Letter to Governor Northam 4/10/20

“Dear Governor Northam:
The League of Women Voters of Virginia (LWV-VA) appreciates your
leadership of the Commonwealth during this state of emergency. Your postponement of the primary and support for consolidation of upcoming elections will help safeguard voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Advance planning will be essential to public health and public trust in democratic elections during this time.” [Continue Reading Here]

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LWV-VA Press Release 4-8-20, Julia Tanner Action Director

LWV-VA Action Alert

Voter Safety is a Priority

Voters need to be able to exercise their right to vote in a safe environment

COVID-19 has forced all of us to do things in a new way.  In response to these health concerns, today Governor Northam  asked the General Assembly to “move the May General Election and all special elections scheduled for May 5, 2020 to the November 3, 2020 General Election date to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” In addition, the Governor is “exercising his statutory authority… to move the June primary elections from June 9, 2020 to June 23, 2020.”

Deb Wake, President of the League of Women Voters of Virginia, stated that the League supports these decisions: “Elections, a foundation of democratic government, must take place while ensuring voter safety. Consolidating and allowing time to plan for the safe conduct of elections will help ensure that voters can exercise their right to vote as safely as possible.”

The League further encourages the Governor, the Attorney General and the General Assembly to work to make vote by mail a priority and an option for voters as a precaution in the event that the pandemic persists in the lead up to the November 3, 2020 general election.  The League of Women Voters has long advocated for vote by mail in order to improve voters’ access to the polls. Health concerns now add to these reasons for facilitating voting at home. Those at the highest risk of death from COVID-19 are also Virginia’s most faithful voters. Election Officers are also at risk.

“In order for the Commonwealth’s leaders and officers of elections to timely plan for and execute safe elections in November, we support appropriate measures permitting every registered voter to receive a ballot by mail (without submitting an application),” added Joan Porte, First V.P, League of Women Voters of Virginia.

We applaud Governor Northam for making the health of voters and election workers a priority while still recognizing the importance of exercising our right to vote. 

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March Virginia Voter

The Virginia Voter

Hot off the presses” is your copy of the Virginia Voter.

In this issue you will find: 

  • Secret Agents of Change
  • Your Help Needed in the Push for Redistricting
  • Virginia General Assembly: February 2020; Pre-Crossover,  Crossover and Post-Crossover
  • League Day Recap
  • Save the Date for LWV-VA Council!
  • What Sparks Political Activity?
  • March 3 President Primary FAQ
  • Report on Human Rights Legislation in this Year’s General Assembly Session
  • Join the Celebration!
  • Deaf History Month March 13th – April 15th.
  • Some Special Photos from This Legislative Session
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Equal Rights Amendment Update

On Monday, Jan. 27, the Virginia General Assembly voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. There is no need for signature by the governor. This is final action of the Commonwealth.

The League of Women Voters issued a press release commending the state Senate and House on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. The League was born when women won voting rights, 100 years ago.

“The Constitution is the bedrock of our laws, and the Equal Rights Amendment will provide enduring protection,” said Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “Virginians overwhelmingly support ratification, and by ratifying the ERA today, Virginia’s General Assembly represents the will of the people.” 

Ratification represented great work by coalitions of many, including League members. The state League commends all who worked for ratification, and congratulates you on this milestone. The Equal Rights Amendment will further equal rights under law and help combat systemic discrimination. 

Our job is not over. The joint resolution enacting the Amendment set forth a deadline. While litigation has been brought seeking to have the deadline declared invalid, Congress is working to remove it out of caution. Virginia’s lawmakers are already on the bills. The League of Women Voters of the United States is working to help educate more lawmakers about these bills.

In support of that effort, we urge you to reach out to friends in other states and ask them to sign on to H.J. Res. 79 and S.J. Res. 6. We can help ensure that the efforts of Virginia, Nevada, and Illinois were not done in vain and will lead to real change. 

With greatest appreciation for those who kept the candle lit, let us celebrate, rest, and move forward.

Deb Wake (she/her)
President

Read the Press Release from January 17, 2020 HERE.

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Jan 22, 2020 Action Alert for Same Day Voter Registration

Please contact your lawmakers now in support of Same Day Voter Registration bills. You can modify the message before sending, using your own words. Click the contact link

  • Q: Why is same day voter registration important?
  • A: Letting qualified voters register or update their voter registrations on Election Day supports the right to vote.
  • Q: Does it work?
  • A: Yes. 21 states and the District of Columbia already allow same day voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Voters still must show proof of identity, residency, and qualification to vote. 

Urge your legislators to vote for Delegate Simon’s bill HB 187 and Delegate Ayala’s HB 201. Click here now.

Alternatively, visit whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov for your lawmaker’s contact information and then email them a request to support these bills. Let them know you are a constituent, and your address. 

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Jan 19, 2020 Calls to Action

Week of January 20-25

Tip: Are you on facebook? Join the League’s Advocacy discussion group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/373903886296976/ & answer the questions. 

☎️☎️☎️ Remember to log your advocacy! A little competition makes it fun. Click here to be counted for your Local League: http://bit.ly/LogYourAdvocacy ☎️☎️☎️

Privileges & Elections (“P&E”) Committees 

House P&E / Elections Subcommittee

Topic: no excuse absentee voting

Date: Tues, Jan. 21, 7 AM

Location: House Room 1

Senate P&E Committee

Topic: campaign finance reform, voting rights, efficient elections, the ERA (on crossover), and gender equality.

Date:  Tues, Jan. 21, 15 minutes after Senate adjournment (approx. 2 PM)

Location: Senate Room 3, the Capitol, Richmond 

Livestream Video should be available during and after the hearing at this link: http://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

Contact

What to Say 

if you are a constituent, mention that and state your name and address. 

Please use your own words. Ideas below. We suggest one or two topics per contact. You may also sign up here to join other League members for a preparatory briefing and visits to legislators on League Day.

No excuse absentee voting

“Please copatron and pass no excuse absentee voting so people will not need to name a reason for voting absentee, which can deter voting. Please cosponsor and vote for HB 1, 25, 208 & 209 / SB 111. Thank you.”

Campaign finance reform

“Please copatron and vote for the campaign finance bills in the P&E Committee this week, Senate Bills 25, 166, 205, 266, 488, 889 and 979, to give you greater freedom to vote as you think is right. These bills will help ensure other legislators have to follow the same rules.”

Voting procedure

“Elections should be efficient and designed to facilitate voting. Please cosponsor and vote for Senator Ebbin’s SJ 63, which synchronizes state general elections with federal election years. It will save the state money by reducing the frequency of elections, and will expand voting because voters will see federal as well as state campaign notices during voting years.”

Redistricting

While not on the P&E docket for this week, the state League supports second passage of the Redistricting Amendment. Please urge your legislators to copatron, support, and vote for the redistricting constitutional amendment this session, HJ 71 / SJ 18, with enabling legislation, HB 758 / SB 203 & 204. Click here for a FAQ from the League of Women Voters of Virginia.

Voting rights / felons

“Please copatron and vote for SJ 14, which authorizes the General Assembly to provide by general law for the restoration of civil rights for persons convicted of a felony. The essence of our system of government is the right to vote, and that right should not be abridged.”

Racial equity

While this bill is not in committee yet for this week, schedules are still being posted and supporting it is helpful. “Please copatron and vote for HB 973, which will repeal racially discriminatory laws relating to the racial segregation of students in elementary schools, secondary schools, and institutions of higher learning. For Virginia to fully improve its future, we must clean up harmful laws of the past.”

ERA

“Please copatron and vote for the House Equal Rights Amendment resolution, HJ 1, which will be heard in Senate P&E on Tuesday. This is a crossover vote. The Constitution should provide equal treatment under law, because statutory protections can be rolled back with a simple majority vote; the Constitution is more enduring.”

Gender equity

“Every person deserves the dignity of equal treatment under law. Please copatron and vote for SJ 3 and SJ 7, which will repeal the constitutional amendment prohibiting a legal status for same sex unions. This is already invalid due to the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.”

“Please copatron and vote for Del. Plum’s SB 618, which adds gender, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery, or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense.”

☎️☎️☎️ Remember to log your advocacy! Click to be counted for your Local League: http://bit.ly/LogYourAdvocacy ☎️☎️

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Redistricting FAQ

Why LWV-VA Supports Constitutional Amendment S.J. 18 to End Partisan Gerrymandering 

What is independent redistricting and why is it needed? Redistricting is the process of drawing maps to determine election districts for members of Congress and the state legislature. In many states, the legislature wields the power to draw these maps. When one party controls this process, it can rig the maps to stay in power by choosing the electorate in each district (“gerrymandering”). 

Gerrymandering weakens voters’ voices. It carves up communities, removes competition, increases polarization, and creates gridlock. Redistricting works better when voters get more of a say. 

Why Virginia needs a Constitutional Amendment now for fair redistricting. Virginia’s election maps are gerrymandered. Virginia’s constitution gives only legislators the power to draw the election maps. Only a constitutional amendment can change the constitution and let citizens serve on a redistricting commission. A mere law (legislation) cannot amend the constitution. 

Last year, after extensive negotiation, Virginia’s legislature passed a constitutional amendment (“CA”) to establish a better way: a commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens, with a citizen chair. 

Timing is critical. Redistricting in Virginia usually occurs only once every ten years. In order to enact the amendment before the next ten-year redistricting in early 2021, the constitutional amendment must pass again this legislative session and then go before voters on the ballot in November. 

Why the League of Women Voters of Virginia supports the Constitutional Amendment, SJ 18 / HJ 71

  • The Amendment gives citizens a voice in the Virginia redistricting process for the first time. Protectionist maps help legislators keep their seats. Citizens don’t have that conflict of interest. 
  • The Amendment for the first time requires that lines be drawn in accordance with specific “laws that address racial and ethnic fairness,” avoiding harm to our communities and Virginia. 
  • Redistricting decisions will be brought into the light, not hidden away in dark, secret backrooms. 

What do the accompanying bills do? 

  • Senate bill 203 creates criteria for drawing maps, such as ensuring the votes of racial or language minorities are not diluted, preserving communities of interest, and avoiding lines that favor parties or politicians or divide towns. 
  • Senate bill 204 directs the Court to appoint a citizen “special master” to assist in redistricting. 

Shouldn’t we try for a better commission, without legislators? This is the only amendment available to be passed this year, before the decennial redistricting and the next House election. We need to pass it while the window of opportunity is open. 

Should voters be concerned about Virginia’s Supreme Court? Accompanying legislation (SB204) requires the court to appoint a citizen special master to draw the maps. Virginia’s justices are bound by canons of judicial ethics and were appointed by Democrat, as well as Republican, controlled legislative chambers. 

Who supports S.J. 18? Respected voices include the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Senator Tim Kaine and Rep. Don Beyer, and the editorial boards of the Richmond Times-Daily and the Virginian-Pilot. Importantly, 70% of Virginians support redistricting reform, according to a recent poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. 

The eyes of the nation are on Virginia. Without the constitutional amendment, the very next statehouse election, in 2021, could bring in a legislature that would reverse any mere laws. An amendment is the only vehicle strong enough to start real change and ensure fair elections. 

The League of Women Voters of Virginia stands up for voters. 

The League fully supports SJ 18 and HJ 71. 

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Governor’s High School Voter Registration Challenge

HS Voter Registration

While this program is focused on High School students, the LWV-VA is providing a list of specific links for Virginia High Schools, Community Colleges, Colleges, Homeschoolers, and even those not in any school.

Learn more about the Governor’s Challenge and what awards your school can earn at https://lwv-va.org/virginiahsvr/

You will also find the links to use to register there so that your school will be recognized.

If you are 17 years of age and will turn 18 by the next general election, you can register to vote now IF you

  • are a United States citizen.
  • are a resident of Virginia.
  • have had voting rights restored if you have ever been convicted of a felony.
  • have had capacity restored if have ever been declared mentally incapacitated in a Circuit Court.

Seventeen-year-olds who are registered to vote can also vote in primary AND special elections in Virginia! (You must turn 18 by the date of a special election in order to vote in that election.)

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