Prisoners should be counted in their home communities

League of Women Voters of Virginia, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization jointly file amicus brief to prohibit prison gerrymandering.

Just as gerrymandering takes away power from voters, prison-gerrymandering has the same effect on the home communities of incarcerated individuals. Last summer, on July 1, 2020, the anti-prison gerrymandering law went into effect that required inmates be counted at their last home address rather than where they are currently incarcerated. League of Women Voters of Virginia, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization jointly filed an amicus brief to support the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission as it follows the law when counting prison populations.

“The anti-prison gerrymandering law should be used by the redistricting commission and does not violate Virginia’s constitution,” said Deb Wake, President of the LWV of Virginia. “Incarcerated people should be counted at their last home address, not in the communities where they are incarcerated. Otherwise, the political power of their communities is limited.” 

Black Virginians make up less than 21 percent of Virginia’s population but comprise 56 percent of Virginia’s incarcerated population. By counting inmates at their last home address, their numbers are used for accurate  representation and resource allocation. 

“The mass incarceration of Black and Brown Virginians takes away the voting power of those communities and adds voting power to mostly white, rural communities,” said Vishal Agraharkar, senior staff attorney at ACLU of Virginia. “We must end prison gerrymandering and count incarcerated people in their home districts to ensure the promise of ‘one person, one vote.’

“Incarcerated people should be counted where they have voting power,” said 

Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the US. “Black and brown individuals are disproportionately represented in our prisons — not counting them in their communities dilutes the overall voting power of those incarcerated in a facility outside of their home state. Virginia’s redistricting commission must be allowed to exercise the anti-prison gerrymandering law when drawing Virginia’s maps.” 
 
“The National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization (NBNRO) appreciates the Virginia ACLU taking the lead and the Virginia League of Woman Voters for joining in this Amicus action to enforce the Virginia Statue restricting prison gerrymandering in the Commonwealth, a practice that has had race-based impacts on many communities in Virginia,” said Phil Thompson, Executive Director of NBNRO. “The rights of the incarcerated to be counted within their home communities should not be a deprivation of their incarceration.”
 
Contact Denise Harrington, Advocacy Director
 
 

 

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Amendment #1 Passes at the Polls

Citizen-led, transparent process to replace current, broken system

Virginians voted Tuesday to establish a bipartisan and citizen-led redistricting commission, thwarting the practice of politicians picking their constituents.  

The Amendment, which took two years to bring to the voters, after having to pass two different sessions of the General Assembly, creates a redistricting commission rather than having maps drawn by the majority party. Districts will need to be drawn in accordance with strict requirements of federal and state laws that address racial and ethnic fairness and provide opportunities for racial and ethnic communities to elect candidates of their choice.

“Politicians have benefitted from a system where they picked their own districts for too long. The amendment provides for a citizen-led commission which will take redistricting out of backroom political maneuverings,” said Deb Wake, President of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “All of the proceedings of this commission are open to the public and transparent, bringing much needed sunlight to the process. Thanks to Governor Northam for inserting enabling language so the process can start immediately.”

The League has been working for fair redistricting for many generations and will continue to work to make sure there is citizen involvement and oversight of the process. We support #PeoplePoweredFairMaps.

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Commending Governor Northam on Voter Protection Proposals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2020
Richmond, VA

EMPOWERING VOTERS. DEFENDING DEMOCRACY.

Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made recommendations aimed at supporting the health and safety of voters and poll workers during the pandemic.

“We commend the Governor on his elections proposals and urge the General Assembly to adopt them,” said Deb Wake, president of League of Women Voters of Virginia. “Voters should not need to choose between their health and their right to vote, a cornerstone of our democracy. Secure and flexible access to voting will preserve public health and safety.”

The governor’s plan to permit voters to deposit their absentee ballots in secure drop boxes will preserve voter health. More than 30 states now permit voters to deposit their ballots in strong, tamperproof drop boxes. 

The League also supports the governor’s proposal for prepaid return postage on absentee ballots, and budget provisions that will enable absentee voters to correct errors on their ballots. These recommendations will help ensure that all voters can make their voices heard at the polls.

The League of Women Voters of Virginia strongly supports these important measures for access to voting and urges the General Assembly to adopt them. 

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The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 when U.S. women won the right to vote.  We work to encourage informed and active participation in government and to influence public policy through education and advocacy.  The League is dedicated to empowering voters and defending democracy.  We are proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public.

For more information, visit the League of Women Voters of Virginia at lwv-va.org and on social media @lwvva and @leagueofwomenvoters.

Copyright © 2020 League of Women Voters of Virginia. All rights reserved.
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LWV-VA Stands with All Those Who Grieve the Loss of George Floyd

Press Release: “

LWV-VA Stands with All Those Who Grieve the Loss of George Floyd

The League of Women Voters of Virginia stands with millions of Americans in grieving the senseless murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, and countless other Black lives at the hands of law enforcement officers. These past few weeks have served as a stark reminder of this country’s pervasive systems of oppression and inequality. It’s also worth noting that these protests come in the midst of a pandemic that is affecting African-American communities at a drastically disproportionate rate. 

 

Read the full release here: https://mailchi.mp/lwv-va/lwv-va-stands-with-protestors-2900137?e=570653d714

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JUDGE RULES IN FAVOR OF VIRGINIA VOTERS

Julia Tanner, LWV-VA Action

Ruling allows absentee voters to remain safe during COVID-19 pandemic

In a win for voting rights, a Lynchburg judge ruled today that absentee voters are relieved of the witness signature requirement for Virginia’s June 23 primaries. 

“We are pleased the court saw the pressing need for relief for Virginia voters,” said Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia, which brought legal action challenging the witness requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because of today’s decision, voters will be able to cast their ballots in safety without risking their health to locate a witness.”

Currently, Virginia voters choosing to vote absentee must open, mark, and refold their ballot in the presence of a witness, and then have the witness sign their ballot envelope. In light of COVID-19, this witness requirement would effectively bar many voters, including members of the League of Women Voters, from the ballot box, because the novel coronavirus is spread during close interpersonal contact. The witness rule jeopardized public health in exchange for access to voting, a pillar of our democracy.

Federal and state authorities support social distancing for public safety, including during elections. Virginia is under public health measures including a stay-at-home order and a self-quarantine recommendation for people over age 65. 

Judge Moon’s consent decree today accepts a settlement between the plaintiffs and Attorney General Mark Herring in connection with the June 23 primaries. As a result, voters in Virginia’s June primary election may return their absentee ballots without a witness signature if they believe they cannot safely have a witness present. 

Vishal Agraharkar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Virginia, stated, “We applaud the court’s decision to approve this reasonable compromise for the June primary. The State Board of Elections should do the right thing and waive the witness requirement for all other elections affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this and every election, eligible voters deserve more opportunities to vote and have their ballots counted.”
 
“The court’s action preserves the right to vote for Virginians who cannot risk their health to obtain a witness signature in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Davin Rosborough, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This settlement is a common-sense solution that protects both public health and democracy.”

“Today’s decision was the right call to protect Virginia voters’ health as well as their right to vote,” said Chris Carson, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “As states around the country grapple with how to administer elections during the COVID pandemic, they should follow Virginia’s lead and put voters first.” 

The League of Women Voters commended Judge Moon’s decision and urged voters to promptly request their absentee ballots from the Virginia Department of Elections or VOTE411.

Other media:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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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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Press Release Post July 9th Special Session

 

Virginia legislators missed an important opportunity during today’s General Assembly’s Special Session on Gun Legislation. 


RICHMOND – Statement by Deb Wake following the Virginia General Assembly’s vote to adjourn the Special Session on Gun Legislation without taking any action.

“The Special Session was a critical opportunity for a productive discussion about how we can mitigate gun violence in our state. We are deeply disappointed and saddened that the opportunity has been lost with the inaction of the General Assembly today,” said Deb Wake, President of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “We believe there is a need for common sense gun laws to protect Virginians from gun violence. With almost 1,000 Virginias killed by gun violence every year, delays on legislation continue to place the safety of our families and children at risk. It is time for us to work together to pass legislative solutions to protect our children and our citizens from gun violence in Virginia.”

Deb Wake, President
League of Women Voters® of Virginia

 

 

 

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