Election's in the Air
September was “voter registration month” with registration closing dates looming by the end of the month. Leagues have been working hard in their communities registering voters wherever possible, holding candidate debates and issue forums, and educating voters for the upcoming elections.
Also this month, state and local Leagues led the way in our national Clean Air Promise campaign. As you can see from the press clips in the link above, I have been traveling to stand alongside state Leagues as we speak out for clean air and public health. You can expect more news this fall as I travel to other states.
In this issue, we share our recent activities on the Promise, voting rights, redistricting and many other issues. Continue engaging with us via our Facebook page, where our supporter numbers have topped 9,500 and stimulating topics are being discussed. Also, follow us on Twitter: @LWV or www.twitter.com/LWV.
Voting Rights and the Election Process
Voting Rights Protection – Hard at Work and Having an Impact: Leagues continue to work to protect voting rights and we see the impact at the state level. In South Carolina, the state League signed on to a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking the government to deny pre-clearance on the newly-passed state voter ID law. In New Hampshire, the state League has been in the spotlight for its work to sustain a veto of the controversial voter ID requirement in that state; read a Manchester Union Leader story. In a discussion of voting rights issues, a Rolling Stone article cites the League’s activities as do other recent online communications. In addition, League President Elisabeth MacNamara is cited in this article on voter ID laws. Further coverage includes NH Public Radio, an Associated Press story in the Houston Chronicle, and NH Watchdog.
Federal Judge Upholds Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: Late this month, in a significant ruling, a federal judge upheld section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of voter suppression to seek approval before implementing changes to their voting laws. Recent state legislative sessions demonstrate the need for such continued oversight – multiple legislatures implemented voter photo ID and proof of citizenship requirements as a prerequisite to voting as well as shortening early voting periods and attacking Election Day registration. Read more about this here.
Justice Department Aligns with League on TX Redistricting: Recently, the League submitted a comment letter urging the Department of Justice to reject the blatantly racial gerrymandering of congressional districts in Texas. The Department indicated that it believes the plan fails to comply with requirements set forth by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Read the League’s press release here and news coverage here. The League's letter pointed out that the Texas plan disenfranchised minority voters, in clear violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act. The League was joined by a significant number of individuals and civil rights, civic, and community organizations in repeatedly testifing that the map was clearly designed to benefit lawmakers’ partisan interests, while egregiously shortchanging minority voters and fracturing close-knit communities of interest. The Texas League and other key states continue to stand up for the rights of minority voters as the redistricting process wraps up across the country.
Leagues Lead Fair Redistricting Battle Nationwide: This month, in addition to the activity in Texas, League leaders in Allentown and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) provided testimony at official redistricting hearings. They urged the state’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission to adopt a fair and transparent process that results in districts that preserve the cores of existing communities, do not dilute the voting strength of minority voters, and establish improved partisan balance across the Commonwealth. In Florida, the League and its partners celebrated an important court victory upholding the state’s new Fair Districts amendments. Meanwhile, the Ohio League was commended for its role in promoting a fairer process through its successful redistricting competition, and the League of Women Voters of Arizona continued to celebrate the winners of its own redistricting competition, while serving as an ongoing “watchdog” of the state’s redistricting commission.
Clean Air Defense
The Clean Air Promise: After Labor Day and with Congress back in session, the League continues to raise awareness of the public health consequences of weakening EPA enforcement of the Clean Air Act. Ohio, Michigan, Montana and New Jersey launched their Clean Air Promise campaigns with highly visible events in August. League President MacNamara helped to launch the Promise campaign in Missouri. Earlier this month, the League sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives asking them to make the Clean Air Promise. The media and community leaders have taken note of all this activity: see the updated news page and please visit www.peoplenotpolluters.org to share your story, make the promise and send a message asking your elected officials to make the promise. You can also make the promise on our Facebook page.
House Passes Sweeping Anti-Clean Air TRAIN Act: On September 23, leading environmental groups called on the Senate to reject the TRAIN Act and commended the White House veto threat.
Pollution Regulation Delays: In an early September statement, the League voiced disappointment with President Obama’s decision to delay issuing a new clean air standard for ozone smog pollution. Late this month, the League and coalition groups sent a letter to the White House expressing deep concern that the Environmental Protection Agency will not meet its commitment to propose long overdue Clean Air Act standards limiting dangerous carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. The League asked the President to reaffirm the administration’s commitment to issue strong standards as the Clean Air Act requires.
League Opposes House Majority Leader Cantor’s Legislative Agenda: On September 7, The League and coalition groups sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives opposing the suite of bills contained in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s legislative agenda memo that would block the Clean Air Act’s ability to clean up life-threatening pollution.
Global Day of Climate Action: On September 24, Leagues and others around the world called attention to the need to get off of fossil fuels and move towards a sustainable, renewably-powered future. The League was part of this worldwide demonstration, Moving Planet, helping to send a message to policymakers that it's time to get moving on the climate crisis.
League Hosts Eurasian Visitors: The League of Women Voters of St. Paul (MN) is hosting board of elections officials and young journalists from the Democratic Republic of Georgia during September 23-October 1. Highlighting the week’s activities are meetings with radio stations and local newspapers and visits with state Senator John Harrington, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, and the local bureau of elections. In addition to touring the state capitol, the Georgians will share their concerns with a Macalester College class on human rights.
Nationwide Activism for Diverse and Independent Courts: In St. Louis, Missouri, League President Elisabeth MacNamara joined judges, Bar leaders, and nonprofit executives from around the country at the “National Summit on Defending Merit Selection” to share best practices for shoring up the merit selection of judges in states where it is under attack. The League of Women Voters of South Carolina marked Constitution Day, September 16, by announcing the continuation of its statewide education campaign “Quest for a More Diverse Judiciary.” League Deputy Director Zaida Arguedas participated in a panel, “Path to the Bench,” at the national convention of the Hispanic National Bar Association in Dallas, Texas, which made recommendations for diverse candidates interested in pursuing state and federal judgeships. Kansas and South Carolina will continue their statewide “Quest for a More Diverse Judiciary” efforts for an additional year, through August 2012.
Lobbying, Transparency and Deficit Reduction
League Urges Lobbying Disclosure for Members of Deficit Reduction Committee: The League and coalition partners sent a letter to members of the Committee on Deficit Reduction urging them to take steps immediately, in the interest of transparency, to voluntarily disclose the efforts of outside interests to lobby them on matters related to the business of the committee.
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Members in the Spotlight
Florence Hedeen, LWV Ruth S. Shur Fellow
“The League of Women Voters always seemed to me to epitomize women with a voice.”
Leagues in the Spotlight
LWV of Arizona Holds Redistricting Contest
"Could you redistrict Arizona to create at least 10 out of 30 competitive legislative districts, while protecting the voting rights of Arizona citizens?"
The League’s invaluable election information website, VOTE411.org contains the most current election dates and laws nationwide together with other state-by-state resources, including voters’ guides compiled by state and local Leagues. This one-stop-shop continues to enfranchise millions of voters.
Did You Know?
September 29, 1986 – Democrats and Republicans set aside their political differences to introduce sweeping tax reform legislation.