Schilling President, LWV-WA