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© 1999 - 2008 League of Women Voters of Alabama and
League of Women Voters of the United States

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The Voter
Winter 2008 Edition

Published February 22, 2008


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The Voter

(all articles)

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President's Paragraphs

The odds are good that if you are reading this, you are either reading it online or you just downloaded it from the LWVAL website.  Most of our members now get the Voter electronically.  Please take a few minutes right now to explore what else is available on our website, and through our website via links to other helpful sites.  It’s easy to use and our technology director, Jean Johnson, is constantly updating it.  If you haven’t looked lately, chances are there is something new you should see.  Just go to www.lwval.org.  Most of our site is available to the public without a user name or password.  If you need help accessing the Members Only Section, you can contact Jean…as instructed on the site’s home page.

One of the things on the website is a list of the League’s priorities for the 2008 Legislative Session, currently underway, that were adopted at the December State Board meeting.  They are essentially the same as last year’s and include a focus on constitutional reform, election campaign finance reform, ethics law reform, voting issues, judicial selection reform, natural resources and government accountability.  You will notice a theme.  As has been the case throughout its history, the League’s priority is working to protect and strengthen the democratic basis for our government---whether by working for a new constitution to facilitate fairer, more democratic and more efficient governing processes or addressing issues of undisclosed (and therefore potentially damaging) influence on elections or legislators.    

We will be following legislative proposals on these and other issues of interest to the League throughout the Legislative Session.  Occasionally, the State League may issue action alerts to request that you contact legislators in support of some bill.  For matters of  particular interest to the League, bill numbers, summaries, the reasons the League is supporting or opposing the specific bill, and current status of the bill are posted on our website, as well as links to the government sites where the full text of the bill and other relevant information are available.  You are encouraged to take the time to understand a bill before taking action to support it.  You don’t need to wait for an action alert to contact your legislators.  Speaking in your name, not the League’s, tell them about your support for important bills.

As the State League we will devote most of our resources to the priorities we have identified.  Our procedure is to rely on the Advocacy Committee to review relevant bills and make recommendations, but your input can make a difference. If you see a problem with a bill the League has decided to support or believe that the League needs to support one it is opposing or on which it has not focused, let the Advocacy Committee know. 

In January, LWVAL sent letters to all members of the Legislature, encouraging them to work together for the good of the State in the 2008 Legislative session and noting that, in the recent past, procedures in the House had been more conducive to civil discourse and cooperation than had procedures in the Senate.  We again reminded legislators of the availability of our legislative study.

This is a great time to tell people about the League and invite them to join.  Between the Presidential primaries and the Legislative session, government and politics are being discussed everywhere.  Let’s use these conversations to inform others that they have the opportunity to positively affect elections (by facilitating the process) and public policy in a nonpartisan way through League membership.  While doing the important League work of Voter Service, let’s also use it to increase our visibility.  Visibility grows membership, so we can do more service!

Speaking of visibility--a series of public service television spots sponsored by the LWVAL and including the LWVAL website were aired in the Birmingham area in January encouraging voter registration and participation.  Local stations, Channel 21 WTTO and Channel 68 WABM, offered to make the spots and air them without charge to the League.  Linda Verin, a Birmingham League member and marketing professional, wrote the spots which were approved by the LWVAL Board.  Linda has offered to revise the spots for the June primary.  We anticipate that they can be made available to other stations around the State.  Please consider contacting media in your area and let us know if they would be interested in airing the spots.

-- Mary Lynn Bates

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Update on Constitutional Reform

ACCR has come further in our quest for a new constitution in Alabama than  ever before.  Legislation reached the floor of the Alabama House last  year and ACCR feels it will go further this year. This Legislative Session bills  are again sponsored in the House by Speaker Pro Tem, Demetrius Newton  (HB 308) and in the Senate by Senator Ted Little (SB 243).  The bills, if passed, will set a date for voter approval of a constitutional convention  at the June Primary of 2010.  Election of delegates will follow the following November at the same time as the Gubernatorial election (2010)and the delegates would  spend the next year writing a new constitution.  Final approval of the  new document, which voters can approve in part or as a whole, will probably  take place in the November election of 2012.

The quest for a new convention has gained the support of more than  30 organizations throughout the state in a dedicated movement called  Constitution Convention Coalition.  In addition, a College Council of  many colleges has joined forces to bring this effort forward.  We are  relentless and we will ultimately succeed.

-- Nancy Ekberg
LWVAL ACCR Co-Coordinator 

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Proposed Time Line for Constitutional Convention and Ratification

All votes of the people will be in conjunction with scheduled statewide elections.
  • February-May, 2008:  Legislative Session to Consider Bill to Call for  Convention
  • June,  2010:  Vote on Convention Question (Gubernatorial  Primary  Election)  
  • September,   2010:  Must Qualify for Delegate Race (60 days prior  to General  Election)
  • November,  2010:  Election of Delegates; (Gubernatorial election)   (Top Two vote  recipients become delegates.)
  • December 2010:  Ethics Commission Lobbyist Reporting  Required
  • June 1, 2011:  Convention Convenes (2011 Session March  –May)
  • September 30, 2011:  Convention Funds End ( FY  2010-11)   
  • November 2012:  Ratification Vote on New  Constitution Offered (Presidential General  Election) 
  • January 1, 2013:  New Constitution Becomes Effective  (if ratified)
The 1901 Constitution will be retained if  a new Constitution is not approved by  the people.

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ACCR Launces a New Project to Reach Out to High School Students

The ACCR Foundation has announced it has launched a new project that will inspire high school  students to create a multimedia project or write an essay supporting the rewriting of the Alabama Constitution. 

The Foundation will award a first prize of $500 and a second prize of $250 to each of the top essay and multimedia winners.  Winners will be recognized in the media and first –prize winners will present their work during the annual Bailey Thomson Awards Luncheon, which will be held at noon on Thursday, August 28, 2008, at the Mobile Convention Center with a telecast back to Harbert Center in Birmingham. 

The Education Contest’s inspiration was a student. Lewis Lehe, from Homewood High School who created film “It’s a Thick Book”, which ACCR Foundation has distributed widely to both citizens and schools.  This film is now available through the Alabama Public Television’s web site (www.APT.org/aptplus) under the “Alabama Teacher’s Resource” section.

The intended audience for this contest is high school students and ACCR would like Alabama League of Women Voters members to forward information about this to all Alabama high schools, teachers, and students who might be interested in the project.  The contest began January 31st and continues through March 14th.  The flyer announcing the contest is available to reprint for distribution from the Foundation’s web site at www.constitutionALreform.org

Alabama League of Women Voters’ dedication to the rewriting the 1901 Alabama Constitution has never wavered.  Let’s keep the project alive by passing this information along to those who might be inspired to get involved.  The best way to eventually achieve the goal of a new constitution is to educate today’s students about the shortcomings of the current document.

Further information about the project may be obtained from the ACCR Foundation web site at http://www.constitutionalreform.org/contest.shtml.

-- Scarlett Gaddy
LWVAL 1st VP & Voter Service Chair

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ACCR Press Release:  
Bipartisan Effort Files Constitution Convention Bills   

In a historic and remarkable bi-partisan effort, thirty-five Alabama Legislators have joined together to sponsor and co-sponsor companion bills, House Bill 308 and Senate Bill 243, to Let the People Vote on calling a Constitution Convention to rewrite the 1901 Alabama Constitution!

If passed, Alabama citizens will have their first opportunity in over 100 years to vote for a Constitution Convention at a special election in June, 2010, at the same time as the Alabama Gubernatorial Primary Election.

Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton (D. Birmingham), the Sponsor of HB 308, was joined by 18 Co-Sponsors in the House: Representatives Alvin Holmes (D, Montgomery),  Bill J. Dukes (D, Decatur), Priscilla Dunn (D, Bessemer), Thomas Jackson (D, Thomasville), Pebblin Warren (D, Tuskegee), James Gordon (D, Saraland), Rod Scott (D, Fairfield), John Knight, Jr. (D, Montgomery), Sue Schmitz (D, Toney), John Robinson (D, Scottsboro), Barbara Bigsby Boyd (D, Anniston), Patricia Todd (D, Birmingham), Mary Moore (D, Birmingham), Mike Curtis (D, Florence) Mike Hill (R, Columbiana), Tammy Irons (D, Florence), Christopher England (D, Tuscaloosa) and Earl F. Hilliard, Jr. (D, Birmingham). 

Also during the new Legislative Session, Senator Ted Little (D, Auburn), the Sponsor of SB 243, was joined by 15 Co-Sponsors in the Senate: Senators Steve French (R, Birmingham), Rodger Smitherman (D, Birmingham), Linda Coleman (D, Birmingham) Parker Griffith (D, Huntsville), Bobby Singleton (D, Greensboro), Edward B. “E.B.” McClain (D, Midfield), Myron Penn (D, Union Springs), Bobby Denton (D, Muscle Shoals), Wendell Mitchell (D, Luverne), Del Marsh (R. Anniston), Hinton Mitchem (D, Union Grove), Lowell Barron (D, Fyffe), Larry Means (D, Attalla), W.H. “Pat” Lindsey (D, Butler) and Kim Benefield (D, Woodland).

“This is a great initial response to the growing grassroots momentum throughout the state of voters, students and organizations urging all legislators to simply trust the people by passing HB 308 and SB 243 to Let the People Vote,” said Lenora Pate, State Chair for Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, Inc. 

Both Bills, along with more information on ACCR’s historic legislative efforts, education endeavors, organizational regions, and other items of interest, can be found at ACCR’s website - www.constitutionalreform.org.  Several polls taken in 2006 show that a majority of voters, both Democrat and Republican, would vote for a Constitution Convention, if given the opportunity.  The results of these polls can be viewed at

LEAGUERS: If any of your senators’ and representatives’ names appear as sponsors of theses bills, tell them “thanks.”

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There's a Good Transportation Bill Coming

Representative Cam Ward (R. District 49) from Alabaster has submitted a bill, HB 123, that would establish a statewide permanent Transportation Commission.  The Commission would oversee all transportation issues in the state including ALDOT and public transportation.  The Bill would set up a Commission of five members, one each from the state's northern, central and southern regions plus two appointed statewide.  Some legislators want the northern portion of the state to have two members since it is larger than the central or southern regions.

The members would be appointed by the governor and would serve staggered six-year terms after an initial term ranging from two to six years and they would hire a transportation director.  

The Bill's directive that the Commission will oversee public transportation in addition to all forms of statewide transportation supports the League's long-held support for statewide public transportation.  HB 123 has already passed the House and now goes to the Senate.  Members interested in transportation should read the bill online (at Alison) and then contact their Senators and urge them to vote for the bill.

-- Nancy Ekberg,
LWVAL Transportation
Contact nanekberg@aol.com  or 205 967-2897

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Legislative Interviews

The Advocacy Committee thanks the following League members for interviewing members of the 2008 Alabama Legislature.
Cissy Bennett, Greater Birmingham
Edith Davis, Montgomery
Barbara Estridge, East Alabama
Sylvia Goldmann, East Alabama
Ruth Gynther, East Alabama
Valeria Harman, Montgomery
Kathryn Kerchof, Greater Birmingham
Lorena Joyce Nicoll, Montgomery
Pat Laraway, Baldwin County
Sarah McDonald, Greater Birmingham
Anna Louise McKown, East Alabama
Ruth Ott, Montgomery
Virginia Randolph, Greater Birmingham
Leonette Slay, Greater Birmingham
Susannah Stewart, Montgomery
Helen Tavish, Montgomery
Karen Threlkeld, Greater Birmingham
Josie Walsh, East Alabama
Charlotte Ward, East Alabama

We also thank Deidra Perry and Sissy Hembree of the Birmingham Junior League, who assisted with two of the interviews.            

-- Anne Permaloff
LWVAL Advocacy Chair

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Local League News


It is with regret that the Montgomery League announces the resignation of co-president Rosalind Toles. 

Most recent League activities include assisting the Montgomery Board of Registrars on presidential primary day; publication of the 2008 edition of Who Represents You, an Ed Fund project that consolidates information on the major elected officeholders in Montgomery, Elmore and Autauga Counties, which the area Boards of Registrars make available to newly registered voters; and consensus on immigration.  Upcoming meetings will present information developed from our local government study and the state I&R study.

Greater Tuscaloosa

"Meet Your Legislatos Night" a Great Success

Sometimes it is time to take stock and make changes.  For over 30 years, the League of Women Voters of Greater Tuscaloosa had an annual “Legislative Breakfast,” at which state legislators and sometimes other local officials stated what they considered to be the upcoming year’s priorities, and at which the LWVGT presented their legislative priorities.  A wonderful tradition, but the legislators are already quite aware of our priorities by now, and attendance by the legislators had dwindled. Time to step back and decide if some traditions need to be tweaked.

The LWVGT board decided to sponsor a “Meet Your Legislators Night,” inviting the ten local legislators to meet from 6:30 to 8:00 P.M. on a Thursday in Tuscaloosa’s Central High School auditorium, a beautiful facility. After the JROTC color guard presented the colors and led the pledge of allegiance, the forum was open for business. Five legislators came, and, after each presented his legislative priorities, the legislators took turns answering an amazingly wide range of audience questions written on questions cards.  The press coverage was impressive—four television interviews, two radio interviews, excellent newspaper coverage—all presenting the League at its best. 

The result?  A head count revealed 125 people came out on a cold January night.  About 40% were high school students from City and County schools, and they enthusiastically wrote thought-provoking questions.  Some Leaguers were in the audience, of course, but also a diverse group of people from the community as well.  All questions that were written on the note cards, including those not able to be asked because of time constraints, were typed up and mailed to the 5 legislators who participated in our “thank you” follow-up letter.  The same list of questions was sent to the legislators who did not attend, with a note stating our hope that they will participate next year.

Because the LWVGT changed this from a self-lobbying event to a public forum, we qualified for Ed Fund money.  We just realized that lobbying would have to be done at a different time.

We still are receiving kudos, and plan to do it again.  Major Herbert Ragsdale, Principal at Central High School, was thrilled to have CHS used for such a community function of this scope and stature, especially when “his” students directly benefited by seeing democracy in action.  The forum required a lot of teamwork, but definitely allowed us to do our part to ensure active and informed participation of citizens in government.

-- Kathryn Byrd,
Spokesperson, LWV of Greater Tuscaloosa

Greater Birmingham

The Greater Birmingham League interviewed some of the local Legislative Delegation and heard great appreciation for the LWVAL Legislative Study. In preparation for the February 5 Super Tuesday Presidential Primary many members assisted in the Jefferson County Registrar’s Office, helping people register, check their status for voting and answering questions. A couple presentations were made in the community relative to registration and preparation for voting.

Leading the Greater Birmingham League on the Immigration Study were Sarah McDonald and Leonette Slay. The LWVGB was concerned with the limit of a number of the questions, some of the background material appearing to be inferential without sufficient documentation and the lack of important areas in the study. The Board was directed to write a letter to LWV expressing concern and request for continuation of the study with further research and questions in important areas.

Amanda McGriff and Nancy Ekberg are leading the LWVAL Initiative and Referendum Study with many members remaining to discuss the interesting issues after the first meeting of 1.5 hours. They will lead the group through the questions on February 28th.

A letter to the editor of the Birmingham News was submitted in honor of the LWV 88th Birthday on February 14th. Patti Ruffner Jacobs, the secretary of the original Board of LWV started a local suffragettes group in 1910 in Birmingham. We attempted to tie this into the good voting turnout for the Presidential Primary and the need for more people to register to vote.

Linda Verin of LWVGB worked with a local group to produce TV PSAs that were changed to reflect the entire state so they could be used by stations state-wide. The PSAs were focused at getting out the vote.

-- Virginia Randolph
President, LWV of Greater Birmingham


Reinventing ourselves, growing, reaching: Reaching New Heights Together is the theme for our national convention.  These are exciting times for all leaguers, especially here in Mobile as we stretch to attain new members and to grow our local League.  This has also been a sad year for us in that we lost our President, Barbara Nichols due to an untimely death; and we wish to dedicate our League Message for 2008 in her honor: To Welcome Others to our League.

Local, State, National issues: These are up for discussion.  We are making our voices heard: Becoming an e-activist. 
Discovering ways to bring the people in our world closer.  Finding out all the tools, tips and information one needs to advocate for the League’s priority issues.  Many of today’s community groups stay connected via email and the Internet, knowing how to bend and sway with volunteers’ hectic schedules; and we strive for that connection for continuing the League’s education and advocacy.

Election 2008:  Choosing the President – the choice of a qualified presidential candidate is imminently upon us – staying informed, reading websites, asking questions, e.g., dependence on fossil fuels, goals in Iraq and the Middle East, universal health coverage, spending on political campaigns.  We are in the midst of discussion of these interesting primaries. 

Convention Delegates:  LWVAL Council 2008 is May 3 in Birmingham.  LWVUS National Convention is June 13-17, 2008 in Portland, Oregon, with our League encouraging as many of our members as possible to attend.

Community Leaders/League Members: Merceria Ludgood ran successfully for County Commissioner.  Marilyn E. Wood, Mobile County Revenue Commissioner, with a story printed in our local Voter to enlighten other women candidates running for public office.  Carol Norris, License Commissioner officially announced her retirement from office.  We are proud to note these leaguers have experienced first hand the hard-fought journey of women through America’s political system.  Our Mobile League certainly recognizes the value in examining the evolution of women in the American political process, and the prospects for the future.  By welcoming their advice in encouraging a new generation of leaders, we are reminded of the long-standing benefits of being a League member.

Immigration: Our area of study was finished January 21, with the consensus response submitted before our deadline, reflecting our coming to consensus – projecting an overall sense of the group.  Thus, as we understand the process:  The League can be an agent for change within our community, our country and ourselves. 

Barbara Caddell, a seasoned league leader, has done a great job in spearheading our unit meetings now held at night.  Thus, the Mobile League offers something for everyone – daytime meetings, and now our unit meetings.  At Barbara’s home, light refreshments and stimulating conversation are served!

Presently with over 12 new members, the Mobile League is encouraging, embracing, and sponsoring members in our ongoing quest for growth as we reach upward together. 

-- Barbara Cooper South
President, LWV of Mobile

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Consensus on Initiative and Referendum

As the VOTER goes to press, East Alabama has had its consensus meeting on I & R and Birmingham has had its discussion session. Whatever the ultimate position of the LWVAL, all involved so far agree that it is a complex subject. The initiative process provides opportunity both for great good and great harm. Please give it your best thought, for the subject will certainly come up again – in the legislature and in the constitutional convention we are going to have someday, perhaps soon.

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First Call to Council 2008
May 3

Plan to attend, whether or not you are an official delegate. It's a great time to meet members of other Leagues and find out what's going on in the state! The Council is officially composed of the president (or delegated representative) and two additional delegates from each local League. Let your local League president know if you are willing to be a delegate.

For more information, visit:
(In Members' Area of the LWVAL website. For access assistance, contact Jean Johnson at jjohnson@lwval.org or 205 870-3063.)

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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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