Next Friday, League of Women Voters’ leaders from across the country will gather in Washington, DC, for our 50th National Convention! As we prepare for five busy days of discussions and decisions, the issues that concern us in this 2012 presidential election year are foremost in our minds. Witness our Convention theme – Power the Vote: Imagine, Commit, Act!
We launched our Power the Vote initiative earlier this year and are hard at work to ensure all voters are protected and prepared to participate fully in this year’s elections across the nation as you can see below. Also this month, because the flood of money in elections is drowning out deliberate discussion, we began airing new radio ads in Maine and Tennessee to urge U.S. Senators in those states to help close the floodgates. On the clean air front, your comments to the EPA helped surpass the one million mark on its proposed new industrial carbon rule! Read about these issues and much more below to find out what’s been happening in May. And let us know what you’ve been doing by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.
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Voting Rights and the Election Process
Do You Have Any Grads in Your Life? Are They Registered to Vote?
Send your graduate the League’s graduation/voter registration e-card. This is a great time to reach out to the young people in your life and ask them if they’re registered to vote! If you know anyone who has moved since the last election, tell them they might need to update their voter registration, and it’s easy to do at www.VOTE411.org!
Power the Vote and Civic Engagement Go Hand-in-Hand
On May 31, LWVUS Executive Director Nancy Tate was a guest speaker at the media launch of an exciting new campaign, "America4America," now underway thanks to TV/film actress America Ferrera and the League’s partner, Voto Latino. Tate shared the League’s exciting Power the Vote election year work and lent support to “America4America,” which seeks to engage young Latino leaders in dialogues about the issues that matter most to them. Read the event blog post.
Voter Protection Action Nationwide
Minnesota: The LWV of Minnesota joined the ACLU, Common Cause Minnesota, Jewish Community Action and five individual Minnesota voters in petitioning the state Supreme Court to remove from the November ballot a proposed constitutional amendment requiring voters to present photo IDs at the polls. The coalition pointed out that the ballot question does not accurately describe the amendment. Read a media report and view the press conference.
Virginia: The Governor signed new voter ID legislation that the LWV of Virginia had urged the Governor to veto. But the League was encouraged by his executive order, directing “the State Board of Elections to take necessary steps to ensure that all eligible Virginia voters are made aware of the provisions of these new laws and are given the necessary information in order to provide an appropriate form of identification when voting.” The state is sending new voter registration cards and additional information to every voter, and the League was named as an organization vital to helping educate voters about the new requirement.
Pennsylvania: The LWV of Pennsylvania and its partners announced they are challenging the state’s new voter photo ID law that would disenfranchise thousands of state voters this year. “A law that erodes the cherished right to vote of one person impacts everyone’s right to vote and must be protected for all,” said LWVPA Executive Director Bonita Hoke. Former LWVUS President Nancy Neuman applauded the League’s work.
Ohio: The Governor signed a bill repealing the state’s controversial 2011 election law. In the face of a referendum on the November ballot, which would have given Ohio voters a chance to voice their opinion about the new law, this unprecedented step leads to more questions and unresolved issues: Are state legislators allowed to repeal a bill that has not yet taken effect and that is up for referendum? Is the Secretary of State allowed to remove the referendum from the November ballot? The Ohio League opposed the repeal and supported the November referendum.
Texas: The three federal judges tasked with reviewing Texas’ voter identification law issued an order scolding the state for its activities in “delaying the Defendants’ ability to receive and analyze the data and documents in a timely fashion.” The LWV of Texas has joined with other groups in the state to block the implementation of this law.
Florida: Voters suffered a setback when judges ruled to allow implementation of both the congressional and reworked state senate redistricting maps, despite repeated challenges by the League and other groups on the grounds the maps violated the new Fair Districts standards in the state. The League vowed to continue its fight on behalf of voters. Want to hear more about key League efforts during this nationwide redistricting cycle? Download our redistricting white paper here.
On the Hill: The Voter Empowerment Act (VEA) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It seeks to protect the right to vote. Read the League’s statement on VEA and its blog.
Registering Young Voters
Leagues worked hard through this spring to help high school students register to vote. Are you interested in encouraging registration among young people in your community? Download our helpful training manual here, and plan to show and/or link to our catchy new “Take Control” online video.
Money in Elections
Closing the Floodgates
Radio Ads: From May 24-June 1, the League is running radio ads, which urge Tennessee Senators Alexander and Corker and Maine Senators Collins and Snowe to work to stop secret money and support full disclosure. Listen to the ads airing in Bangor and Portland, Maine, and Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee.
Action Alert: Tell your Senators it’s time to clean up campaigns by supporting the DISCLOSE Act of 2012. Already in this election cycle we have seen a slew of money from secret donors, corporations and special interests. Congress can close the floodgates against secret big-money special interests in our elections. The DISCLOSE Act of 2012 would require the transparency needed to allow voters to make their own decisions while shining the light on big-money outside spending in this election.
Montana Case: The League signed on to an amicus brief in the American Tradition Partnership vs. Montana case sent to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case asks the Court to uphold the state’s Corrupt Practices Act and could potentially lead to the reversal of the previous Citizens United decision.
Opposition to S. 1100: The League joined other civic organizations in a letter to Senators Collins and Lieberman voicing solid opposition to the “Keeping Politics out of Federal Contracting Act.” This bill would block public disclosure of campaign contributions and spending by government contractors. Contractor campaign spending would be kept in the shadows, and the public would have no way to find out if contracts are being awarded based on money rather than merit.
Clean Air Defense
One Million Comments and Counting
The League and its environmental allies have succeeded in sending more than ONE MILLION comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed new rule to control industrial carbon pollution. The regulation needs your support in order to clean up the air we breathe and decrease asthma attacks and permanent damage to our children's lungs. The comment period has been extended to June 25, in large part due to the number of responses. If you’ve not yet commented in favor of this new rule, please visit our action page for more information on this important standard and to submit a comment.
Latest News on the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA)
The first meeting will be in Doha, Qatar, on July 11 and 12. The Tunisian government recently selected Association des Responsables de Formation et de Gestion Humaine dans les Enterprises (ARFORGHE, the Association of Professionals in Human Resources) as the League’s nongovernmental partner in this endeavor. League Project Director Zaida Arguedas just returned from fruitful meetings with that partner organization.
Diversity in the Courts
On Law Day, May 1, the LWV of Spartanburg County announced the winners of its judicial diversity media competition for area high school students, "PICTURE THIS: The 5 W's of Judicial Diversity – Who? What? When? Where? Why?": Carder Jones, Natalie Norris and Keegan Patrick Duesterhaus. “We wanted to give students the chance to learn about the importance of judicial diversity, so we asked them to explore visually the notion that a diverse judiciary is important to South Carolina because it instills in citizens confidence that the courts are fair and impartial,” said Project Chair Linda Bilanchone.
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Do You Need to Update Your Will?
Have you moved? Had a child? Gotten married recently? Or maybe there's a new grandchild or stepchild in your life? Any one of these major life events is reason enough to update your will. It is always important to stay in touch with your attorney regarding any changes in estate and probate law. While you're updating your plans, don't forget to include a gift for your favorite charities, like the League of Women Voters Education Fund – to strengthen the pillars of our democracy for years to come. If you have already included a gift for the LWV in your will or trust, but have not previously informed us, or if you have been thinking about setting up a gift that provides income, such as a charitable gift annuity, please contact the Development office by email or at 202-263-1355.