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The birth of a healthy baby girl. In some cultures, that is considered a tragedy. In others, it is just not as important or joyful as the birth of a baby boy. One weekend this past October, I found myself more determined than ever to fight for the democratic rights of all human beings and to be extra vigilant to threats to the rights of those, like baby girls, who continue to face prejudice and discrimination. That Saturday, in Montgomery, I experienced the great joy that should come with the birth of a baby girl (my granddaughter). The next day, as I watched Iron Jawed Angels with the Montgomery League, I was reminded of the great difficulties that have often faced baby girls as they grow into women and are treated as less than equal.
Our League of Women Voters is not just for women. We have male and female members and we work to preserve and protect the right to vote and the fruits of freedom and democracy for all. Nevertheless, the “women voters” in our name stands for something important. It is a reminder that for some, like women, voting rights were not and are not automatic, even in a supposed democracy. They had to be fought for and were won and are protected today with sacrifice. It also stands for the responsibility that comes with full citizenship. Once our founding mothers won the right to vote, they had to exercise that right, to become “voters,” and they continued to work to protect voting rights and to improve our democracy at all levels of government.
You should all be proud of the work Leagues all over the State did during this past election to educate the public, register voters, help at Boards of Registrars, work the polls, and so much more, to make the process go smoother and make democracy stronger with new and better informed voters. Our Judicial Voter Guide was well received and the State League had letters to the editor encouraging informed voting published in three major metropolitan papers. Regardless of who you supported in the Presidential race, inauguration day should be celebrated by all of us because it stands for the peaceful and civil change of power in response to a free and democratic vote of the people. I have never been prouder of being a citizen of the United States than when listening to John McCain’s incredibly gracious concession speech and Barack Obama’s equally gracious victory speech.
The current economic situation will make 2009 challenging in many ways, including for our state and local governments, but there is much we can and should accomplish in the new year. We should reach out to all the new voters and to those newly concerned about how government is affecting their daily lives to ask them to join us in striving to make government better. We need to follow legislative developments on issues important to us and act when we can to influence legislation. Our website will alert you to the progress of relevant bills. We also will post legislative priorities for the League for the 2009 legislative session.
Please note the article in this Voter about ACCR’s mock constitutional convention and consider whether you can help in that effort. If you are relatively new to League, you should know that the League has been actively working for a new Alabama constitution since well before ACCR was formed. Excellent League materials detailing the reasons for the League’s position and its history on this issue are on our website. Read them and then tell others why this issue is so important.
Congratulations to Joyce Lanning for being chosen to join the national League’s task force on global climate change. Joyce is a member of the Birmingham League and recently accepted the State Board’s appointment to the off board position of Chair for Natural Resources. We plan to be more active in addressing environmental issues in the next year, especially those related to coastal zone management and water issues.
There is much to celebrate. I wish you all a joyful holiday season with family and friends.
Mary Lynn Bates
President, League of Women Voters of Alabama
Beth Kellum Elected to Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
This January Elizabeth “Beth” Kellum will be sworn in as a member of the Court of Criminal Appeals. A member of the Montgomery League, Beth has served on both the LWVAL and Montgomery Boards.
The Court of Criminal Appeals will be one of a very few appellate courts in the nation with a female majority. In the interview for this Voter article, Beth reflected on how recent women’s involvement in the legal and political world really is. When her grandmothers were born, women could not vote. For many years, law school classes were virtually all male. When the first woman (Annie Lola Price) was appointed to a state appellate court in 1951, she was ineligible for state jury duty. It was not until 1966 that women began serving on state court juries. Today, women comprise almost 50% of law school classes, over 20% of Alabama attorneys are women, and there are female judges at every level of Alabama’s court system – from municipal and district courts all the way to Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
Beth won her general election race with over 56% of the vote, winning 46 of 67 counties. Running as a Republican, her primary race had several candidates which caused a runoff election. All the candidates in the primary were female.
Unlike races for the Alabama Supreme Court, appeals court campaigns are low budget and receive much less publicity. Beth noted that it is important to “get out and do most of it yourself with help from friends and family.” She ran her own campaign, serving as candidate, secretary, treasurer, and more. Friends and family designed her web page, put up signs, emailed friends, and donated money.
An important part of Beth’s election campaign strategy was to meet the voters. In the last weeks of the campaign a party-organized bus tour took all the statewide candidates to each of the state’s 67 counties. Voters often told her “no statewide candidates have ever been here before.”
Beth’s campaign was built on her personal beliefs:
“[L]ike the League, I believe it is important to have an informed electorate. Voters tend to know little about the court, the candidates and their qualifications. I conducted a true grassroots campaign. ... People want to put a face to a name. While it was important to me to tell the voter about my qualifications [she is currently senior staff attorney for the court] for office and that my values are their values, it was equally important to listen to their concerns and answer their questions about the court. I want the public to know that my decisions will be based on the law, and will be made in a fair and impartial manner … and that the separation of powers and checks and balances built into our governmental system must be maintained.”
In one sense the campaign closed a circle. Beth’s first political memory is her father’s 1968 campaign for county commissioner. She followed behind her father asking people to “vote for my daddy.” This year her father and mother were asking people to “vote for my daughter.”
-- Anne Permaloff
President, LWV of Montgomery and
Editorial: The League in Politics
Whew! Itıs finally over. Maybe the League should conduct a study on how to preserve free speech while limiting political campaigns to a few months!
Recently the daughter of a long-time active leaguer told of a college student in a class she was teaching, who, after she had mentioned the League, asked, since women got the vote years ago, why there was still a need for a league of women voters. The answer, of course, is in our policy statement: the League promotes the active and informed participation of all citizens in government. A look around the state in this election year shows that Alabama Leaguers take our policy seriously. First, congratulations to Montgomery Leaguer and former state board member Beth Kellum on her election to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Beth holds the highest elective office of any current Leaguer, but she is one of many League members holding office, from Birmingham Leaguers in the Legislature and other judges in the Montgomery League to the sheriff and probate judge of Lee County (both men, incidentally). Numbers of Leaguers have served on city councils and as appointed members of planning commissions, school boards, and other government boards and commissions.
While League board members, who represent the League to their communities, must scrupulously avoid visible partisan activities while they are in office, many “regular members” are active in their parties. A group of Auburn women who went to Florida the weekend before the election to campaign for their candidate included three League members. Get them to tell you their adventures sometime. At least one Birmingham leaguer also campaigned out-of-state.
When a team of three was needed at each large polling site in Lee County to tabulate write-in votes, the probate judge turned to the League to provide the leaders of the teams. The League provided the needed team leaders; the college party organizations, who were supposed to provide the remaining members, came up short! And, as always, there was a generous sprinkling of Leaguers among the poll workers.
In Lee County, in preparation for a record turnout, a large number of first-time poll workers were recruited. When they asked why on earth all those amendments were on the ballot, Leaguers had the answer: It's our constitution!
So hats off to all those Leaguers who stepped up to their responsibility to be active participants in their government, whether they got elected to high office, campaigned for what they believed in, or worked a 14-hour day at the polls!
The Auburn/East Alabama League now has a Washington connection. Robert Gibbs, who was just appointed President-elect Obama’s press secretary, is the son of Nancy Gibbs, who was president of the Auburn LWV in 1979-81.
-- Charlotte Ward
Editor, LWVAL Voter
Local League News
Delta extends 35 miles up to the junction of the Alabama-Tombigbee, and
is the eastern portion of the northern half of the county - with
looming invasion of this lightly inhabited area, much needs to be done
to assure the protection of this asset.
-- Jeanne Lacey
The LWVGB co-sponsored the UN Day Dinner with the United Nations Association of Birmingham. Jane Roberts spoke on the funding for women and children health across the world. In 2003 the United States blocked the spending of $34 Million Dollars by the UN Population Fund for maternal and child health efforts. Ms. Roberts and Lois Abraham formed a group 34 Million Friends of UNFPA to raise $1.00 from 34 million women and men in the U.S. to support the efforts of UNFPA in family planning and maternal and childhood health.
After our traditional kick off member meeting at the Cantina, we had two special meetings conducted by our own members. Jean Johnson led the group in a very interactive discussion on use of the Internet and the League tools for conducting League business or following your own political interests. Members brought laptops and followed along. In November Ann Smith led the discussion on our Observer Corp with input from members Amanda McGriff, Nancy Ekberg, and Ruth Wright who all observe the Birmingham City Council, Jefferson County Commission, Birmingham Water Works Board, Metro Area Transit Advisory Board and Personnel Board of Jefferson County. The conclusion from members was that the League shared more information than is printed in the local newspapers.
The December Holiday Luncheon featured Representative Paul DeMarco who is a lead sponsor on a County Manager bill for Jefferson County. He will introduce a revised version of the bill he has introduced in the past. The League plans to help educate the community on the need for a county manager in economically-inefficient Jefferson County. The State Legislature must pass a bill to enable this approach to government.
-- Virginia Randolph
President, LWV of Greater Birmingham
Fall programs included informative talks on mental health care by Dr. Anne Penny of the East Alabama Mental Health Center, on assessing our carbon footprint by Dr. Lindy Biggs and Matt Williams of the Auburn University Sustainability Center, and on plans for development in Auburn and Opelika by representatives of the two cities’ planning departments.
Small discussion groups explored local needs, including police protection in rural areas.
A number of Auburn Leaguers worked on November 4, both as all-day poll workers and as counters of write-in ballots after the polls closed. Others were active in their parties’ endeavors.
Vote 18 Road Trip USA in Mobile Alabama
“Awesome! I’m definitely voting!” “This program should be in every school!” “How can I get involved?” These are just some of the exuberant quotes heard from students, school district officials, and community leaders after Vote 18 was debuted at Mobile’s Murphy and Baker High School on October 16th.
Over 250 students participated and over two dozen distinguished guests came out to see the Vote 18 debut including State Representative Joseph Mitchell, State School Board Member Randy McKinney, five Commissioners of the Mobile County School Board, Political Science professors form USA and Springhill College, many school district leaders and prominent community leaders, as well as many League members. Local media gave good coverage of the event as well.
LWVM and Vote 18 will build upon this most successful introduction and continue to work with the school district in getting the program to as many students as possible. As you know, Vote 18's principle focus is to engage young Americans to vote in each and every election, especially local elections such as City Councils and State Legislators. This program will continue to teach young people the power of their vote as their voice in their community, and with this historic election behind us, we will adjust the lesson plan to discuss the impact and roles of those offices coming up for a vote.
We will be working to achieve Vote 18’s four programmatic and long-term goals:
These new voters can be the beginning of a new generation of engaged, informed young Americans, but only if we continue to capitalize on their excitement and interest. Long term involvement can rightfully stem from one cause or one candidate, but it cannot sustain itself on those initial measures alone.
That's where Vote 18’s youth civics program and community partnerships can play a crucial role, school by school, student by student. We invite your local League to get involved with Vote 18 and connect with more young people, engage and inspire them, and turn them into life-long voters and active citizens in our democracy. If you are interested in learning more about Vote 18, contact Mary McGinnis at 251-378-8378 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Mary McGinnis
The Montgomery League's two main co-sponsored events this fall went very well. The candidate forum focusing on domestic and elderly abuse drew about 95 people and received both newspaper and television coverage. The presentation of the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" drew over 200 people. Audience members ranged in age from 12 to the mid80s with about two-thirds female. Response to the film was very positive, and it generated a great deal of discussion about the importance of the vote. Many commented that it was important that the League and others ensure that the history of the women's suffrage movement is shared with each new generation of voters.
-- Anne Permaloff
President, LWV of Montgomery
The LWVGT had a busy election season. Highlights include two voter forums. The first featured candidates for the heavily contested Northport mayoral and city council races. In addition to our candidates, a man dressed up in a chicken suit appeared to denounce one of the candidates, and we had to explain to the press that while we supported freedom of expression, we had indicated in our invitations to the candidates that no campaigning was allowed at the event. We extend that to negative campaigning as well. Our second forum featured the two candidates for the District Seven State Board of Education race and for the county commission. We had wonderful press coverage, and our capable moderator and LWVGT member, Hattie Kaufman, was featured in a picture in the Tuscaloosa News as “Hottie Kaufman.” We all agreed that she is a “hottie.” We are preparing for our January 15th “Meet Your Legislators Night,” hoping for the excellent turnout of legislators, members of the community, and students at Central High School, where it will be held.
-- Kathy Byrd
Spokesperson, LWV of Greater Tuscaloosa
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Abbreviated Program Planning for the 2009 Convention
League Program is the chief business of every state convention, which revises and/or readopts existing positions and proposes new studies. To preserve our League practice of grassroots democracy, any member can propose a study or change of the existing positions to a Local Board and any Board may propose a new study or revisions of LWVAL positions to the state board for consideration at Convention. The 2007-2009 Program is at www.lwval.com, the third document in the left panel under Where We Stand.
Any proposals received by February 1 will be considered by the LWVAL Board for inclusion in the proposed agenda for Convention program.
This year, amid the Off-Site Voting Consensus process and active Local League projects, Leagues may choose to use an abbreviated process. Instead of a review and report on every LWVAL position, we ask you (a) to report any strong opinions about the positions that have arisen in your League since 2003 and (b) to offer any comments you have about the two proposals that have been in development: a new health care study and an expansion of the Coastal Zone Management position. If you proposed a study of other voting issues in the Off-Site Voting Consensus, please mention those in your memo. The Board will decide on program recommendations and send them to the Local Leagues in very early March with the convention packet.
Health Care Review
On instructions from Convention 2007, a Review Committee with expertise in health care was formed: Janet Widell, Auburn, Chair; Lynn Richardson, Tuscaloosa; Paulette Rowe, Birmingham; Judy Jones, Auburn; Anne Permaloff, Montgomery. They recommend a new study with the goal of replacing the position. Now it addresses chiefly hospital-based health care rather than community-based providers. It omits developments in preventative efforts, new uses of nursing homes and assisted living centers for rehabilitation, mental health care, and alternative providers to doctors. Funding sources have changed. Electronic transfer of records raises new issues. State health care planning for all areas of the state, rural and urban requires review, including the ability of counties to support health care for their populations. Recognition of the interrelations of problems requires better co-ordination of services, for example, among the state’s departments of health, mental health, corrections, and human resources. Education and licensure of direct providers and the boards that regulate them also need examination.
Natural Resources on the Coast
Since 2005 the LWV of Baldwin County has studied the environmental problems of their coast through a remarkable series of Forums that brought together the best experts and local government leaders. They identified three critical areas: storm water management, wastewater management, and management of water quality. The Legislature has passed a few local bills that partly address a few problems, but much remains to be done. Their League quite rightly insists that the issues impact both the coast and the state as a whole.
LWVAL’s original Coastal Zone Management position was adopted in 1980 by concurrence with the positions Baldwin County and Mobile had adopted after their study of coastal problems. That adoption by State League allowed LWVAL to lobby the Legislature and state agencies, such as ADEM. Revisions in 2003 removed outdated specifics but kept the general statements. At that time it was understood that new specifics and possibly new topics would be added when the coastal Leagues were ready.
Thanks to the efforts of Jeanne Lacey, Margaret Solberger, and Pat Laraway, the Board can consider recommendations for revisions or additions to the Coastal Zone position for the 2009 Convention.
What to do before February 1:
Send the above, or a statement that you have no proposals at this stage, to Ruth L. Wright, Program Chair, at email@example.com with copy to Mary Lynn Bates, President, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plans for the 2009 state League convention are underway. Sarah McDonald is in charge of arrangements (place, date, etc); Anne Permaloff and Sarah Mc Donald will review the bylaws and present any needed changes; Yvonne Brakefield and Ginnie Bennett are the budget committee; Nancy Ekberg, Sandy Robinson, and Jeanne Lacey are the nominating committee. Suggestions for nominees should be sent to Nancy Ekberg (email@example.com). Suggestions for study items should be sent to Ruth Wright, program chair (firstname.lastname@example.org).
At Convention, the LWVAL presents several awards. The Phyllis Rea Award, presented at each convention, recognizes the local league that has experienced the greatest percentage growth since the last convention. This award is made on the basis of the state treasurer’s calculations, which are based on national membership data.
The other two awards are presented only when a really candidate is nominated. The Joyce Woodworth Award recognizes a league member for significant service at the state and local levels. Its latest recipient was Anne Permaloff, who has served not only as state president and local but on the advocacy committee in addition to lending her expertise as a political scientist to all League endeavors.
The Jane Katz Award recognizes a person or group in the state who has made a significant state-level contribution to the accomplishment of League principles of government. Its initial recipient was the Alabama Press Club for its work on open meetings.
If you have a suggestion for either the Woodworth or the Katz award, please send it to Charlotte Ward at email@example.com. Ward and Permaloff constitute the 2009 awards committee.
In addition to encouraging league members to get involved in the ACCR Mock Constitutional Convention (see below), the board also planned ways to make the results of the League’s long involvement in Constitutional reform available to the ACCR Convention. The results of the League’s long and careful study of Constitutional Reform can be read on the LWVAL website at
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Letter from the ACCR Foundation
Dear Constitutional Reform Supporter,
I am Audrey L. Salgado, the ACCR Foundation’s Special Project Coordinator for the 2009 Mock Convention. As you know, the purpose of this initiative is to help Alabamians gain a better understanding of the constitution convention process. I am contacting you today to encourage your participation in this historic endeavor.
One way to get involved is to serve as a delegate to the convention. There is a simple online application at
Deadline for completion is December 31, 2008. To be a delegate, you must have lived in your state house district for at least three years and continue to live in that same district in 2009. Delegates will gather during two weekends in 2009 and unveil a new Alabama Constitution next summer.
If you cannot serve as a delegate, you can still participate in this project by being on your Local Selection Committee. People on this committee help us spread the word about the Mock Convention in their respective district and then, during the week of January 5, 2009, select the person who will serve as their district’s delegate.
More information is on the project’s web page: http://www.constitutionalreform.org/mockconvention.shtml Please let me know if you have any questions, or would like to serve on your Local Selection Committee.
If you have some time (and the ability to make long-distance calls) over the next few weeks to call people in the state about this project, please contact me immediately. It would be helpful if you could advise me of the time your are available to volunteer.
Your contribution of time and energy to help Alabama have a Constitution that will ensure opportunity, self-determination, and justice for all its people is greatly appreciated.
Audrey L. Salgado
Special Projects Coordinator
Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform Foundation
P. O. Box 10746
Birmingham, AL 35202-0746
Editor’s note: Audrey Salgado is a member of the Birmingham League. Links to the information about the mock constitutional convention can be found on the LWVAL website at www.lwval.org
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