Issue Groups

League members are invited to join one of our issue groups by selecting their interests HERE. Issue Groups meet: Affordable Housing: third Wednesday of the month at 12 p.m. Behavioral Health: third Tuesday of the month at 6:30pm Child Care: fourth Sunday of the month at 8:30 p.m.–NOTE NEW TIME! Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (DEI): fourth Monday of the month at 4 p.m.–NOTE

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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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VOTING

The League of Women Voters of Virginia REGISTERS voters and provides accurate information on registration across the Commonwealth. Register to vote, or to check your registration, click here. Governor’s Challenge for high school students The League of Women Voters of Virginia EDUCATES: Frequently Asked Voting Questions – click here for answers to voting questions Myths & Truths About Voting by Mail VOTE411

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Legislative Priorities: Supporting Justice

Governor Northam is calling a Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly in order to adopt a revised budget in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and propose criminal justice and policing reforms. 

The legislature will convene August 18, 2020, after the governor’s end-of-fiscal-year report to the General Assembly’s money committees. The Special Session may extend into early September.

Contact your state legislators and ask them to support legislation on matters important to you! Find contact information for your state Delegate and state Senator at whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov. You may also submit comments to .

The League of Women Voters of Virginia will evaluate bills legislators plan to file in the Special Session with League Positions from Study. See Impact on Issues and Positioned for Action for further details on League Positions. Tentative priorities are set forth below. It appears League Positions also support two bills proposed by the Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition, of which the League is a member. 

Bills that will be filed in the Special Session by the state Senate majority are listed here. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has listed priorities here. The state House of Delegates is convening hearings led jointly by its Public Safety and Courts of Justice Committees and reviewing public comments. As of this printing, two hearings can be viewed on archived video— here and here.

Currently, the League of Women Voters of Virginia expects to prioritize the following announced bills. As bills are filed in the coming weeks, priorities may be adjusted accordingly. 

  •  Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
  •  Ban Sex by Law Enforcement With Arrested Individuals 
  •  Create a Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers
  •  Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers
  •  Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
  •  Require Comprehensive Reporting by Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
  • Cancel HB599 Funding for Local Police With Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents 
  • Create Local Authority for a Marcus Alert System to Report Acute Mental Health Crises
  • Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board to Investigate, Fire, Discipline Officers
  • Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions & Pardoned Offenses
  • Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for Emergency
  • Revise the System of Credits for Good Behavior by Those Incarcerated; see this bill from last session 
  • Discretion for Compassionate Release of Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners
  • Sentence Reductions in Pandemics, With the Release of Vulnerable Populations.

In addition, the League continues to elevate longtime priorities such as opposing cash bail, supporting alternatives to incarceration, and attention to behavioral health. Mental health priorities include training about the nature and treatment of mental illness for justice system personnel involved in civil commitment in Virginia, support for mental health and drug courts to avoid inappropriate entry into the criminal justice system and provide needed treatment, and expansion of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) programs.

In terms of Voting & Elections priorities for the Special Session, several are relevant to the budget, COVID-19, and Justice. In particular, the League supports measures to making voting more accessible to all populations. Topics include support for secure absentee ballot drop boxes, permitting first-time voters who registered by mail to return a copy of their ID with any first ballot they cast by mail, and provision of prepaid postage on return ballot envelopes sent to requesting absentee voters throughout the Commonwealth instead of only in certain areas. 

 

Regular Session

Looking ahead to the Regular Session in Spring 2021, the League has developed the following draft priority list:

  • Voting at Home
  • Preclearance at the state level of practices restricted under the federal Voting Rights Act
  • Redistricting process improvement via constitutional amendment and enabling legislation
  • Election Integrity & Security: Replace VERIS with a system that produces a voter-verifiable paper trail and is secure, accurate, recountable, accessible and transparent.
  • Campaign Finance Reform:
    • Public financing of state office candidates
    • Improved transparency
    • An effective oversight and enforcement agency
    • Limit contributions by individuals, corporations, and political parties. A summary of other states’ legislation on the latter is available here
  • Environmental Conservation:
    • Money in politics— including elimination of the ability of energy providers to use captive ratepayers’ utility payments for political contributions
    • Transportation: attention to renewable energy for transportation solutions
    • Energy Economy: clear air & water; reduce detrimental energy policy impacts on ratepayers
  • 100% Right to Vote constitutional amendment

A continuing priority is Education and Sexual Harassment Training in the Workplace. The Elections and Affordable Housing Studies are continuing and we look forward to the results of those workgroups.

 

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Virginia Gerrymandering

“Gerrymandering” is when officials draw election maps for purposes other than working to give every eligible voter an equal voice in our democracy. Common forms of gerrymandering that distort votes are designed to ensure the dominance of a political party or individuals or for purposes of discrimination against racial or ethnic groups. Legislators at times ensure that an opposition legislator

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New Voting & Elections Laws took effect July 1, 2020

No Excuse Absentee Voting, HB 1 (Herring), HB 207 (VanValkenburg), SB 11 (Howell)

  • Allows any voter qualified to vote in an election to vote absentee without an excuse.

Redistricting Constitutional Amendment, SJ18 (Barker), and Criteria Bill, SB717 (McClellan) / HB1255 (Price)

  • Virginia’s election maps are gerrymandered. Virginia’s Constitution allows legislators to draw boundaries that ensure they are reelected.  Legislators are able to use detailed voter data in selecting their own constituents. Last year, after extensive negotiation, Virginia’s legislature passed a constitutional amendment for a redistricting commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens, with a citizen chair. Virginia’s legislature passed the constitutional amendment the requisite second time this session, along with criteria legislation from Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Cia Price. The Senate vote was 38 – 2, and the House vote was 46 – 43. The General Assembly also passed a ballot referendum which will put the matter before voters in the November general election.

Expand Accepted IDs; Eliminating Photo ID Requirement HB19 (Lindsey), HB213 (Sullivan), SB65 (Locke)

  • HB19 and SB65 eliminate, for most qualified voters, the requirement to provide photo identification at the polls
  • HB213 adds to the list of acceptable forms of voter ID a valid student photo ID card issued by any institution of higher education in any other state or territory of the United States

Repealing Race Based Restrictions on Voting, HB1086 (Price), SB555 (Spruill)

  • Repeals laws that were still on the books relating to voting restrictions, poll taxes, and registration records separated on the basis of race

Automatic Voter Registration, HB235 (J. Cole), SB219 (Marsden)

  • Gives visitors to the Department of Motor Vehicles the choice to opt out of registering to vote instead of an opt in to filling out a voter registration application.

Election Day Holiday, HB108 (Lindsey), SB610 (Lucas)

  • Designates Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as a state holiday and removes Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday.

High School Voter Registration, HB1491 (Guy)

  • Requires every public high school to give students, who are eligible to register to vote, access to registration information and applications, or access to the online registration system, and the opportunity to apply during the school day.

 

Same Day Registration & Voting, HB201 (Ayala), delayed effective date of July 1, 2022.

  • Will let qualified voters register and vote on the same day if they provide proof of residency. 
  •  
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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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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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WLRT Pre-Session: All In for All Issues

Martha Rollins, LWVSHR

LWV-VA President Deb Wake quickly summarized the overall message of our day of legislative issues for the upcoming General Assembly: “Public Education!” With great resolve she added, “We must get this information out.”

A record-breaking number of about 150 League members and allies met on December 4, 2019, at The John Marshall Hotel Ballroom in Richmond to grasp the array of topics for legislative action. The enthusiasm reflected the high voter turnout of the off-off-year election of the General Assembly—the members who will act on decennial redistricting.

The Pre-Session edition of the Women’s Legislative Roundtable (WLRT) continued the tradition of leading with a report of the fiscal framework. Current Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne delivered a positive report for revenue that he labeled “cautiously optimistic.” He explained that Virginia was responsive to defense spending of the federal government and finally shows benefit from the lifting of sequestration. He acknowledged high consumer confidence. He commented that 2.6% was the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia history. Secretary Layne also expressed concern for the impact of mandated expenditures, particularly the impact of Medicaid. Without upstaging the release of the Governor’s budget on December 17, Secretary Layne anticipated significant “investment” in K-12 education and higher education, as well as attention to mental health services. He also raised expectations for change in the process of the legislative branch because of new leadership and a substantial number of newly elected members in the committee structure. 

The Issues Slam began with Edgar Arando Yanoc’s pitch on behalf of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations that our roads would be safer if driver’s licenses were issued to all drivers, including undocumented drivers. Kim Bobo of the Interfaith Center called for paid sick days for low-wage workers. Commenting that because she spends so much time in front of the Commerce and Labor Committees, she predicts passage of the modest proposal being developed by Senator Barbara Favola. Bobo noted that Virginia could be the first state in the South to support the paid leave issue. The Interfaith Center’s message to increase the minimum wage was echoed by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. Chris Duncombe said that Virginia’s minimum was the lowest comparable in the country and that over a million people would benefit.

[CONTINUE READING FROM NEWSLETTER ARTICLE HERE]

The pace of presentations roared through housing and human equality to pro-choice protection. Then Brian Koziol of the Virginia Housing Alliance noted that League legislative priorities lacked housing provisions but listed components that impacted housing, especially education and non-discrimination. LWV-VA Chair of the affordable housing study, Alice Tousignant, caught up with Koziol at the first break.

Andy Goddard, a loyal advocate for gun safety since the violence at Virginia Tech in 2007, represented the Virginia Center for Public Safety. In a carefully nuanced message, Goddard quoted a passage from Justice Antonin Scalia in the US Supreme Court decision in Heller, in support of reasonable regulation of firearms. Goddard urged support for the eight bills submitted by the administration and characterized the bills as common-sense measures that have shown a reduction of gun violence in other states. Goddard will meet safety supporters on January 20 on the steps of the Capitol at 2 P.M.

Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 & Deb Wake, President LWV-VA

Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 & Deb Wake, President LWV-VA

Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 & Deb Wake, President LWV-VA

As the speakers’ lineup reached the last third, Susan Burk of the American Association of University Women, commented that she felt as though she was “speed dating with policy wonks.” Danny Plaugher from the Virginia Transit Association packed the most information of the day into one message. Overall, he called for sustainable funding. Brian Cannon of OneVA2021 raised the cheering level in the ballroom to celebrate how far the fair redistricting proposal has come and he carefully outlined the steps remaining, including passage of a constitutional amendment establishing a commission, criteria legislation, and ratification at the ballot box in the 2020 general election on November 3.

In the home stretch, Katie Hornung, VAratifyERA. rocked the ballroom. Everyone knew what she would say, and she did. In the 100th Anniversary Year of gaining the right of women to vote, the Equal Rights Amendment will be ratified by Virginia, the 38th state to ratify, and the last state necessary for ratification. Hornung instructed all to contact their delegates and senators by January 1st. She invited all to the Capitol to welcome the Assembly on January 8 and to participate in the Women’s Summit, Welcome Lineup, and Party for Parity.

Key reports on election process came from Allison Robbins, President of the Voter Registrars of Virginia; Megan Rhyne, Virginia Coalition for Open Government (VCOG); and Chris Piper, Commissioner of Elections. Rhyne recognized the role of the League in the founding of VCOG. She acknowledged that “WE ARE STILL WATCHING.”

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU), delivered a vigorous account of the importance of our fundamental right to vote. She noted that Virginia ranked second in a recent university study as the hardest state in which to vote. She explained that the best way to overcome disenfranchisement of people convicted of a felony is to adopt a state constitutional amendment. The ACLU is developing tool kits to mobilize PeoplePower to remove arbitrary barriers to voting. She reviewed the Reconstruction to Jim Crow legacy of voting in Virginia with multiple examples. She fielded questions with a clear vision of effective engagement in the upcoming legislative session.

LWV-VA’s Advocacy team sent us homeward with the League’s priority list for legislation and the schedule for 8:30 A.M. Wednesday morning sessions of WLRT at SunTrust Center. The team reminded us to stay connected: Julia Tanner, Advocacy; Carol Noggle and Mary Crutchfield, Legislative Coordinators; and Carolyn Caywood, Facebook.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU)

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