Freedom to Vote

Deb Wake, LWV-VA President

For the People Act has been in the news a lot lately. The League supports it as do the majority of voters, but what exactly is in it? The name derives from the fact that we live in a representative democracy–we elect legislators to represent us in the crafting of laws for our collective benefit. However, legislators have not always had their constituents in mind and have sometimes worked to grab the power belonging to voters. The 886 page bill is divided into three main sections: Voting, Campaign Finance and Ethics.

Voting

  • Registration
    • Allow online registration
    • Prohibit requiring more than the last 4 digits of a social security number
    • Automatic voter registration
    • Same day voter registration for federal elections
    • Provides Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds for modernization of voter registration
    • Makes it unlawful to interfere with voter registration
  • Voter roll maintenance
    • Limits removal of voters based on interstate crosschecks for federal elections
    • Prohibits returned, nonforwardable mail as a basis for removal
    • Clarifies that failure to vote is not grounds for removal
  • Access to voting
    • Prohibits the ability of those who are not election officers from challenging eligibility of voters
    • Improves voting access for those with disabilities
    • Prohibits mis/disinformation and voter intimidation
    • Provides for restoration of voting rights after felony time served
    • Requires that provisional ballots from eligible voters are counted
    • Requires 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections
    • Requires polling places are located near public transportation
    • Makes voting by mail available
    • Allows voters to track receipt of absentee ballots
    • Allows for postage paid for all voting materials
    • Requires military and overseas voters be sent ballots 45 days in advance of an election
    • Allows universities to register voters
    • Requires voters be notified of polling place changes no later than 7 days before an election
    • Allows voters to sign sworn affidavit in lieu of a photo ID
    • Provides accommodations for voters residing in Indian lands
    • Ensures equitable and efficient operation of polling places
    • Requires secure drop boxes for federal elections
    • Allows for curbside voting
  • Verifiable results by using paper ballots
  • Requires EAC to develop election officer training models and provide grants to cover trainings
  • Requires Attorney General establish state-based response system and hotline to provide voter information and assistance

Election Integrity

  • Restores the Voting Rights Act
  • Protect and promote Native American voting rights
  • Establish DC statehood
  • Recognizes voting rights in US Territories

Election Security

  • Establishes standards for vendors and equipment
  • Directs EAC to develop best practices and guidelines for ballot design
  • Requires regular system testing
  • Makes grants available to states for updating voting equipment
  • Investigation of potential cybersecurity incidents
  • Authorizes grants for risk-limiting audits
  • Requires scheduled testing of voting equipment

Redistricting

  • Requires every state to have an independent Redistricting Commission to draw congressional districts
  • Ends practice of prison gerrymandering

Campaign Finance

  • Establishes duty to report foreign interference
  • Enacts the Disclose Act to prohibit donations campaign donations from foreign actors and requires reporting of donations of $10,000 or more
  • Enacts the Honest Ads Act to require the same rules apply to to digital and online ads as already apply to radio, tv and print ads.
  • Expands disclosure requirements to cover corporations, unions and other organizations purchasing political ads.
  • Expresses need for Congress to amend the Constitution to address detrimental Citizens United decision.
  • Establishes public financing (from surcharge on settlements paid by corporate law breakers and wealthy tax cheats) match of 6-1 on small donor contributions (or first $200 from presidential candidates)
  • Restructures the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to have five commissioners and makes permanent the FEC’s civil penalty authority.
  • Establishes deadline for disbursement of campaign funds
  • Requires FEC to develop requirements for political committee reports prior to an election

Ethics

  • Requires code of ethics for Supreme Court judges
  • Increases resources for the Foreign Agents Registration unit of the Department of Justice.
  • Requires all presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any matter where the President or President’s spouse might have a substantial interest
  • Establishes a single clearinghouse for Lobby Disclosure Act and Foreign Agents Registration Act registration forms
  • Prevents lobbyists from working on behalf of foreign entities
  • Prohibits incentive payments from corporations to individuals entering or leaving government service
  • Prohibits federal employee from award contract to former employee for two years after leaving the company or government service
  • Requires Executive Branch ethics waivers to be disclosed to the Office of Government Ethics and to the public
  • Reauthorizes the Office of Government Ethics and enhances tis enforcement mechanisms
  • Codifies Executive Branch ethics pledge
  • Codifies rules for members of Congress and their staff from using official position to advance either financial interests or those of their immediate families
  • Requires online linking of FEC and Lobbying Disclosure Act reports
  • Requires disclosure of individual and certain business tax returns for Presidents and Vice Presidents as well as certain candidate for those offices and requires that FEC make these forms publicly available.

 

It is important to note that For the People’s Act sets a floor for voting practices, not a ceiling. Many of Virginia’s laws exceed these guidelines making sure that voters have the freedom to vote and the power of their vote is preserved.

 

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Votes Taken at the 2021 LWV-VA 40th Biennial Convention

Carolyn Caywood, LWV of South Hampton Roads

All of the many League members who contributed to making the Convention function virtually did a terrific job and were wonderfully patient and unflappable.

Bylaws Votes on the bylaws changes were held on Saturday so the updated bylaws would cover the rest of the Convention. There were four changes but since the first two are mandated by the National League of Women Voters, no vote was needed: #1. Add Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Policy –  Note, this is a Policy rather than a Position.  #2. Add Student Membership Category.

The third and fourth changes were passed by the delegates.

#3. Substitute with new National LWV term, Leagues-at-Large.  This term describes a group of Members at Large who are in the process of forming a new local League, but are not yet official. Prior term was Members at Large Unit. 

#4. Add proportional Convention and Council Voting Representation for Members at Large (MALs). The new MAL delegate, Tonja Roberts, was waiting in the wings and participated in the rest of the Convention.

The other votes were held on Sunday.  109 delegates and 12 board members were present to vote, thus the maximum possible votes was 121.  All 14 local Leagues were represented. 

Positions for Adoption  Both proposed positions were adopted and all current positions retained.

LWV-VA Program 2021-2023: A motion was made on Saturday to limit the 2021-2023 Program to two new studies and to use ranked choice voting to identify which two. The motion narrowly failed 51 yes to 59 no.  None of the not-recommended program proposals were considered.

A motion was made on Sunday to consider the proposed studies in reverse order. It passed 91 yes to 15 no. Delegates approved all four studies so it will be a very busy biennium.  All four study chairs solicited more volunteers.

  • Money in Politics: to cover the full scope of financing campaigns, from a donation through its expenditure including: public disclosure of the donor, transparency in actual use of funds before and after the election, limits on personal use, and Virginia executive branch structure to conduct effective oversight and enforcement. This passed 112-0.   
  • Environmental Justice: to review LWV-VA natural resource position, to address how Virginia can best support environmental justice initiatives to halt or prevent future racial and economic environmental inequalities. This passed 104-7.
  • Education Equity: whether state funding is equitable and ensures high quality education for all K-12 students. This passed 88-24.
  • Childcare: to examine the nature of Virginia’s childcare system. This passed 83-26.

Budget The Proposed LWV-VA Operating Fund Budget for FY2022 passed 108-0.

Resolutions  and Courtesy Resolutions

  1. Lois Page moved, RESOLVED that LWV-VA consider a virtual option for the statewide convention in 2023. She agreed that a hybrid virtual and in-person convention would be such an option. Delegates pointed out that this would be more inclusive but more difficult, and hoped that by 2023 such events would be more common and venues more experienced.  After many spoke, debate was closed, 97-8, and the resolution passed 101-7.
  2. The board moved, RESOLVED That the League of Women Voters of Virginia steadfastly insists that the General Assembly protect Voter Access to Absentee Ballots and remove the burden of witness signatures. It passed 102-5.

Two courtesy resolutions commended the convention committee and recognized and appreciated Valarie Fillgrove who passed away this spring.

Advocacy awards: Since the number of actions was divided by the number of members in the local League, all Leagues were on an equal footing in this “friendly competition.”

First place: LWV of Washington County

Second place: LWV of South Hampton Roads

Third place: LWV of Arlington 

 

Candidates The slate of candidates was elected unanimously.

President: Deb Wake (Fairfax)

1st Vice President: Joan Porte (Arlington)

2nd Vice President: Erni Bridges (Fairfax)

Secretary: Jes Davis (Montgomery County)

Treasurer: Debbie Combest (Fredericksburg)

DIRECTORS

Doris Bey (Richmond)

Janet Boyd (Arlington)

Carolyn Caywood (South Hampton Roads)

Denise Harrington (Williamsburg)

Andrianne Konstas-Salvette (Fairfax)

Natalie Miller-Moore (Williamsburg)

NOMINATING COMMITTEE

Mary Crutchfield, Chair (Richmond)

Chris DeRosa (Arlington)

Elizabeth Obenshain (Montgomery County)

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The Virginia Voter, April 2021

The Virginia Voter, April 2021

President’s Message: Because We’re a League

LWV-VA Nominating Committee

Save The Date: Convention

Redistricting Update

Action Issue Group: Spring is for Cultivation

Domestic Violence Issue Group Forming: Call for Members

It Took Faith to Move Mountains: Virginia is the First Southern State to Abolish the Death Penalty

Marijuana Legislation: A Start but Not Far Enough

Criminal Justice Reforms

All Virtual General Assembly Has Ended

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The Virginia Voter, March 2021

The Virginia Voter, March 2021

President’s Message: What Brought You to the League?

Advocacy Challenge

Advocacy and Testimony Roundup: Beyond Voting and Elections

All You Need to Know About the General Assembly’s Work on Election Legislation

Domestic Violence Issue Group

Gender Balanced Representation Demands Systemic Strategies

Make Space for the League

After the Vote: Virginia Women in Politics

SAVE THE DATE: 2021 Convention

LWV-VA Nominating Committee

LWVUS Volunteer Lobby Corps

Easy Ways to Support LWV-VA: Passive Giving

National Deaf History Month

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