STATE VOTER
Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy
April 2022
President's Message
Judie Gorenstein, judieL728@aol.com
April 2022 was a very busy month for the LWVNYS
On the first two Saturdays of the month, LWVNYS held our final two regional training workshops. At the training in Scarsdale during my opening remarks, I spoke of what two things the past year had taught all of us.  
1. We cannot be certain things can happen as planned. Anything can happen!
2. No matter what happens, LWVNYS and our local leagues and MAL Units will work together and persevere to EMPOWER VOTERS and DEFEND OUR DEMOCRACY
 
Little did I know then, that the following week I would have COVID and therefore not be able to attend and meet all the attendees at the regional meeting in Ithaca. For those of you who were unable to attend any of the regional trainings, the Powerpoints that were presented at each of the workshops and handouts that were provided are now on the LWVNYS website here. For those who were able to attend, you can now see the Powerpoints from the workshops that you missed. 

LWVNYS is now preparing for the upcoming Council Meeting which will be held virtually on June 7.  Local Leagues will choose delegates to attend Council but the meeting will be live streamed on YouTube for all members to watch. THe LWVNYS 2022-23 Proposed Budget will be considered for approval and each state Board member with a portfolio and state committees will present summaries of their year's accomplishments. Watch for more info.
Proposed Positions Discussion
April 26, 7:00 pm on Zoom

If you have been unable to attend your local League meeting on the proposed positions on election administration and voting while incarcerated, then join us on Zoom on April 26 and have your voice heard. Only members who have NOT or CANNOT attend their local League meetings on these topics are allowed to participate in this Zoom.

Delegates at the state Convention in June agreed to consider new positions on these topics; a statewide committee was formed to research the topics and develop materials for consideration at local League meetings.

Read the materials available on the state website at: https://lwvny.org/league-studies/#election to come prepared to discuss the two issues:
  • Election Administration and Structure
  • Voting by individuals who are incarcerated on a felony convictions

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Court Simplification: 
How Simplifying our Court System can
Improve Equal Access for all People
Wed, April 27, 7:00 by Zoom

Please join the League of Women Voters of NYS and the Fund for Modern Courts to learn about how court simplification will remove the barriers that impact litigants, families, victims, local government, small business, lawyers, nonprofit organizations and anyone who uses the courts. Our present multiple court system creates confusion among the people the courts are supposed to serve and generates a system that is difficult, if not impossible, to understand.

Speakers:
Denise Kronstadt, Deputy Executive Director and Director of Advocacy and Policy, The Fund for Modern Courts
Dana Carotenuto, Senior Vice President, MirRam Group

Moderator: Erica Smitka, Deputy Director, League of Women Voters of NYS 

Click here to learn more about court simplification.

Current NYS Court System
Proposed NYS Court System
Redistricting Update (as of April 25, 2022):
The League was a strong supporter of the Constitutional amendment on redistricting that was approved by voters in 2014. That amendment established an Independent Redistricting Commission (“IRC”) and adopted a ban on partisan gerrymandering. The IRC initially submitted a set of maps that were rejected by the Legislature. The Constitutional amendment required the IRC to send a subsequent set of maps to the Legislature for a second up or down vote after the initial rejection, but the IRC failed to do so. The Legislature then adopted its own redistricting maps.
 
Republican voters sued to enjoin the Congressional and State Senate maps as unconstitutional under the 2014 Amendment. The lower court held a trial in March and found the Congressional map violated the new Constitutional provision against gerrymandering, and in addition voided that map as well as the State Senate and State Assembly maps because the redistricting procedure set forth in the Constitution was not followed. 
 
The defendants appealed to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department. The League filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with the Appellate Division that called for the Court to invalidate the Legislature’s electoral maps, as the constitutionally mandated process for redistricting was violated by both the IRC and the Legislature. The League argued in its brief that, as a result of the violation of the required process, the Constitutional amendment now requires that the New York courts, not the Legislature, draw the electoral maps.
 
The Appellate Division, by a plurality decision on April 21, 2021, rejected the State Supreme Court’s determination that the redistricting process had violated the Constitution, but held that the Congressional map violated the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Constitution, and ruled that the Legislature would be given until April 30 to enact a constitutional replacement for the Congressional map. The Appellate Division upheld the State Senate and State Assembly maps. One Justice dissented from the plurality opinion’s conclusion regarding the process, stating that the Justice “largely adopt[s] the well-reasoned analysis of the procedural issue offered in the amicus curiae brief filed by The League of Women Voters of New York State.”
 
The Appellate Division’s decision is being appealed to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court. The League filed a supplemental amicus curiae brief with the Court of Appeals contesting certain conclusions in the Appellate Division decision, and arguing that the Constitution clearly provides for the Judiciary, not the Legislature, to remedy the violations of the process mandated by the 2014 Constitutional Amendment. The League further argued that the 2014 Amendment’s process was carefully designed to further substantive goals and values – accountability, deliberation, and some independence from the worst of the partisan political process – that should be respected by the Court. Our brief concluded:
 
“To be sure, [the amendment’s] carefully-specified process does not guarantee that the scourge of gerrymandering will be eliminated, but the Judiciary should give that framework a chance to work. The Court would thereby honor the promise of the amendment – an independent redistricting process that conduces to competitive elections rather than protection of incumbents or particular political parties.”
 
The Court of Appeals has set 11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 26 for oral argument. The oral argument will be livestreamed through a video-link at https://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/live.html . In view of the extraordinary importance of this appeal and, in particular, the procedural process mandated by the 2014 Amendment to reduce partisan gerrymandering, the League’s counsel has requested that the Court permit it the opportunity to provide oral argument on Tuesday. We encourage all interested members to watch the livestream of the oral argument for this historic case on Tuesday.
 
You can read a copy of the League’s initial amicus brief at: https://lwvny.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Exhibit-A-Amicus-Brief.pdf and a copy of the League’s supplemental amicus brief at https://lwvny.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/LWV-CoA-Amicus-Letter-Brief-Final-042422.pdf
Issues and Advocacy
Sally Robinson, VP for Issues and Advocacy, Sally.s.robinson@gmail.com
Erica Smitka, Deputy Director, Erica@lwvny.org
2022 State Budget Wins!
The state budget officially passed on Saturday, April 9th. We are pleased that this year many of the League's budget priorities were included in the final budget proposal. Through our lobbying efforts the League was able to secure:
  • $5 million in TAP funding for incarcerated individuals
  • $4 million for local boards of elections to reimburse the cost of pre-paid postage for absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots
  • Expansion of polling places on college campuses 
 
Thank you to our members who helped advocate for these critical funding needs! This successful budget outcome would not have been possible without your grassroots support.
 
The state budget is only one part of the League’s extensive legislative agenda. Now that the budget has been passed our efforts will focus on ensuring an open and transparent redistricting process, reducing the voter registration deadline, protecting the integrity of voters ballots even if they vote at the wrong location, expansion of early voting and absentee voting options, the New York State Voting Rights Act, court simplification, environmental justices issues such as the bigger better bottle bill, elder parole, fair and timely parole, and many other comprehensive good government reforms.
 
Post-Budget Lobby Packet
We sent out the post budget lobby packet on April 18th along with some additional educational materials. These materials can also be found on our website at https://lwvny.org/legislative-packet/. If you are interested in lobbying your state legislators on these issues representing the League, you MUST talk with your local League and coordinate advocacy with them. A zoom event will be held on Tuesday, May 3, at 7:00 pm, to provide more information on these issues (register here )
 
League Calls Out Failed Ethics Reform
The final budget approved a new state ethics committee- Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government- however, it fails to address many of the reasons we called for reform in the first place. On April 22nd, the League along with multiple good government groups submitted a letter to Senate and Assembly leaders highlighting the serious deficiencies in the new state ethics law.
 
The letter focuses on the lack of independence in the selection process. There is an obvious conflict between an elected official’s duty to select a person who will enforce the law without fear or favor and their self-interest in avoiding or minimizing accountability should they violate the state’s ethics laws. 
 
The post-appointment vetting role of the law school deans does nothing to mitigate these conflicts. The deans are limited to reviewing background and expertise; if the deans reject elected officials’ appointees, which may take great fortitude, they simply get to appoint another. 
 
The letter highlights six areas where action should be taken to fix the state’s ethics laws:
  1. Independence;
  2. Transparency;
  3. Nonpartisanship;
  4. Discriminatory harassment;
  5. Reporting misconduct; and 
  6. Removing preferential treatment of the legislature.
 
League Submits Memo of Support for Medical Aid in Dying
On April 25th, the League submitted a memo in support of bill A4321-A/S6471 to Senate and Assembly leaders and Heath Committees. This legislation would provide that a mentally competent, terminally ill patient may request medication to be self-administered for the purpose of hastening the patient's death provided the requirements set forth in the act are met, and to provide certain protections and immunities to health care providers and other persons, including a physician who prescribes medication in compliance with the provisions of the article to the terminally ill patient to be self-administered by the patient.
 
This reform will give terminally ill patients access to safe, comprehensive end of life options. Our memo of support will be posted on the League website within the next few days. If you would like to participate in the rally and lobby day organized by Compassion & Choices, click here for more info and to register.
Criminal Justice Committee, Vivione Marshall (vivionemarshall@gmail.com) and Richard Rifkin (richardrifkin54@gmail.com), Co-Chairs
During the recent budget negotiations, reform of certain parts of our criminal justice system became a central piece of the discussions between the governor and the legislative leaders. There were significant differences with regard to this subject, but in the end a compromise was reached. That compromise resulted in amendments to the laws affecting bail and discovery in criminal cases. Click here for an explanation of the changes that were enacted and some of the important proposed changes that were rejected.
Important Upcoming Election Dates to Remember:
June 28 - Primary Election (as of today)
June 3 - last day to postmark Voter Registration application or register in person at BOE
June 8 - last day for Change of Address
June 13 - last day to apply via letter, fax, or email for Primary Election Absentee Ballot (MUST apply first) to the Board of Elections
June 18-26 - Early Voting
June 27 - last day to apply in person at BOE for Primary Election Absentee Ballot
June 28 - last day to postmark Primary Election Absentee Ballot or submit at BOE or polling location
Youth Committee, Crystal Joseph (campus@lwvnyc.org) and Nick Doran (ndoran33@gmail.com), Co-Chairs
Thank you for a fantastic month of feedback, best practices and resources shared through our state-wide regional training sessions. It made Nick and me extremely proud to work alongside each of our local leagues and continue to inspire our youth. All your hard work will allow other leagues to help reach more students across the state through a variety of youth programs and voter turnout initiatives. In the coming months, Nick and I will use all the shared information to develop our toolkit which will be available on the state website. 
 
Additionally, I want to give a major shout out to Kathy Meany and the Westchester League for hosting a phenomenal “Running and Winning” program for high school juniors and seniors, this month at Manhattanville College. The young women participated in programming that covered everything from what it means to be female in the context of leadership, political involvement and being a change agent in the 21st Century. With programs like “Running and Winning,” students can identify expectations if they decide to run for office and connect with elected officials who can provide guidance on effective campaign strategies which are all great ways to cultivate a leadership pipeline and encourage young people to continue a dialogue around the importance of representation in civics and government affairs.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, Regina Tillman (rmt371@live.com) and Crystal Joseph (campus@lwvnyc.org), Co-Chairs
It was gratifying to get the messages of how folks had looked forward to the DEI workshop that had been scheduled with new author, Kimberlee Yolanda Williams and best-selling author, Debby Irving, for April 21st. Unforeseen circumstances required that the workshop be postponed. However, both authors are eagerly looking forward to the rescheduled workshop come this Fall.  

In the meantime, look for forthcoming advertisement for a DEI Drop-In Meeting, planned for Thursday, May12th at 5:30pm, via zoom. As a reminder, DEI Drop-In Meetings are informal, unrecorded gathering of our NYS League members held for them to discuss with each other, and any available members of the LWVNYS DEI Task Force, their DEI challenges, and successes. If questions are minimal, there is always a point of discussion or inquiry that will be presented for attendee consideration. The purpose of the Drop-In Meeting is to create a “brave space” to hold the DEI discussions you may have difficulties holding elsewhere, and to foster continual growth and understanding.

One of the messages I provided at the Regional Trainings, that I had some further inquiry about afterward, was the advisement to look at Four P’s when trying to assess your league chapter for what needs to change to bring down barriers to diversity and inclusion. Along with applying a DEI Lens and looking at each part of your operation… membership, voter services, advocacy, governance, etc., the Four P’s can give you yet another tool to help drill down to determine what change can make a difference for your league. 

What are the Four P’s?! Once you have targeted the area to concentrate on, check each of these for how they are applied to support inclusivity, or to exist as barriers: People, Policies, Procedures, and Practices. This is a filtering process that will get you deeper into your analysis of the opportunities to make meaningful change. DEI literature is not actually uniformly nor consistent with which Four P’s to use… there are others … but after reviewing the frequency of citations along with my own experience in management and leadership, I confidently settled on these P’s as effect options. Let me know how it works for you as a local league as I try to also apply them at the State Board level. Questions? Email Regina Tillman at rmt370@gmail.com. Thank you!
Local League News
LWV of the Rochester Metro Area 
The Rochester Metro Area League recently collaborated with several community groups to host a discussion of the NYS parole system. Participants viewed a short film, “The Interview”, which shows what coming up for parole is like and how it changed during the era of mass incarceration. Two 2022 legislative initiatives of the LWVNYS – Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole – were discussed. 

LWV of East Nassau 
Recently, the East Nassau League hosted “What’s the Big Fuss About COVID-19 Vaccines?”, an educational event meant to combat COVID-19 misinformation. Guests listened to Dr. Michael Hadjiargyrou, PhD, Professor & Chair of Biological & Chemical Sciences and Director of the DO/PhD Program of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). Dr. Hadjiargyrou explained the structure of coronaviruses, the historical development of the COVID-19 vaccines, the science behind them, how they work and some of the misconceptions about the Vaccine and the virus that have proliferated. 

LWV of Buffalo/Niagara
The Buffalo/Niagara League is partnering with the Buffalo History Museum and Our Outer Harbor Coalition for an educational event about Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. Attendees will learn how the valuable ecological networks of the Outer Harbor make connections to the surrounding wetlands and to important bird habitats, and how it functions to protect urban areas from lake storms. As host, the will suggest ways to advocate for the whole of the Outer Harbor to become a New York State park. 

LWV of Chautauqua
Chautauqua County has a poverty rate of 18%, with about 30% of children living in households living below the federal poverty rate. Additionally, the largest demographic of impoverished individuals in Chautauqua County are women between the ages of 25 – 34. Later this month, the Chautauqua County League will be hosting an event to highlight this very important issue. Guest speakers include Leanna Lukey-Conley, deputy commissioner of Adult Children and Family, and Diane Hewett-Johnson, Chief Executive Officer at Chautauqua Opportunities.

LWV of Albany County 
The Albany County League is holding a Voter Video Competition for High School Juniors and Seniors! Students are encouraged to submit a 2–6-minute video that highlights either student voter eligibility, the voting process, or the importance of voting by young people. The winning student will be awarded a Scholarship prize of $500, and the winning video will be distributed to Albany County High Schools and beyond for use in youth voter education.

LWV of New York City 
The NYC League recently hosted New York Law School's Jeff Wice to discuss the recent New York State redistricting process and how the new map could influence state legislation. He also discussed the status of a court challenge to the new congressional and state legislative district lines, and the upcoming 2022 New York City Council redistricting process. 

LWV of White Plains
As the city of White Plains plays hosts the inspiring statue Harriet Tubman: The Journey to Freedom, the League of Women Voters of White Plains, the NAACP of White Plains/Greenburgh, the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority will partner on a series of voter registration/voter education drives. See more info and a video on the project here.