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The Alabama Voter 
Winter 2013 Edition
Published March 1, 2013
Read here online or download for printing or reading offline [available soon].


A Byrd's Eye View: "Lots of Extra Time on Our Hands??"

by Kathryn Byrd, LWVAL President

Recently a non-League friend commented, “Now that the elections are over, you’ll have lots of extra time on your hands.” And I reflected back to the hard work of the League Women Voters of Alabama during the 2012 election season, and we could rest on our laurels. Using and our website, we provided voters information on the candidates for the appellate court seats for the primary. Our work on explaining the convoluted proposed constitutional referendum on September 18th to the public received good publicity and much praise. Our projects for the general election provided information on the Chief Justice seat of the Alabama Supreme Court and Chair of the Public Service Commission and on the eleven statewide proposed amendments. At the state and local level, we provided voter information and registration opportunities. I don’t have to remind our members and friends of all the hard work that went into putting our mission statement into action regarding encouraging and enabling the active and informed participation of citizens in government.

My response to my well-meaning but misinformed friend was that the League is busy year ‘round. We examine timely issues in depth—see information on the recently released Health Care in Alabama 2013: Facts and Issues [available for download here] discussed later in this Voter. Published with Education Fund money, Anne Permaloff used a wide range of contributors and resources to provide an objective discussion of health care challenges in Alabama. But the LWVAL membership will vote on some consensus questions this fall, so we may modify our positions on health care. Joyce Lanning, with her astounding range of contacts, has begun work on a Facts and Issues on energy issues in Alabama, beginning with electricity. We are keeping a close eye on proposals from the Alabama Constitutional Revision Commission, especially as it tackles education and continues exploring home rule. The advocacy arm of the League is approaching high season right now, since the regular annual session of the Alabama legislature has begun.

Finally, the LWVAL Board, the LWVAL Nominating Committee, and the LWVGT hostess league are all busy with preparations for the State Convention in Tuscaloosa in the last weekend in April. Read more about it in this issue. The goal is to complete the state League’s business, while providing excellent workshops and speakers, good food and fellowship. And we look forward to sharing the accomplishments—and challenges--of our local leagues while we are together. We hope you will join us.

So….“Lots of Extra Time on Our Hands??” Happily, as we work with our mission statement in mind, the League proudly stays busy as it serves the citizens from grass roots to the top. You can help us do that work—please donate to help us be even more effective.

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Flaggin' the Train to Tuscaloosa… for LWVAL Convention 2013

The League of Women Voters of Alabama
The League of Women Voters of Greater Tuscaloosa
invite you to join us on the campus of the University of Alabama for...

LWVAL Convention
April 26 - 28, 2013
Here's what you need to know NOW!
( Read below and note deadlines!)

Stacks Image 643

Get in the mood! Snap your fingers and tap your feet to
“Flaggin’ the Train to Tuscaloosa,”
the opening song to Alfred Hitchcock’s comedy
The Trouble with Harry.

Local League Delegates and Guests
LWVAL State Board and Off-Board Members

The 2013 League of Women Voters of Alabama State Convention


Hotel Capstone, on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa

  • Friday, April 26th—Pre-convention Social Media Workshop
  • Saturday, April 27th - Convention Sunday, April 28th - Convention

  • Conduct the business of the 2013 LWVAL Convention
  • Attend informative workshops and hear important speakers
  • Visit with fellow Leaguers
More convention information…


Local leagues have already been alerted that they are invited to offer program topics for consideration by the LWVAL, which in turn will make its recommendations to the Convention during the business session.

During the 2011-2013 biennium, the LWVAL has completed its study on Charter Schools [Download that Facts and Issues here]. It has also published its Facts and Issues on Health Care in Alabama 2013 [download here]. Questions for the consensus process will be developed this spring in anticipation of completing the consensus process in the fall. This study will need to be reauthorized at the April convention. In addition, at the 2012 Council we voted to prepare a Facts and Issues on Energy Use in Alabama, with the focus of Stage I being on electrical production and use. No formal study with the goal of consensus-taking has been authorized, just the Facts and Issues.

The current LWVAL board will meet by teleconference on Sunday, March 24, 2013, to make recommendations for the new program. Importantly, the Board will determine which new recommended or non-recommended program topics should be considered at convention, based on input from local leagues and individual members. Recommendations made by local leagues or League members must be received absolutely no later than Thursday, March 14th, so they can be compiled and sent to the board prior to the teleconference. Send all recommended program suggestions IN WRITING to Kathy Byrd, P. O. Box 1326, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403 or by email to Kathy at

More convention information…


Local leagues have also received earlier information requesting proposed changes to the LWVAL bylaws. We will be carrying over proposed changes to the bylaws left over from the 2011 convention because the changes were presented for the first time at that meeting. It had been noted that our current bylaws make reference to provisional leagues, a category of leaguethat has not been in effect at the national level for a number of years. Secretary Yvonne Brakefield prepared a document with the changes that would be appropriate for this meeting as well. The entire text of the changes, placed next to the original text, is in this document that can be downloaded from the LWVAL website at

The sections of the bylaws that this document addresses and that most need attention are Articles VI, Section 2; VII, 2, 4; VIII, 1,2,4;IX, 1, 2, 3;X, 1, 2, 3; XI, 3, and XIV, 1. In most cases, the change involves only removing references to provisional leagues, since that category no longer exists.

Members who want to see the current LWVAL bylaws for themselves and make their own suggestions can see and download the bylaws at

This is in the password-protected members’ area of the website. If you need assistance in accessing the members' area, contact Jean Johnson at 205 870-3063 or

Recommendations made by local leagues or League members must be received absolutely no later than Thursday, March 14th, so they can be compiled and sent to the board prior to the teleconference. Send all recommended program suggestions IN WRITING to Kathy Byrd, P. O. Box 1326, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403 or by email to Kathy at

More convention information…


Stacey Steiner, Chair of the Nominating Committee for officers and board members for the 2013-2015 LWVAL board, has solicited input from local leagues for nominees for the four officers and six elected board members. She and her committee are still open to nominees. It is best to contact her by phone-251-666-0404. Her street address is: 4286 Sulin Court, Mobile, AL 36619. If you think you would like to serve on the board or run for office, don’t hesitate nominate yourself.

More convention information…


There is often confusion about how many delegates that each local league may send. The LWVAL Bylaws are clear on this point. Article VIII, Section 4, “Representation” designates the following:

"Each local League in the state of Alabama shall be entitled to one delegate for the first fifteen voting members; one delegate for every twenty-five additional voting members, or major fraction thereof, up to two hundred; and one delegate for every fifty additional voting members, or major fraction thereof, above two hundred, belonging to said local League on January 1 of said year, provided that no local League may have more than fifteen delegates accredited to the convention.… The Annual Report establishing voting members as of January 1 of said year shall determine the official membership count for this purpose [emphasis added]."

The references to provisional leagues and MAL units do not apply. Each local league should have its list of qualified voting members from its report to LWVUS after the first of the year.

More convention information…


Friday, April 26th:
  • 10:00-3:00 Social Media workshop—one or two members of each local league requested. Location: Paul W. Bryant Museum, the building immediately to the east of the Capstone Hotel.
  • 3:30-5:00 Trip to view murals downtown in new federal courthouse (transportation provided)
  • 5:30-7:00 Buffet Dinner hosted by LWVGT, University Lutheran Church (across Capstone Hotel parking lot)


Saturday, April 27th:
  • 8:30-10:00 Continental Breakfast and Registration, Capstone
  • 10:00-Noon First Plenary Session, Capstone
  • 12:30-2:00 Luncheon and Speaker/Discussion on Health Care in Alabama, Capstone
  • 2:15-4:00 Panel Discussion on Energy Use in Alabama, Capstone
  • 5:30-6:30 Wine and cheese, Temple Emmanuel (second building north of Capstone), Music provided by Jeanine Normand
  • 6:30-8:30 Banquet, Keynote speaker, Temple Emmanuel

Sunday, April 28th:
  • 8:30-10:00 Breakfast Buffet
  • 10:00-12:00 Second Plenary Session


More convention information…

So, let’s all join in and sing...


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2013 Alabama Legislative Session: Follow and Take Action

by Jean Johnson

During the session, the League of Women Voters will keep citizens informed about the Alabama Legislature's activities regarding issues of importance to the League through the 2013 LWVAL Legislative Report at
For each bill, the LWVAL Legislative Report includes bill sponsors, bill summary, complete bill text, current status of the legislation, LWVAL's position on the legislation, and LWVAL's action. See the 2013 LWVAL Legislative Priorities at:

These are the issues on which the LWVAL Action Team will be focused during the 2013 Regular Session and any subsequent special sessions.

Would you like to follow and take action on other legislation of importance to you? You can follow bills and take action at the most critical times by researching on the Alabama Legislative Information System Online (ALISON). This is an online information system developed so that the legislators can keep up with the hundreds of bills introduced each legislative session. It is open to the public. Explore ALISON at:

Read this brief but informative League guide to ALISON to help you understand and effectively use this important legislative resource:

The LWVAL invites you to follow issues throughout the legislative session by reading the LWVAL 2013 Legislative Report at:
and act immediately when a League call to action is issued. Thank you!

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Reports from the Alabama Arise Conference, Feb. 8

The speaker at the biennial Alabama Arise conference on poverty issues focused on health care and the Affordable Care Act of 2010, but workshops were held on a number of other topics as well. Here are notes from workshops Leaguers attended.

Marilyn Garrett: The ACA and Small Businesses

There are 28 million small businesses in the U.S. They are businesses who have 50 employees or less. Many small businesses struggle to offer health insurance for their employees. The Affordable Care Act includes provisions to contain costs. The health insurance exchanges will allow small businesses and individuals to band together to purchase insurance, thus lowering costs.

Tax credits are already in place to assist small businesses. More than 4 million small businesses qualified for this tax credit in 2010. Small businesses that paid 50% of their employees' health insurance premiums and who had less than 25 full time workers with average annual wages below $50,000 were eligible for tax credits up to 35% of their healthcare costs.

The Small Business Majority, a nonprofit advocacy organization that helps small businesses solve the biggest problems facing small businesses today is available for programs. Erica Dowell, their representative in the Southeast spoke at the Alabama Arise Conference.

For more information, go to their web site at

Charlotte Ward: Public Education

Olivia Turner of the ACLU summarized the struggle for maintaining public schools during the civil rights struggle, a time Leaguers remember well. The Auburn League and then the LWVALwere the first organizations to (boldly!) declare that the public schools should stay open to all children, “red and yellow, black and white.”
Larry Lee, writer and activist, pointed out the necessity of not only keeping public schools open but supporting them adequately. He had some great stories about poor schools doing wonders with very few resources, but emphasized the need for adequate resources in all schools.

Charlotte Ward: How to Get Things Done

Jamie Gustafson and Stephanie Zarecky of Spitfire Communications in Washington, DC, presented a workshop on how to get people to actually take action on issues they care about. Once you have determined your target audience, the stages of persuasion are sharing knowledge, building will, and reinforcing action. Helping people know goes beyond presenting information to reflecting and respecting your audience’s values. Building will involves establishing a personal connection between the audience and the issue and giving them hope of success in a doable task. Reinforcing action is tailored to the specific goal you want to accomplish, but includes giving them a sense of accomplishment. 2I found they had a lot of good ideas applicable to League work. Their website is The booklet Discovering the Activation Point can be downloaded from this site.

A concern of Alabama Arise on which the LWVAL has no position but which is getting a lot of press lately is predatory lending. Stephen Stetson, who led the workshop in that issue provided this summary, so that individual leaguers can act knowledgeably if they wish to.

"Payday loans and auto title loans are the most popular forms of predatory lending in Alabama, especially with regard to consumer small dollar loans. But these triple-digit interest loans haven’t always been around. Payday loans didn’t become really popular until the 1990s, when the idea spread across the nation. And although they operated in a legal gray area for over a decade, they didn’t formally become legally permissible until 2003, when the industry successfully pushed for an exemption to the Small Loan Act of 1959.

"Now, payday loans and auto title loans are a regular feature of most Alabama cities and roadways, with payday storefronts charging 456 percent APR and auto title loans representing a not-much-better 300 percent APR (and coming with a risk of the borrower losing his or her vehicle to repossession). And these loans represent big profits for lenders, despite over a dozen mentions in the Bible to prohibitions on usury. The lenders tend to cluster in low-income neighborhoods and prey on senior citizens, college students, and anyone desperate for quick money. The average borrower steps onto a near-permanent debt treadmill, taking out 8 or 9 loans per year and spending over 200 days of the calendar year in debt. Borrowers almost never have enough to pay off the full debt, but they frequently are able to pay a round of fees to buy just a bit more time. Although lenders profit from ensnaring borrowers in financial quicksand, the rest of the community suffers.

"Fortunately, policy makers have started to recognize the toll that these loans are placing on borrowers. In 2007, Congress capped interest rates at 36 percent for small dollar loans to active duty military service members, their spouses and their dependents. This interest rate mirrors the rallying cry of consumer advocates seeking reform across the country to eliminate usury. Seventeen states have capped interest rates on small dollar loans, including Arkansas, North Carolina and Georgia.

"This legislative session, Alabama lawmakers have an opportunity to bring small dollar loans in line with the financial mainstream. Bills have been introduced that would cap interest rates on auto title loans and payday loans, seeking to end the gouging of desperate borrowers while encouraging responsible lending practices that encourage asset development and savings. The struggle to pass legislative reforms will be difficult, especially with certain opposition from a well-funded and well-organized payday and title lending industry. But if people are diligent about demanding action from lawmakers in Montgomery, Alabama could soon join the growing group of states seeking to curtail the kinds of loans that strip wealth out of communities and out of the pockets of working families."

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Vote 411 in 2012: Casting a Vote is Important, Casting an Informed Vote is Better

by Mary McGinnis

The election is behind us, and LWVAL can take comfort in the fact that they provided voters all over Alabama with a wealth of non-partisan information about candidates, explanations about constitutional amendments, voter registration tools, polling place locations and other helpful Election Day information. Headlining the effort was Vote411, a national League tool adopted by the Alabama State League that provided voters with on-line information about their voting options.

VOTE411 was a huge success! Nationally, over 2 million unique visitors visited VOTE411 in 2012, and over 570,000 of those visitors viewed the online voter guides. In Alabama, over 6,440 users from 123 cities around the state visited VOTE411!

The League can be proud that its mission to engage the electorate was carried out in an un-biased and professional manner this election season, and thanks to our volunteer efforts, Alabama voters went to the polls armed with more solid information on the constitutional amendments than ever before at their disposal.

In the past, finding unbiased and easily comprehendible information on constitutional amendments has been very challenging for voters. LWVAL developed explanations of 10 of the statewide amendments, describing what will happen if a given amendment passes or it fails the referendum.

We received many accolades for our efforts, reaffirming the public perception that the League is a trusted source of non-partisan candidate and ballot amendment information:

  • “This was an exceptionally accessible and clear-eyed representation of the initiatives and the consequences of passage (as far as it goes). This is a remarkable resource for the citizens of Alabama and I am thankful I had the idea to log on. Keep up the necessary work of democracy! I feel so prepared for the polls tomorrow. Even for the poor localities at the mercy of state-wide judgment -- hey, let's work to change that.” [Peter Mannon]

  • “I wanted to commend the League for its excellent analysis of the state constitutional amendments on the ballot in Alabama’s General Election. I seldom see an analysis of such depth and fairness regarding these amendments. Frankly, media outlets in Alabama should highlight your effort and suggest the site to voters. Along with PARCA at Samford University, you should get a royal pat on the back!! Thanks!” [Jess Brown - Professor, Government and Public Affairs - Athens State University]

  • Othni Lathram, the new Director of the Alabama Law Institute, told Kathy Byrd that he carries a printout of our amendment document with him.

  • “I have just read the League’s summary about the Sept 18th vote. It is excellent and I will tell others about the summary. Thank you (all who contributed to the writing of the summary). I am appreciative!” [Mary Elizabeth Perry – Mobile AL Community Volunteer – mother of David Perry, Chief of Staff to Governor Bentley]

  • “I am proud to be part of an organization that is doing so much to provide voters with the information they need to participate in this election in an informed way.”

While LWVUS worked hard to promote VOTE411 as much as possible through national-level media coverage, paid advertising, social media promotion, and much more, LWVAL did an outstanding job promoting VOTE411 within Alabama with APR radio and ABC TV interviews, newspaper articles, APR blog, Facebook and Twitter.

The Birmingham and Mobile Leagues partnered with their local Libraries in setting up Voter Registration stations which promoted Vote411. Mobile handed out over 2000 Vote411 cards at high schools, colleges and community events. Most local Leagues participated in National Voter Registration Day events and encouraged voters to access VOTE411 for unbiased ballot information.

LWV Mobile supplemented the State races with Local and County races as well, so voters in Mobile County were able to view candidate and amendment information for all the races on their ballots.

Vote411 usage was impressed and should encourage us to seek funding to use Vote411 for the elections in 2014. I expect the website to continue to improve making navigation better and more user-friendly.

I want to thank the State Board for supporting Vote411 and especially Kathy Byrd, Anne Permaloff, Hattie Kaufman, Charlotte Ward, Joyce Lanning, Mary Lynn Bates, Nancy Ekberg, Barbara Caddell, and Gina Finnegan for all their hard work researching and writing (in plain English) the amendment explanations. I want to thank Jean Johnson, LWVAL’s most able technical guru for mastering the software. It was truly a team effort!

Thank you also to all League members for all the hard work you put in during Election 2012!

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Op-Ed on the Shelby County v. Holder Case

by Kathryn Byrd, President LWVAL


The League of Women Voters of Alabama prides itself in defending the rights of citizens in our state. The motto “We Dare Defend Our Rights” was placed around the Great State of Alabama and on our car tags. It certainly was heard across the state, the country, and even the world, when Gov. George Wallace stood in the “schoolhouse door” 50 years ago to block integration at the University of Alabama. Fortunately, significant progress has been made in guaranteeing rights for all. Unfortunately, in 2013 the voting rights of all Alabamians—indeed all Americans—are in jeopardy, and the League of Women Voters of Alabama is raising its battle cry loud and clear: WE DARE DEFEND OUR RIGHTS!

Why, in this supposedly post-civil rights era, do we need to resurrect this motto again? Dr. Kathryn Byrd, President of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, explained, “On February 27, 2013,the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case Shelby County, Alabama v Holder to decide the very constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and all its subsequent reauthorizations. If the Supreme Court decides against the VRA, particularly Section 5, the “teeth” giving strength for the enforcement of voting rights could be tossed out, and we could revert to some of the injustices of earlier days.”

Section 5, the famous “preclearance section,” was based on the pattern of certain states or parts of states having long-term records of voter suppression, including carefully manipulated district lines—at all levels of government-- designed to dilute the voting strength of certain targeted groups of citizens, while enhancing the power of other already more powerful, groups.

For example, powerful white voters in Tuskegee, Alabama, gerrymandered the boundaries of that city in order to remove all but a handful of the city’s black registered voters from the city’s rolls. Imagine—Tuskegee, the home of Tuskegee Institute’s George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, and the famous black Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. In 1960, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Gomillion v. Lightfoot, ruled that Alabama had violated the 15th amendment by doing so. But because of this and similar actions against minorities, preclearance is required by the Justice Department under the VRA before legislative redistricting plans can be put in place in our state.

What does all this mean? Citizens of Alabama need to rise up and defend the rights of citizens to have a fair and equal vote! We should be moving forward, not going backwards, to remove any remaining obstacles in the path of realizing the goals set out in Amendments 14 and 15, guaranteeing equal protection of all citizens’ rights, including voting rights, under the law. Byrd noted that the League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that neither supports nor opposes political candidates or parties, whose mission is “the informed and active citizens participation of citizens in government.” Byrd concluded, “Voting rights are the key to achieving this goal.”

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LWVAL Board and Off-board

Kathryn Byrd

1st Vice-President
Mary Lynn Bates

2nd Vice-President and
Membership Development
Scarlett Gaddy
(Membership Development with Mary McGinnis)

Yvonne Brakefield

Shelly Murray


Laura Hill
Education (Charter Schools Study)

Hattie Kaufman
Voter Service
(Voter Service with Mary McGinnis)

Joyce Lanning
Environment / Natural Resources

Mary McGinnis
Membership Development / Voter Service / Financial Development
(Membership Development with Scarlett Gaddy)
(Voter Service with Hattie Kaufman)
(Financial Development with Jeanine Normand)

Jeanine Normand
Financial Development
(Financial Development with Mary McGinnis)

Anne Permaloff
Advocacy and
Health Care in Alabama

Charlotte Ward
LWVAL Voter Editor


Nancy Ekberg
Constitutional Reform

Jean Johnson
205 870-3063 home
205 222-2097 cell

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