June 2017  Ohio League Leader Upd ates

1. Fair Districts Campaign Updates

2. Advocacy Update

3. Updates from LWVUS
a.  Automatic Voter Registration Bill Introduced in Congress
b. Efforts to Repeal the Affordable Care Act


4.  All-Member Conference Call for July


5.  Annual Meeting Reminder


6. Grant Opportunities

a. Women's Voices

b. Voter Participation Forums

c. Online Voter Registration Outreach to College Students


7. LWVO office closed July 3-4 for holiday

1. Fair Districts Campaign Updates
Communities across the state will be having parades and celebrations throughout the 4th of July weekend, and that is a GREAT time to collect petition signatures!  Check out community calendars in your area for local events and bring some new volunteers or members with you. Don't forget to carry voter registration forms or have people use online voter registration at myohiovote.com   for anyone who isn't registered or needs to update their registration.

We are looking for volunteers to help transport Fair Districts petitions between Columbus and other parts of Ohio. If you happen to be driving back and forth for other events (concerts, conferences, sporting events, etc.) and would be willing to deliver a box or two, please give us a call at the LWVO office. Thanks!

On Monday, June 19, the US Supreme Court announced that they would hear the Wisconsin gerrymandering case Gill v. Whitford during the new term beginning in October 2017. This is an exciting case to watch for redistricting reformers. While the US Supreme Court has said that it's possible for excessive partisan gerrymandering (drawing districts to strongly favor a political party) to cross the line and be unconstitutional, the high court has never set a legal standard defining where that line might be. That's where Gill v. Whitford comes in. Read more here.

While Gill has the potential to strike a critical blow to partisan gerrymandering, that only impacts one part of needed reform to the redistricting process. It does not address other aspects of gerrymandering that our ballot issue does:
  • Who draws the map - The Fair Districts proposal requires maps to be drawn by a bipartisan commission and votes from both parties are required to approve a map.
  • Not splitting communities - The Fair Districts proposal keeps communities whole by minimizing the ability to split up counties, municipalities and townships.
  • Compactness - Ohio currently has Congressional districts that include a narrow line along Lake Erie (district 9), a multi-hour drive from Portsmouth almost to Youngstown (district 6), and numerous other oddly-shaped districts. The Fair Districts plan requires districts to be compact.
  • Representational fairness - This means that the proportion of districts winnable by a party should mirror the proportion of votes that party receives. As opposed to our current map where one party has 75% of the seats and the other has 25% of the seats, even though statewide Ohio vote totals per party have been in the 50-50 to 60-40 range.
  • Transparent process - The Fair Districts proposal will require the entire redistricting process to be transparent and accountable, so the public can see if the rules are truly being followed.
The bottom line:  Gill v. Whitford is an incredibly important case, and we sincerely hope the Court takes this opportunity to draw a line to prohibit extreme partisan gerrymandering. However, true redistricting reformers know more is needed. We need to the strengthen the whole process, and that is just what the Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio proposal will do.

So keep passing those petitions and collecting signatures! With any luck, the Court will strike a blow against gerrymandering next term and Ohio voters will do the same when they vote yes on our ballot issue!

2. Advocacy Update
There has been a frenzy of activity in the Statehouse this past month. Legislators were working to have the budget finalized to take effect at midnight on July 1 with the new fiscal year, and preparing for summer vacation by rushing a number of bills through the legislative process. 

Click here to read LWVO's action alert urging Governor Kasich to veto bad provisions in the state budget. Here are some of the major issues we have been following during the month of June:
  • Ohio Housing Trust Fund - The Senate removed a funding increase for the Ohio Housing Trust Fund that had been included in the House-passed version.  LWVO and the housing coalition advocate for increased funding to strengthen the primary source of support for the homeless and decent, affordable homes for seniors, veterans, and children.
  • Medicaid - Budget provisions were inserted by the Senate to freeze Medicaid expansion enrollment as of July 2018 and institute work requirements which could lead to half of current enrollees losing coverage. Along with healthcare coalition partners, LWVO is requesting Governor Kasich line-item veto these measures. The U.S. Senate version of the Affordable Care Act repeal bill released last week would phase out Medicaid expansion and put in place funding caps for traditional Medicaid participants.
  • Energy and the environment - A restriction of lead abatement by local governments opposed by LWVO was removed from the budget, but the legislature reversed improvements on provisions relating to expanded oil and gas activities on public land and required setbacks for possible wind farms. House Bill 239 and Senate Bill 155, which constitute a ratepayer-funded bailout of nonviable coal plants, appear to be stalled in committee.
  • Voting and elections - Funds to begin replacing aging voting machines and send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters remain in this version of the budget. Additionally, House Bill 41 to align the procedure between in-person early voting and Election Day voting, including an amendment supported by LWVO to preserve the ability of voters using a Social Security number as ID to vote a regular ballot at early voting, has passed the House and introduced in the Senate.
  • Reproductive rights - Senate Bill 145, which would ban most abortions after 13 weeks  by unnecessarily restricting a common abortion method, has passed out of the Senate. The budget includes an increase in the funds provided to so-called "crisis pregnancy centers," which claim to be health centers but provide pregnant women with deceptive information instead of healthcare.
  • Guns - Under current law, private businesses may restrict concealed weapons (CCW) on their business premises. The Senate added a provision to the budget bill that would allow CCW permit holders to sue private employers who ban weapons from vehicles on their property, and allowed financial damages for permit holders who sued. Before final passage of the budget, the legislature removed the section about damages but left intact the section allowing CCW permit holders to sue to keep guns in vehicles on business premises.
3. Updates from LWVUS
a. Automatic Voter Registration Bill Introduced in Congress
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Robert Brady (D-PA) introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017 in June. The League is proud to support legislation that enhances access for eligible voters in our elections and works to modernize our electoral system.
Click here to read the announcement of support from the LWVUS. 

This bill will improve the accuracy of voter records, cut down on costs, modernize outdated registration systems while supporting implementation in states across the country.
The League is a leader in voter registration efforts nationwide. Expanding voter registration has been a principal goal of the League since its founding in the wake of the passage in 1920 of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. We are proud to see Congress embracing new technology that expands access to the ballot while still taking the necessary safeguards to secure personal information.

The League fully supports this bill and urges all members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to support this important legislation.
b.   Efforts to Repeal the Affordable Care Act
The U.S. Senate has finally unveiled their legislation to repeal the
Affordable Care Act-and it is even worse than the version we saw from
the U.S. House.

According to the alert from LWVUS, the Better Care Reconciliation Action of 2017 is a nasty bill that will hurt millions of Americans and it is time to stand up and urge your Senators to reject it. The Senate plan will cut coverage and raise costs for millions of Americans while giving a huge tax break to the wealthiest individuals and large corporations. The cuts to Medicaid will be massive and will destroy the system that is essential to tens of millions of Americans.

Written in secret, by a few select Senators from one political party, this bill will leave millions of Americans without health insurance. If this backroom bill passes it will fundamentally change the way laws are passed in America. Transparency and openness in the legislative process are important because they improve the final product and this bill clearly has deep flaws that result from its secret drafting.

Any bill that moves forward must:
  • Guarantee that pre-existing conditions can't be used to deny coverage or raise rates
  • Ensure health insurance rates and access do not discriminate against women
  • Provide coverage for preventive care, limit out of pocket costs and prohibit lifetime and annual insurance caps
  • Ensure that Medicaid recipients can continue to receive full health care services
The vote originally scheduled for this week has been postponed, but this bill or similar legislation could still pass. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 today and tell your Senators to protect Americans' health care.
4. All-Member Conference Call for July
As the first Tuesday of July is a holiday, please join us for our rescheduled July all-member conference call on Tuesday, July 11, 12-1 pm
Topic:  Fair Districts, Legislative Recess Update, and News from LWVUS Council
Find out the latest on the Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio campaign, what the state and federal legislature finalized before they broke for summer vacation, and get a report from LWVUS Council.
CALL-IN NUMBER: 866-740-1260 
PIN: 4691505# 
The recording of the all-member call will be available in the  member area of the LWVO website following the call until the end of the month. Please note that the call recording is intended for LWV members and guests (just like the calls) and, therefore, should not be shared with anyone outside the League family. Thank you. 

5. Annual Meeting Reminder
With local League annual meeting season here again, don't forget to send the state (lwvoinfo@lwvohio.org) and national (rostersupport@lwv.org) offices your updated board roster to ensure notifications, action alerts and other information are distributed correctly.

6. Grant Opportunities
With the new League year beginning and the next school year not far off, Leagues may be thinking about opportunities for events and programs. To that end, there are a few current and potential funding opportunities to consider:

a. Women's Voices - Through partnership with the Women's Fund of Central Ohio, LWVO is excited to announce the second year of the
Women's Voices: Training the Next Generation of Women Leaders project. In response to feedback from local Leagues, we are adjusting the program to run over the school year instead of the calendar year to accommodate arrangements with local schools.  Being ready to hit the ground running in August requires planning throughout the summer. Watch for an updated application form and begin reaching out to local schools and making program plans now.

b.  Voter Participation Forums - Thanks to a grant from LWVEF, we are glad to announce pass-through funds for local Leagues and At-Large Units to hold forums based on the Where Have All The Voters Gone? report on low voter participation from the National Issues Forum Institute. With the election of a new Ohio Secretary of State on the minds of many voters next year, this is a great opportunity to start dialogue and build awareness of issues surrounding voting. Grant application and program modules will be released soon, so watch for those from LWVO.

c.  Online Voter Registration Outreach to College Students - LWVO has also received grant funds to support local Leagues and At-Large Units in conducting outreach to community college and technical school students to promote online voter registration. We hope to secure additional grant funding to expand this outreach to traditional colleges and universities as well. Please let the state office know if you are interested in participating and if you have relationships with faculty or administration at any local universities, colleges, community colleges, or technical schools. We would like to partner on a joint state and local LWV effort to reach students during back-to-school.

7. LWVO office closed July 3-4 for holiday
The LWV Ohio office will be closed Monday, July 3 and Tuesday, July 4 for the holiday. The office will reopen Wednesday, July 5 with our normal office hours, 9am-5pm weekdays. 

The League of Women Voters of Ohio | 17 South High Street | Columbus, Ohio 43215 | 614-469-1505