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The League Voice Newsletter

May 2011


What better way for the League of Women Voters to commemorate Memorial Day than to rededicate ourselves to our mission of making democracy work for all and protecting those rights for which our soldiers have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much.

The League perseveres in its critical voter protection work with even greater determination in response to the recent assaults on voters’ rights by state legislatures. During this month alone, six states have passed voter suppression legislation!

Our work in defense of clean air also continues unabated. The accountability ads calling on Senators Brown and McCaskill to “protect the people, not the polluters” have heightened the visibility of this issue and increased public discussion surrounding it, enhancing the impact on this vital public health issue – as was our intent when we chose to air the ads.

Read more below about our voting rights and clean air defense work, our activities in redistricting and global democracy, and the other important efforts that have engaged us in May.

As always, we look forward to hearing from you via our Facebook page and blog. Also, find us on Twitter: @LWV or www.twitter.com/LWV.

Elisabeth MacNamara
Elisabeth MacNamara
President, LWVUS

Clean Air Defense

The League’s efforts to defend the Clean Air Act by calling attention to votes by Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), blocking new air pollution standards, have made an impact on this vital public health issue and raised the importance of protecting clean air. The accountability ads aired for two weeks in early May, calling on both Senators to “protect the people, not the polluters.” Last week, the New York Times published a story noting the impact of our accountability ads on this vital issue. “League leaders were motivated by what they perceived as a shift from treating air pollution as a health threat to one based more on the economic impact of new rules.” 

Among letters-to-the-editor published soon after the ads were aired is one from Dr. Douglas C. Johnson, a Massachusetts pulmonary physician, to The Boston Herald: “…LWV should be applauded for asking that Brown protect the people, not the polluters, and for presenting the truth about his disregard for the health of 134,000 Massachusetts children with asthma.”  The Boston Globe published a front-page article quoting League President Elisabeth MacNamara and Board members. More recently, a letter was sent to Senator Scott Brown signed by numerous environmental and public health organizations and individuals asking him to stop changing the subject from clean air and the health of Americans. These same concerns have been echoed through op-eds, letters to the editor and blog postings

Voting Rights and the Election Process

Voter Protection Update: Across the nation, our state Leagues have done an outstanding job in fighting for voter protection! Despite these efforts and in an unprecedented assault on democracy, six state legislatures passed voter suppression legislation in recent weeks – legislation that could disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters nationwide. The six states are FL, SC, MO, KS, TX  and WI. New requirements in some of the new laws include: requiring photo ID to vote (some of the most restrictive ever passed); burdensome and unreasonable restrictions on voter registration drives (the LWVFL was forced to stop its voter registration campaigns); shortening early voting periods; and increasing residency requirements so that it’s virtually impossible for college students to vote.

One fundamental League argument against photo ID is that it erects barriers to voting which disproportionately affect minority populations. Read this new study: “Does Access to Required Forms of Identification Vary across the Population?” Also, learn more about the League’s Public Advocacy for Voter Protection (PAVP) project.

Be assured that the battles are not over; state Leagues are responding and examining options available to stop the legislation from going into effect. The Florida League is one example. For ongoing discussions and news from state Leagues, visit our Facebook page.

League Opposes Elimination of Election Assistance Commission: League President Elisabeth MacNamara sent a letter to the Committee on House Administration urging members to oppose HR 672, which would terminate the Election Assistance Commission and transfer some of its functions to the Federal Election Commission.


Our redistricting work continued in May, working closely with stakeholders in nine states — California, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia — to make sure the process is transparent and has adequate public input. Several states’ redistricting maps will be finalized in the coming weeks, and Leagues are working full time to ensure their views are heard.  Texas is by far one of the most active redistricting states right now. The League of Women Voters of Texas recently wrapped up a month of statewide educational forums bringing together civil rights groups, community leaders and voters to discuss how new district lines should be drawn.  View video here!

Earlier this month, the League of Women Voters of Georgia and the Atlanta Press Club hosted a “Redistricting: What’s at stake?  How it will affect Georgia and the Role of the Media.”   The roundtable discussion brought together League experts, partners, and prominent journalists to discuss the Georgia redistricting process and ongoing concerns related to transparency.  More than 70 people attended, including members of the press, elected officials, League members and interested citizens and resulted in a range of media coverage

Budget and Health Care Defense

The League and coalition partners sent a letter to Senators urging them to consider a number of important principles as discussions on the debt ceiling and FY 2012 budget continue.

Fair Judiciary

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina Convention featured the League’s Fair Judiciary Project, “Safeguarding U.S. Democracy: Quest for a More Diverse Judiciary.” The program included keynote remarks from the Honorable Ruth McGregor, former Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, and the presentation of the 2011 “Spirit of Democracy Award” to the Honorable Ernest A. Finney, Jr., former Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court.  The Convention attracted 80 attendees and local media coverage. Read the articles here and here.

Global Democracy

Legislative Fellows in Brazil: The Legislative Fellows Program recently successfully completed its outbound trip to Brazil. The American group attended a series of events and meetings, planned by Brazilian Legislative Fellow Alumni. Among the highlights were a “Young Women of Jacaña/Tremembe” event in Sao Paulo and the “3rd International Dialogue on Women’s Political Participation” in Curitiba. Learn more about the trip (and see photos) here.

Cuba: This month, LWVUS Senior Director of Global Democracy programs Zaida Arguedas presented  a paper on “Women in the Americas: Sharing Experiences” at the VIII International Conference, “Women in the Twenty-First Century,” in Havana, Cuba.

Civic Hosting of Leaders from Eurasia: This month, the League welcomed delegations of municipal leaders from Azerbaijan under the theme of “Accountable Governance.” The Leagues of Door County (WI) and Baltimore County (MD) are providing Azeri leaders with a unique look at American life and culture, including meetings with county officials and visits to local nonprofits. The national office was pleased to host Baltimore League members and Azeri delegates for an informal welcome lunch and gathering.

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Leaving a Legacy
Including the League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF)  in your will is among the easiest ways to offer support of the LWVEF's work for years to come. We suggest the following language to include the League as a beneficiary of a will or trust: " I give, devise, and bequeath to the League of Women Voters Education Fund, a charitable organization formed in the District of Columbia, with offices at 1730 M Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20036, {the sum of $___ } {___ percentage of my residuary estate}." If you already have a will, you can have your attorney add a codicil to include the LWVEF. After you've added the League, please contact Lauren Frank so we can list you as a member of our Carrie Chapman Catt Legacy Society.

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