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© 1999 - 2007 League of Women Voters of Alabama and
League of Women Voters of the United States

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The Voter
Fall 2007 Edition

Published December 6, 2007


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The Voter
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President's Paragraphs

At the State Board planning retreat in September, the Board evaluated resources, reviewed our mission and goals and discussed the best strategy to increase our impact.  In all our discussions, we kept coming back to the need to grow membership.  All the Alabama Local Leagues have great ideas and dedicated people. All are doing good things to promote and preserve good government and democracy.  All need more members in general, and more members willing and trained to take leadership roles in particular, to be able to significantly increase their activities and impact.  It was decided that additional resources should be committed to membership recruitment, both by increasing league visibility statewide and by specific activities to assist in Local League growth and to increase MAL (member at large) memberships.

The "ask" and increased public visibility were identified as primary ways to increase membership.  LWVUS has reported that its Membership Initiative, tested as a pilot project by several Leagues around the country, found that people will join the League if  someone they know actually asks them to join.  Too often we assume that everyone knows what the League is and does.  We believe that if our friends had the time, money and interest, they would already have joined.  Since becoming President of the State League, I have learned that a great many educated, civic minded people (including those who are active in other organizations with which the League works on issues of common concern and those who "admire and respect" the League) do not really know very much about the League.

Let's all make a New Year's resolution to tell our friends, family and acquaintances about the League and invite them to join.  You may find that they had wondered why we hadn't asked before.

The Board also concluded that in view of limited resources the State Board should focus this year on priority issues affecting State government.  These include the Initiative and Referendum consensus, the study of offsite voting, a review of our healthcare positions, monitoring HAVA implementation, working to improve the legislative process in Alabama, and working with others to affect important legislation proposed in the 2008 Session that is consistent with our priorities.  The Board will formally adopt priorities for the upcoming legislative session at its December Board meeting.  In the 2007 session our legislative priorities included constitutional reform, a ban on Pac to Pac transfers, lobbying and ethics reform, voting and other election issues, legislative process improvements, natural resources and judicial selection reform.

It was also decided that the State League should support national and local issues when needed through appropriate calls to action, facilitating communication among Leagues, and authorizing and assisting in Local League lobbying efforts at the State level as requested when consistent with existing State positions.  It was decided that in 2007-2008 State League resources did not permit participation by the State League in the international efforts of LWVUS or extensive participation in national efforts such as the attempt to secure DC voting rights.

At the September State Board Meeting, we updated, revised and clarified the League Advocacy Policy and readopted Nonpartisanship and Board attendance policies.   Among other things, the Advocacy Policy addresses notice and approval requirements prior to official Local League action involving contact with members of the State Legislature or State Executive Branch.  The policy is designed to be sure that the League speaks with one voice and that our efforts are coordinated for maximum effect.  This and all State League policies can be found on the website at www.lwval.org.

Off-Board positions have been accepted by:  Jean Johnson, who has agreed to continue to be our technical director; Nancy Ekberg who, along with Jeanne Lacey, will represent us and keep us informed and motivated on Constitutional Reform, and will do the same on transportation issues; and Jeanine Normand who has expressed an interest in helping us with fund raising and publicity. 

Council 2008 will be on May 3 in Birmingham.  Mark your calendars.  Speaker and workshop announcements coming soon!

It can be frustrating fighting the same battles over and over again. The alternative, however, is simply not acceptable.   We have only to listen to the international news to know how fragile democracy can be, or the national news to know how easily individual rights can be lost in the interest of "security", or our local news to know how rare civil discourse and reasoned decision making are in a polarized society where too many leaders practice a divide and conquer strategy.  Protecting democracy and our civil society is important work and worth the effort.  It is important that the League keep on keeping on.  Thank you all again for your devotion.

-- Mary Lynn Bates
League of Women Voters of Alabama

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Local League News

Greater Birmingham

A successful candidate forum was held September 18th and was the only forum at which all the candidates for Mayor of Birmingham participated together.  Two hundred and eighty people attended for standing room only status at a local night-time venue that has state of the art technology for audio and video.  For the 90 minute duration of the event, scenes of Birmingham were displayed in the background behind the candidates and the League’s logo was above their heads.  Approximately 18,000 viewers watched the broadcast on CBS 42.  The local NPR station WBHM also broadcast it the next day.  LWVGB initiated the forum and members collaborated with members of two young professionals groups, Catalyst and Rotaract Club of Birmingham, plus 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham Black Journalist Association and the local CBS station to make it a successful event.  We had wonderful participation by local members as well as from the participating groups.

Joyce Lanning, a LWVGB member who is interested in climate change, attended the UN Conference for NGOs as part of a LWV group.  Joyce said "Picture yourself sitting in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations.  You are one of the 1726 representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations from 62 countries.  It was sobering and energizing to be there. I’m still awed that the LWV made it possible for me to experience this international event, and to meet others from all over the world addressing in their own ways this unprecedented climate challenge/opportunity."  You may see more of her information on the LWVGB web site.   Joyce completed the workshop in Tennessee offered by the Climate Project after seeing the movie and reading the book An Inconvenient Truth.  She is now presenting the information to local groups.

Three voter service activities have been staffed.  One was at a local event held for ex-felons and families.  Nancy Ekberg was able to help attendees begin the process of applying for voting registration.  Connie Arnwine helped with a local church’s wish to register members and Yvonne Brakefield helped residents of a retirement home with registration, change of registration address and application for absentee ballots.

LWVGB has grown its Observer Corp through the leadership of Ann Smith.  Added to the observers at the Jefferson County Commission meetings and the Birmingham City Council meetings are observers at the Transit Authority and Transit Board meetings, Birmingham Water Works Board meeting and the Jefferson County Personnel Board meetings.  Presence of the League at these meetings has resulted in good press for LWVGB.

For the Immigration Study, Jean Johnson started the LWVGB with a blog.  It is hoped that this means of communication will help in other projects.  The site has all the immigration materials, other related resources and questions and comments by local members.  LWVGB will use this blog for the LWV Program Planning process to solicit member ideas.

East Alabama

The League of East Alabama got off to a good start with Dr. Wayne Flynt speaking to the September Membership meeting on the future of education politics in Alabama. Several new members have joined the League at that and subsequent meetings.

Emphasis this fall has been on the immigration study. We all learned a lot, but still didn't feel competent to recommend solutions to the many problems involved.

The monthly brown bag lunch meeting has been resumed. These mainly address local issues. The December meeting will deal with water problems.

Amy Wright, secretary of the East Alabama League, is hosting a Christmas party December 9, a just–for-fun gathering after a fall of hard work.


The Montgomery League (LWVM) is focusing much of its attention on learning more about immigration. Since September Montgomery Voter articles condensed information in the National Voter study briefs and presented articles focusing on the impacts of immigration on Alabama and the Gulf Coast. These materials will be discussed at the November General meeting. LWVM also continues with its local government study. At the October General Meeting Dr. Bradley Moody discussed city-county consolidation issues and highlighted the empirical research findings on consolidation effectiveness. The study committee chaired by Ruth Ott is writing its study report. Finally, Merlin Newton and Helen Tavish have been named to handle LWVM coverage of the materials related to the state study of Initiative and Referendum.

-- Rosalind Toles and Anne Permaloff, Co-Presidents


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Transportation Update

In a meeting in Montgomery on October 15, as follow-up to the statewide Transportation Means Business Conference that was held in April in Montgomery, the planners decided to continue the effort for public transportation through a grassroots effort  that was recommended by Speaker of the House Seth Hammett and the Governor's office.  Planners will review legislation offered in the past Legislative Session and research bills to be offered in the 2008 Session.  Members of the planning committee will meet with legislators and business leaders to see how the committee might move public transportation forward. Representatives Cam Ward and Mac Gipson have offered bills in the past session and will probably offer bills again in 2008.
A meeting was held by the Delta Regional Authority on Friday, October 26th in Selma.  The Mississippi Delta region has money available to provide funding to transportation projects but had not considered including public transit until many voices in earlier meetings and at the Selma meeting spoke urging them to  include public transit in their planning.  .
All of these meetings around the state show the need for all of us to speak up for public transportation whenever we are with officials.  They eventually get the message.
Nancy Ekberg represented the League at these meetings.  For more information contact her Nancy.

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Constitutional Coalition Meeting

The Constitution Convention Coalition, with the League as one of its more than 30 members, held a very successful Summit on Saturday, November 17th at Birmingham Southern College. Attendees from throughout the state, representing many organizations, heard about plans for bills calling for a people's convention that will be introduced in the 2008 Legislative Session which begins on February 5th, as well as College Council plans to organize a rally again in 2008.  Attendees heard a strong Power Analysis presentation which identified the persons and organizations that support reform and those that do not, as well as those in the middle who need convincing.  Attendees participated in a "Knowledge Cafe" exercise in which tables of five persons answered one of three questions concerning a convention and then rotated to other tables to answer the other two questions.  All questions focused on support and opposition to reform, underlying questions that reformers are now facing and steps required to take the movement forward.  Attendees also discussed messages that could supplement "Let the People Vote" in order to convince non-supporters that the cause is valid.  Finally, attendees heard of communities that were harmed by lack of home rule and were urged to add their own messages to the mix.  A wrap-up of the Summit will be available on the ACCR Web site, www.constitutionalreform.org.

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CR Factoid

DID YOU KNOW that people who fear that delegates to a constitutional convention would not know how to write a new one, don't stop to realize that citizens have written the last six Alabama Constitutions?  What's more, there are excellent models or guides.  Two of them can be found on the ACCR Website under the category RESOURCES.  One of them is the Proposed 1973 Constitution written by a Commission organized by then Governor Albert Brewer and the second one is the 1983 Constitution written totally by the Alabama legislators.  The one written in 1973 under Gov. Brewer was dropped by his successor, Governor George Wallace.  The one written in 1983 was legally challenged and the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional because our 1901 Constitution states that only citizen delegates may write a whole new constitution and that legislators can change only article by article.  Both documents are at  www.constitutionalreform.org

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MALs Play Important Role in Advocacy

Members at Large have a key role to play in LWVAL legislative advocacy efforts. An example of how this can work occurred a few years ago when a key committee vote was scheduled on a major ethics reform bill that the League supported. The bill had passed one house and would achieve passage in the other house if reported from committee. A member of the LWVAL Advocacy Team learned the swing vote in committee was wavering. The legislator, a supporter of reform, was worried that no voters from his district had contacted him in support of the legislation but opponents had. So, the League sent a message to the MALs asking them to e-mail, fax, or call the legislator urging him to vote for the reform bill. Calls from just four MALS from his district were all the legislator needed in order to vote the way he wanted and knew was correct. Contacts from League members outside his district would not have been as effective.

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LWVAL Offsite Voting Study

Six members of the State Study met with Secretary of State Beth Chapman in October.  Alabama is one of the first states to allow military and overseas citizens access to registering to vote and to apply for absentee ballots via the Internet.  This is being done through the Overseas Vote Foundation* (www.overseasvotefoundation.org/)
The Secretary of State also wants to offer military and overseas citizens the opportunity to vote online.  She will be working with the Alabama Legislature in the upcoming session to get that bill passed.

The LWVAL Study Committee will be researching off site voting, absentee voting, and early voting in the coming months.                                    

-- Sandy Robinson
LWVAL Past President

SoS Beth Chapman, former LWVAL President Sandy Robinson, LWVAL President Mary Lynn Bates

From the press release from LWVUS website at:

League Joins New Alliance With Overseas Vote Foundation

Overseas Citizen and Military Voter Outreach Broadens

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO – Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) today announced a sweeping list of new Alliance Partners including the League of Women Voters, the National Campus Voter Registration Project, the National Defense Committee, the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas and the Election Administration Research Center, University of California, Berkeley. The new OVF Alliance Partners join the National Association of Secretaries of State to establish a broad spectrum of support for Overseas Vote Foundation. Each OVF Alliance Partner furthers OVF’s outreach efforts toward a new community of voters or voter-oriented organizations. All OVF Alliance Partners plan to run the VOTERTOOLSTM* Platform, targeted for release in August 2006.......

League of Women Voters (LWV) http://www.lwv.org: "The League will work with OVF to reach overseas and military voters with a voter service message they can truly use. We are delighted to be able to run the VOTERTOOLS Platform on our Web site for the 2006 election – this marks the first time the League will have an effective way to reach overseas voters who may need our voter services," said Mary G. Wilson, President, League of Women Voters.....

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League Blog, LWVAL Dialogue, Debuts

There's a new meeting place for all LWVAL Members! The great news is that you don't have to leave the comfort of your own home. The meeting place is online at LWVAL's new blog, LWVAL Dialogue, at:

You should have received your username and password in an email from wordpress@lwval.org. If not, follow the “Lost your password?” link or contact Jean (jjohnson@lwval.org or 205 871-8194). 

LWVAL Dialogue is a private blog for conversation among LWVAL members. You can read what other Alabama League members think on various topics and weigh in with your own comments. The Immigration Study and Initiative and Referendum (I&R) are the hot topics right now, and we want more. What local, state and national issues would you like to discuss? Is your League undertaking a fantastic citizen/voter education project? Do you have questions or concerns about League operation? Want to discuss the election process? It’s your blog - voice your opinion! Add your suggestions for topics in a comment on the blog or pass your ideas on to Jean (jjohnson@lwval.org or 205 871-8194).

Visit www.lwval.org/wordpress soon. Read other member comments and post your own. So, what do YOU have to say?

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Painless Support for LWVAL Ed Fund - Just Shop!

It’s time to do your holiday shopping. Why not get a little money for the LWVAL Education Fund while you shop? It costs you nothing! Shop online for your holiday gifts at your favorite stores through either of the two shopping portals described below. The stores contribute a small percentage of the cost of your items to the LWVAL Education Fund. How easy is that! Your items cost the same price regardless.

Here’s how to do it. Go online to
or to
Start your online shopping on either of these two sites, and the LWVAL Ed Fund will be designated as your preferred charity to receive a portion of the sales revenue. (By the way, you may see “Birmingham” noted as the location of the LWVAL Ed Fund. This is just the physical location of the state League’s current address. All proceeds go to the state LWVAL Ed Fund.)

There are hundreds of well-known stores in which to shop. Here are just a few examples:
  • MyCause.com/LWVALEF - 36 stores donating 2%-12% of purchase. No registration necessary. Barnes & Noble, Dell, Lands’ End, Office Depot, PetSmart, KBToys, Sears, Tavelocity, Wine.com, etc.
  • iGive.com/LWVALEF - 685 stores donating up to 26% of purchase (most in approx. 1%-4% range). Registration necessary, but LWVALEF gets $5 just for your registration! All stores above + Apple, Brookstone, Crabtree & Evelyn, Gap, Nordstrom, Overstock.com, Patagonia, Wolf Camera, etc., etc., etc. If you have a favorite store or service, chances are it’s an iGive participant. (But sorry, not Amazon.)

And hey, there's no finding a parking place, no trudging the mall with all your bags, and no waiting in line! Most importantly, it's secure.

So, please go to iGive.com/LWVALEF or MyCause.com/LWVALEF to do your holiday shopping this year, and thanks so much for supporting the LWVAL Education Fund!                     
 -- Jean Johnson
LWVAL Technical Director

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In Memoriam

Barbara Nichols of the Mobile League and State Board Member,
died on August 30, 2007 after a long battle.
The League of Women Voters of Alabama expresses our deep appreciation for her years of service and our sympathy to her family and friends.

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LWVAL Board of Directors

To contact LWVAL Board or Off-Board Members, see the LWVAL Directories. If questions or difficulty with access, contact Jean Johnson at jjohnson@lwval.org or 205 871-8194.

    Mary Lynn Bates

    1st Vice President & Voter Service
    Scarlett Gaddy

    Yvonne Brakefield

    Ginnie Bennett


    Sarah McDonald

    Anne Permaloff

    Natural Resources
    Leonette Slay

    Voter Editor
    Charlotte Ward

    Ruth L. Wright


    ACCR Co-Coordinators
    Nancy Ekberg

    Jeanne Lacey

    Fundraising / Media Coordinator
    Jeanine Normand

    Transportation Coordinator
    Nancy Ekberg

    Technical Director
    Jean Johnson

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