© 1999 - 2008 League of Women Voters of Alabama and
League of Women Voters of the United States
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As I write this, we are in the midst of the political convention season. The Democratic Party’s convention has just ended and the Republican Party’s convention is in full swing. No doubt there are League members, perhaps some from Alabama, among the delegates to both conventions. We are a nonpartisan organization. Many Leaguers, however, are active members of some political party. League members are passionate about good government so it is not surprising that many will express that passion in partisan politics-- as well as in our nonpartisan efforts to promote participatory democracy and good government. That is a positive thing.
The trick is in being careful to separate the two efforts. To preserve our credibility and maximize our ability to protect the democratic process and effectively advocate for our membership’s positions on everything from election reform to health care and global warming, we must avoid both the reality and the perception that our League efforts are meant to support any particular candidate or party.
I am very proud of how careful we all are to preserve the nonpartisan nature of the League. The willingness of League members to set aside partisan emotions and prejudices to work with and learn from each other constantly inspires me. It also gives me hope that other organizations (such as the Alabama legislature) can learn to do the same thing.
While we are on the subject of conventions, I want to challenge every Alabama member of the League to plan to attend the 2010 LWV Convention in Atlanta. Certainly all of our local leagues and the state league should send a full delegation when the Convention will be so close to home. Members who are not delegates are also urged to attend. Non-delegate members can’t vote or speak on the Convention floor, but you can attend all the sessions and participate in all the workshops, caucuses, etc. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to attend Convention right next door. You will be glad you did.
And what about our 2009 Alabama League convention? It is scheduled for May 2-3. We still need a location. If you are interested in helping with Convention logistics and would like us to come to your town, let your local league board know. We are looking for a local league to host the convention. In any event, put it on your calendar. Place, speakers and workshops will be announced on the LWVAL webpage. Check it often.
(And don’t miss the LWVAL Ed. Fund online judicial voter guide. See the article in this Voter.)
Thank you to the Birmingham League, Birmingham League President Ginny Randolph, and Convention planner Sarah McDonald for hosting Council this year. (See the article in this Voter.) It was excellent. Thank you, too, to our luncheon speaker, Mark White, the current President of the Birmingham Bar. Mr. White pointed out some of the ways that a privately funded partisan judicial election system like ours can damage the reputation of the courts and undermine their effectiveness. He also asked the League to support efforts by the Alabama Bar to pass legislation that would impose additional experience requirements on judicial candidates. A final thank you to Dr. Mona Fouad from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Dr. Fouad’s workshop presentation educated us about rural and minority women’s health care issues in Alabama and her research project to address some of those issues. She also used that project to illustrate how an organization can enlist the help of other governmental, nonprofit and civic groups, with varying interests and agendas, to accomplish a common goal. Her discussion of the obstacles to such a cooperative project and the methods used to overcome them was informative and inspiring.
Congratulations to Jean Johnson on being the first recipient of the Birmingham League’s new Pattie Ruffner Jacobs service award. If you are reading this online, you are benefiting from Jean’s outstanding work as our technology director.
The people of Alabama suffered a serious loss this summer. Sue Flood, who served this State and the League in many ways over the years—most recently as our unpaid lobbyist in Montgomery, died after a battle with cancer. Sue paid all of her own expenses to drive from Auburn to Montgomery during legislative sessions where she represented us wisely and effectively. Even while struggling with her illness, she continued to advise us when she could on legislative issues. She is missed.
Mary Lynn Bates,
Local League News
From the spirit of the suffrage movement and the shock of the First World War came a great idea: A nonpartisan civic organization could provide the education and experience the public needed to assure the success of democracy. The League of Women Voters was founded on that idea.
Thus, opportunity abounds today with our local league supporting several programs, such as “Vote 18” to be held October 16-17, 2008 here in Mobile, Alabama, with our League assisting. Mary McGinnis, chairperson of membership says, “Vote 18” is a fun, fast-paced interactive game taught at high schools during one class period. When young people vote at age 18, they are far more likely to be active voters their entire lives.
Congratulations to all election-day volunteers who made the process of calling in voting results to local TV stations in Mobile for 97 out of 99 precincts possible in such a timely manner. Project coordinators, Anne Walsh and Stacey Steiner, and the two TV stations wish to thank the volunteers for helping with this fun and educational project.
Anne Walsh is working with a Candidates Forum to be Tuesday, October 21, 2008, at a centrally located community center in the Mobile area.
Mobile will be using the LWV Debate-Watching Kit to bring together friends, colleagues, and community members to watch the presidential and other candidate debates.
The Summer Social “Getting to Know The League of Women Voters of Mobile” was held again this year at LaPizzeria with a fun and engaging evening. Mary McGinnis stepped up and did an amazing job for the League, with Mobile’s League membership jumping to over 50 members. Yes, we are reaching upward – we are all membership ambassadors – growing membership by 50% is truly exhilarating for our league! Two former members came back to visit, with Sherry Hall rejoining the Mobile League as Public Relations Chair.
Speaking of growing our Mobile, Alabama, membership: We expect to outgrow our meeting room at the International Trade Club. Val Blankenship investigated alternative locations for our monthly luncheon meeting, and the board chose Heron Lakes Country Club until 2009.
There are so many things happening down here in Mobile with our Voter Discussion Groups to be held for the next three months in various members’ homes. Our September 17th general meeting hosts State Senator Ben Brooks: Campaign Finance Reform/Homeowners Insurance Reform. We look to the future with optimism and creativity – these are truly exciting times!
Barbara Cooper South, President
National Youth Voting Organization to Present Program in Mobile
The Mobile County League of Women Voters is joining forces with “Vote18” to encourage local 18 year old students to participate in their first election this November. Vote18 Road Trip USA will make a stop in Mobile on October 16-17 on its national tour of high schools across America.
Vote18 is a nonprofit, nonpartisan youth voter registration organization that encourages students to become engaged in the election process. By facilitating interactive classroom activities Vote 18 makes voting personal and inspires high school students to become life-long voters.
“We are so excited to bring Vote18 to Mobile” said League of Women Voters project coordinator Mary McGinnis. “In the 2004 election, young people aged 18-24 voted at a lower rate than any other age group. The League works to encourage voting and participation in the political process among all age groups, but the opportunity to reach young people who will be voting in their first election is a big part of our mission.”
“When young people do not vote the first time they are eligible (because of cynicism, apathy, too busy, or whatever) they tend not to become involved thereafter. So it is critical to invest time and energy in speaking to the 18-25 year old age group and its unique set of perspectives, interests and concerns. Research shows that young people who vote in their first eligible election are more likely to become life-long voters.”
During one class period, a Vote 18 facilitator leads students through the history of voting, graphically illustrating the struggle for voting rights, voting laws and the sacrifices people have made fighting for their right to vote. Using mock elections, Q & A, and group interaction, students experience the power and relevance of their vote and the economic impact it has on their lives.
The program is strictly non-partisan. It does not endorse any political party nor support any positions on specific issues. The goal is to increase political awareness, promote dialog and encourage today’s young people to become tomorrow’s voters and political leaders.
Since 2004, Vote 18 has been taught in over 15 states to over 15,000 students. Students who have experienced Vote 18 have extraordinary testimonials to their new found appreciation for their right to vote and the value of their vote. Check out www.vote18.org for more information about this exciting program.
Vote18 and the League will visit Murphy High School in Mobile on October 16 & 17. Elected officials and community leaders will participate in the Vote 18 events. A facilitator’s training session for anyone interested in presenting the Vote18 program will follow. The national tour has received great media coverage and we expect the same in Mobile.
The League’s involvement is not limited to October 16 & 17 and does not end with the General Election on November 4th. We will build a cadre of trained facilitators who will bring this effective interactive game to as many 18 year old students as possible. We have a special focus on the estimated 40% of students who do not go on to college because this group is less likely to become engaged voting citizens. Reaching them while they are still in High School is important because this is the last quality opportunity to reach them as a group in an educational environment.
We want to turn our young people into active citizens, who will cast their first vote when they turn 18 and will continue to participate as passionate life-long voters because they know that their vote is their voice. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Citizens in a democracy aren’t born, they are made.” We believe Vote 18 will help make citizens.
The LWV of Mobile invites representatives from all Leagues in Alabama to join us for our Vote 18 debut. Please contact Mary McGinnis, LWVM Board member and Chapter Leader for Vote 18 at 251-378-8378 or email@example.com
Tuscaloosa: LWVGT Highlights
It’s no news that 2008 is a busy election year. Although the LWVGT is having regular meetings and studying issues, of course, we have really focused on our Voters Service activities. While registering potential voters at Walmart or the mall has been worthwhile in the past, our lively and creative Voters Service Committee decided to try a different approach for its voter registration drive. We contacted personnel directors of several large businesses and educational facilities to gain permission to bring packets of voter registration materials for distribution at their places of business. In addition to voter registration forms, we included a FAQ form with helpful information, such as kinds of ID that will be required at the polls, or reminding potential voters they must sign their voter registration form for it to be valid. (The Board of Registrars warned us that this omission happens too often!) We followed up with offers of more materials, etc., and plan to call on our contacts again before the fall elections with offers to replenish their supply of forms, etc. We have also appeared on radio and TV and had write-ups in the paper, informing citizens where they can register to vote/change their address, etc.
Our members really pitch in when it is time for a candidate forum. We recently hosted a candidate forum for the Northport City elections, with all five mayoral and nine city council candidates participating. We will have a forum in October for county elections as well. A wonderful use of our Ed Fund money.
East Alabama News
The League of East Alabama has been saddened by the death of Sue Flood, who served the local league in so many ways – as president, vice president, and board member in many capacities. Sue also made an impact for the Alabama League as its very effective lobbyist for several years, until her health failed. Thanks to a memorial gift from a friend of Sue’s in Florida, the East Alabama League is planning an annual award in her honor. The Phyllis Rea Award, instituted years ago in memory of Auburn Leaguer Phyllis Rea, who served several terms as State president, has honored community members, some league members and some not. Now the East Alabama League plans to honor a member with the Sue Flood Award, while honoring people outside the League with the Rea Award. The 2008 Rea Award for community service went to 50-year League member Carolyn Tamblyn, who has been a leader in education as well as League over many years. Carolyn was Auburn League president in its early years, 1965 -67.
Three members of the Lee County delegation were present at the June meeting to present a legislative wrap-up, pointing out that in spite of many frustrations, some necessary things were accomplished in the 2008 session.>The Voter Service committee, led by Linda Shook and Laura Hill, has been busy registering new voters at new faculty gatherings and city events such as the upcoming Woofstock, an outing for people and their pets at a local park. In conjunction with the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, headed by Leaguer Wendy Routhier, The East Alabama League held a well-attended Candidates’ Night for Opelika Mayoral and council candidates.
Our September meeting will feature members of the Auburn and Opelika Planning Departments discussing area development.
EA VOTER Editor
Upcoming Montgomery League Activities
The Montgomery League (LWVM) begins its 2008-2009 activities with a recruitment luncheon on September 17th. LWVM has joined as a co-sponsor of "Freedom from Fear: A Candidates’ Forum on Crimes Against Women" to be held at the Jones Law School on September 25th. The sponsors are: the Family Sunshine Center; Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Alabama Coalition Against Rape; League of Women Voters; Faulkner University and Faulkner University Jones School of Law; Montgomery County Domestic Violence Task Force; and the Elmore County Domestic Violence Task Force.
On October 19, the LWVM and its Ed Fund will co-sponsor a voter education/voter registration event. We are working with the Montgomery chapters of Zonta and AAUW to present the HBO film "Iron Jawed Angels," a true story of women’s struggle for the right to vote. A reception will be held at 2 p.m. with voter registration and other informational materials available for attendees. The movie will be shown at 3 p.m. Both events open to the public without charge.
All Leaguers are invited to attend both the reception and the film.
A Facts and Issues on the government of the City of Montgomery is nearly ready for publication. It is based on the research conducted as part of our Local Government Study. The second phase of the study will continue this year.
Baldwin County News
VOTERS SERVICE On August 5th, BC League members joined with the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce and Olde Towne Daphne to present a forum for the Daphne candidates for Mayor and City Council. We brought LWV displays, dressed as Suffragettes and edited (for duplication and appropriateness) audience questions. Fairhope leaguers attended their mayoral candidate forum (on the same evening) which was presented by the Citizens for Responsible Government, following LWV guidelines. On the eve of the city elections, Jeanne Lacey and Robert Wilson (along with other area members) co-sponsored with Westminster Village a “Forum & Roundtable” with Spanish Fort candidates for mayor and city council.
ACCR The BC league filled a table on August 28th at the 2nd Annual Bailey Thomson Awards Luncheon. We were very pleased to be in the audience when Dr. Wayne Flynt was presented with The Bailey Thomson Award and to hear the keynote of the Honorable Jack Edwards. We were also proud that our own Jeanine “Dr. Jazz” Normand provided the musical entertainment. While we were there, Jeanne Lacey gathered a few “stars” for another significant ACCR program slated for December.
MEMBERSHIP We have planned a member “Gala” on September 22nd with invitations going out to prospective members and League supporters.
ENVIRONMENT The Environmental Committee, chaired by Margaret Solberger, is finalizing plans for Phase III of the study initiated (and sustained) by Jeanne Lacey in 2006. On October 23rd at 2 pm, the first of two workshops hosted by LWVBC “CRITICAL WATER ISSUES IN BALDWIN COUNTY” will be held at the Adult Activity Center in Gulf Shores, AL. The most informed scientists of our area--Dr. George Crozier, many years Director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab; Capt. David Yeager, Head of Mobile Bay National Estuary Program; and Dr. Kevin White, Professor at U.S.A.--will inform all attendees (league and public) of the latest research and current status of: Wastewater, Stormwater, and Clean Water Supply. Special concerns of the southern area of Baldwin Co. will also be addressed. EVERYONE IS INVITED!!! Another parallel workshop will focus on the upper half of B.C. with the same crucial information and also addressing their special concerns in March, 2009.
In honor of Women’s Equality Day, August 26th, the date in 1920 when Amendment XIX of the U.S. Constitution was ratified and allowed women the vote, the Greater Birmingham League created a card for members to honor other women or men. For a minimum donation to the LWVAL Ed Fund, the GB League sent an acknowledgement to the identified person. After all the work of the suffragists and the less than stellar turnout for many elections, it was decided that a campaign to recognize this important milestone was in order. Led by Amanda McGriff with assistance from Connie Arnwine and Ann Smith, the project was a success in its first year.
During Spring 2008, the LWVGB decided to advocate for a county manager for Jefferson County, which is currently experiencing major financial difficulties. The League has a position supporting this stance and after the summer planning session determined that this project was important for the 2008-2009 year. A letter writing campaign was begun. During the Fall, the LWVGB plans to work with a legislator who may introduce a county manager bill. New Board members were elected at the April Annual Business meeting. Welcomed were Amanda McGriff, Connie Arnwine and Joyce Lanning. Returning and continuing members include Nancy Ekberg, Cissy Bennett, Sarah McDonald, Yvonne Brakefield, Kathryn Kerchof, Paulette Rowe and Virginia Randolph. Off Board members who are serving in significant roles are Jean Johnson, Ann Smith and Karen Threlkeld.
Pattie Ruffner Jacobs Award In 1910 in the young town of Birmingham, Pattie Ruffner Jacobs, a local socialite, began the Birmingham Equal Suffrage Association, and a year later she helped start the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association. She became an officer in the National Equal Suffrage Association and worked tirelessly from 1910 to 1920 for the vote for women in Alabama. After the amendment was passed at the national level, Mrs. Jacobs helped turn the Alabama Suffrage Association into the League of Women Voters. She served as secretary of the national League of Women Voters in 1920 when the first board of the League of Women Voters was established. For her innovative work this woman now is listed in the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame. The LWVGB board voted to name an award for an outstanding member after Ms. Jacobs. The award will be given at times when the board wishes to honor a member who exceeds expectations, and is especially innovative in furthering democracy through the League of Women Voters. Criteria for the award include: Member of the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham; Selfless participation in the League beyond the expected role of an officer or volunteer; Innovative in the achievement of the goals of the LWVGB.
The first award was presented to Jean Johnson. Since the rest of the State also shares in the rewards offered by Jean the presentation was made at the LWVAL Council meeting. Jean has served in a number of roles in the League at the local and State level including Co-President of LWVAL. She has been innovative in our Web presence and encouraging us to step up to technological advances for discussions through our new Dialogue feature. Jean uses the Web to keep us posted on meetings, advocacy issues, citizen-education and voter service information. She works with the LWVGB on voter service, always serving at the Registrar’s office around election day, making program arrangements and announcements, and handling Voter publication on the Web. At the State level she keeps us aware of legislation and its status, especially in the areas of priority for the LWVAL. This project alone is one that would make most of us have nightmares. For all she does we thank and honor Jean Johnson.
Purpose of Study: The LWVAL adopted a limited study of Off-Site Voting at Convention 2007. Since Alabama’s only method of ‘off-site voting’ is by absentee voting, the study committee naturally assumed that we would be looking at absentee voting as our primary method of off-site voting. As we are reading articles/reports and surveying other states, we are finding out that there are many different methods of voting prior to election day and even on Election Day!
Definition: For the purpose of this study, off-site voting means any voting not in person at the polling place on Election Day.
Through the committee’s research we have found that some states not only have Absentee voting, but some either have or are looking into other such methods as Early Voting, Advance Voting, Internet Voting, Virtual Voting, Vote by Mail, and Convenience Voting. The definitions can be confusing. State laws differ as to whether you have to have a reason to vote ‘off-site’.
Below is a table from THE EARLY VOTING INFORMATION CENTER at REED COLLEGE in Portland Oregon. http://www.earlyvoting.net/states/abslaws.php
They also have a detailed breakdown of which states allow early and absentee by mail and in person, and also include the states’ statutes. Oregon conducts all of its elections by mail. All ballots are mailed to registered voters. No one goes to the polls on Election Day.
You can check out the Alabama Secretary of State’s website for the latest concerning Alabama’s absentee voting (Perry County had almost a 50% turnout of registered voters in the 2008 General Primary Election with 26% of those voting absentee ballot) and the latest on Beth Chapman’s efforts to get online voting for military and overseas voters. Attorney General Troy King is looking into allegations of voter fraud and voter irregularities in several Alabama counties.
Other interesting websites on this study topic:
The study committee will complete this limited study by early fall and will send more information and consensus questions to the local leagues. This discussion topic promises to be both lively and timely!
Off-site Voting Study Chair
LWVAL Council 2008 Report
The League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham presented its first-time Pattie Ruffner Jacobs Award to Jean Johnson for her devotion to and tireless work on behalf of the state league and for her innovation in the achievement of the goals of LWVGB.
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Online Appellate Court Voter Guide Coming Soon
On November 4, Alabama voters will decide who will fill the Place 1 position on the Court of Civil Appeals, Places 1 and 2 on the Court of Criminal Appeals, and one Supreme Court Associate Justice position.
To assist voters in making informed decisions, the LWV of Alabama Education Fund will publish an online Appellate Court Voter Guide which covers biographical information, educational and professional qualifications and answers to seven fundamental, nonpartisan questions for each participating candidate. The Guide will be posted on the League web site (www.lwval.org) on or about Sunday, September 28.
The LWVAL Voter Guide Committee urges you to make sure League members, organizations and media in your communities know about the Appellate Court Voter Guide and how to access it. Technical Director, Jean Johnson, will send a press release to local League presidents or designated contacts and League members in the state who have email, as well as statewide organizations and media markets.
Voter Guide Committee
Actions taken by the Convention
Workshops and Banquet Speaker
Numerous excellent workshops at the Convention provided attendees with information, tools and inspiration to make the League more effective at all levels in its work of promoting democracy and a better world. Among others, there were workshops on voter service, membership recruitment, fundraising, communications, planning, health care, global democracy, the U.N., and an independent judiciary.
In her banquet speech, retired Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, Rebecca Kourlis, talked about the importance of our judicial system and her efforts on and off the bench to improve the courts and defend their independence. Her address is available on the LWV website.
Mary Lynn Bates
LWVAL Delegate to the 2008 LWV Convention
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