League of Women Voters of NYS


December 2019

Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy.

President's Message
My League Community,
2020, already? And so much to do, so many elections! First, I wish you all good health and a Happy New Year. Let's all take a breath, enjoy family and friends, and recharge for 2020. I look forward to meeting many of you during our Regional Workshops being set up in March 2020 and hearing about your plans to GOTV (get out the vote) in 2020. If you have strategies to share for GOTV, we will happily add them to the GOTV toolbox on the website.
Early voting was a smashing success with your help, educating voters and promoting our survey of the early voting experience. Our Early Voting Survey has been shared around the state with Legislators and BOE's. The survey reveals what we need to do to make early voting work better for voters and poll workers in 2020.
Please note : the surveys that we ask you to reply to or support are an important tool for the State League. Survey responses help us to allocate our resources and determine our priorities. Your recent response to the Voter Service Survey (by more than 75% of LL's) is immensely valuable and you will be hearing more about those results from our Voter Service leaders.
It was a great pleasure to share a League Day at the UN with many of you. Our briefings by Climate Action specialists were as straightforward as the recent UN report on Climate Action, concerning the real crisis we are facing. While we were applauding our appreciation of their briefings, I really just wanted to weep. As we learned from our program at Convention 2019 about Food Waste, so too with climate action, there are many actions/changes to behavior, we know how to do as individuals that will have an impact on the climate. Let's act now.

Suzanne Stassevitch, President
League of Women Voters of NYS
smstass@mac.com;  Tel: 518-465-4162
Facebook: League of Women Voters of NYS
Twitter: @LWVNYS
Support the League's EF with your purchases
Champion of Change: Barbara Bartoletti
League Day at the United Nations  
December 4
Issues and Advocacy
Sally Robinson, sally.s.robinson@gmail.com, and Jennifer Wilson, jennifer@lwvny.org
Constitutional Convention Position Update
At the State Convention in June, the delegates approved an update to the State League's position on a Constitutional Convention. The purpose of this update is to determine whether there is member agreement on deleting the first sentence of the League's 1993 Constitutional Convention position, as revised June 2015.
The first sentence to be deleted is below:
"The League of Women Voters of New York State does not support or oppose the holding of a constitutional convention."
Click here to find the materials for consideration by your local League of this update:
  • Current Constitutional Convention Position
  • Background and Other Information
  • Update Form to be Returned to the State League office by March 1, 2020
Legislative Action and Updates
The National League has launched a new campaign to bring fair electoral maps to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In October, National invited League leaders from across the country to attend a two-day workshop on their new People Powered Fair Maps campaign. Jennifer attended on behalf of LWNYS. National has given us grant to launch our own statewide campaign to monitor our first independent redistricting commission and ensure transparency and accountability throughout the process.
In November, the League sent a letter to all legislators reminding them of their constitutional duty to form New York's first ever independent redistricting commission. The League has called on legislators to fund this commission and appoint commissioners by February 1, 2020. The League has created a one-page factsheet describing the constitutional mandates of the commission and outlining a calendar of legislative and commission actions that need to be taken between 2020 and 2022.
The League is planning to advocate for funding for the commission during the 2020-2021 budget cycle. We will be working with experts to estimate the cost of the commission and make recommendations for the spending of those funds.
Campaign Finance Reform
The Public Campaign Financing Commission created after a stalemate in the state legislature last session released their proposal on November 25 to implement public campaign financing in New York State. The proposal will become law unless the legislature returns by December 22 to modify all or part of it. Their full proposal can be found on their website https://campaignfinancereform.ny.gov/. ReInvent Albany has created a summary of the recommendations which can be found on their site https://reinventalbany.org/ or directly here.
The state League testified at the hearing in New York City in December and in October and November the League worked with local Leagues in Long Island and Buffalo to empower League members to testify at the final two public hearings in those areas. The League worked with the Fair Elections NY coalition to track the process of the commission and participate in a joint letter to commissioners urging them to release their recommendations early so that the public could add their input.  
The League released a statement criticizing the commission for becoming distracted by peripheral issues, not reducing contribution limits sufficiently and proposing a system that could work out to favor incumbent candidates. In addition to the proposal for a public campaign financing system, the Commission significantly raised the threshold of votes for a party to gain a ballot line and required the threshold to be met every two years. They also raised the number of petition signatures required for a statewide candidate to get on the ballot. Following the release of the package the League issued a statement. READ MORE.
Court Reform
The League has joined the Statewide Coalition for Court Simplification to advocate for court reform in New York State. In November, the League testified before the Joint Legislative Judiciary Committee. The League advocated for consolidating the current 11 separate trial courts into a three-tier model, and establishing an integrated, statewide court system consisting of a minimum number of trial courts of broad jurisdiction.
PowHer - Women's Issues
PowHer is a coalition dedicated to women's issues focusing mainly on pay equity. Their prime bill was a bill to bar employers from asking potential employees about their previous salary history. Now that most of their issues have been accomplished they are looking to pick up on some new issue areas. At the meeting they did not decide on any particular issues but did mention ERA and some fixes to the paid family leave bill.
New York Counts - Census
In November we attended the New York Counts 2020 coalition meeting about outreach and education around the census. The coalition will be providing materials for partner groups and will be creating a "pop up PR Firm" to help groups use their social media, press, and other outreach tools to empower individuals to complete their census forms. They are hiring consultants to help these groups and will be releasing their official marketing materials in late December. They have invested a significant amount of money into their campaign and would like all partner groups to use their materials. This meeting was very NYC specific but was extremely well attended and very informative. They will be holding another forum in Syracuse in January or February.
The National League has also created outreach materials for local Leagues which can be found on their website. We are encouraging local Leagues to work with their local complete count committees and census offices to help with outreach in hard to reach areas.
Early Voting
Following the early voting period, the League created a report on the results of our early voting satisfaction survey (report is attached and posted on the state League website). The report was presented at the Joint Legislative Election Law Committee hearing. We also shared the report with press and were reported about in several outlets. The report will be used for early voting reform advocacy in 2020.
The League was also invited to a roundtable on early voting by the State Board of Elections. The roundtable was rescheduled to Monday Dec 9th because of the snow storm READ MORE.

Financing of Healthcare Update Committee
The Financing of Healthcare Position Update Committee (Valerie King and Barb Thomas, co-chairs, and committee members Anne Burton, Judy Esterquest, Estelle Gellman , Larry Kilian , Madeline Zevon) have been meeting since October to zero in on the way we'd like to update the position and provide criteria we would like to see in any single payer system. We are simultaneously working to develop pro/con materials for Leagues to consider on these points. Our current timeline calls for us to finalize a proposed updated position and complete our materials for approval by the July 2020 LWVNY Board meeting. That way local Leagues and individual members can expect to receive the materials in time to use after the 2020 election. We would anticipate receiving replies in time for the LWVNY March 2021 Board Meeting to finalize a new position.
Voter Services
Judie Gorenstein, judieL728@aol.com
A record number of you - 41 responded to our 2019 Voter Service Survey with impressive numbers and great recommendations that we will respond to.
2019 Voter Registration: in a word, our registration activities are booming:
All leagues did voter registration drives
17 did more than in past years (about 1/3 of you held more drives than last year")
27 held training workshops for either league volunteers or other groups and organizations
24 held drives in venues different from the past
22 held drives in underserved communities (This is really important and will continue to be focus for leagues to do)  
2019 Voter information: Voter's Guide and Early Voting
37 leagues distributed VG Part 1
39 leagues distributed Early Voting brochures
18 leagues had changes they would recommend for brochures:
2019 Candidate Events
34 leagues held successful candidate events. Majority held from 1-5 events.
13 events were cancelled with 11 leagues canceling events due to Empty Chair Policy
23 leagues had candidates sign and return ground rules/written policy
25 leagues had their events videoed and 3 leagues had their events live streamed
30 leagues have a videotaping policy that they send to candidates
24 Tool kits and templates were helpful in organizing events
2019 GOTV
14 leagues (or "1/3 of you") collected contact info for follow up
20 leagues found the Get Out The Vote Toolkit helpful
14 leagues have done GOTV in past
4 leagues said they were able to measure success
21 leagues said they would make changes to GOTV efforts next year. 5 said no, others deliberating
In General - How Can the State League Help You??
You said/We heard:
* Create more templates of materials that leagues can print out and post
* Publicize successes of other leagues
* Organize better access to best practices
* Work on revitalizing the League image and publicizing league with the newer image.

Youth and Civics Education
Crystal Joseph, campus@lwvnyc.org
Through the concepts of action civics, policy and advocacy young people across New York City are finding meaningful ways to passionately discuss matters that are of interest to them. With the support of Generation Civics, the League was invited to participate in a science-fair styled presentation of high school youth civic projects. As a community advisor, I was briefed on policy issues like why 'stop and frisk' and curbing gun violence matters. Students also led discussions to help the community understand why youth need support for sustainable employment and I even learned why there is a growing problem of homelessness in the borough of the Bronx.  Each student presenter had to convince their audience on why their social justice issue was important. The students then guided visitors through a process of root causes to the problem, who is targeted, why the cause matters to them and then presented possible ways to come to a solution.  The policy project taught students to be advocates, work as a team and listen to their peers for ways to mediate and come to reasonable solutions. For example, in one group's presentation on reducing gun violence, the Bronx students polled their high school grade and asked how 'stop and frisk' impacts their lives. While about forty-five percent of the students agreed that 'stop and frisk' keeps people safe over sixty percent of those students also agreed that the policy is a form a racial injustice. As the students looked to come to a resolution they made it clear that students want to feel safe in their communities but they also don't want to live in fear. Similarly, as a Bronx native, I learned about the growing rate of homelessness in the borough. The student presenter shared the following perspective: "Homelessness has many faces and many definitions...each person has a unique story." The problem of homelessness impacts public school students as well. In fact, in a testimony to the  Senate Standing Committee on Education and Budget and Revenue , Mary Jenkins, Chair of the Education Committee for the LWVNYC, confirms that "...one tenth of school children in New York City are homeless." Please read Mary's full testimony: https://www.lwvnyonline.org/advocacy/education/2019/Testimony-to-Senate-Standing-Comm-on-Education-M.Jenkins-LWVNYC-Dec-2019.pdf (also posted on state League website).
Local League News
For more than 30 years the  LWV of Oneonta and the  LWV of Cooperstown lobbied for the creation of county manager. LWV Oneonta studied the issue and came to consensus in 1990 and then the LWV of Cooperstown concurred with the position. Finally, this year, the county administrator position passed. the League support helped in the passage, but it was also the case that the county board leadership had just the right mix of people to get it done. Click on the link to see the  article that appeared in last week's Freeman's Journal (the Cooperstown weekly) and its sister publication, All Otsego. Kay Stulligros, who served on the county board, was an important part of that fight. It was great to see the League credited.

LWV of Albany had  a presentation on Pay As You Throw (PAYT) by national expert Steve Lisauskas of Waste Zero Consultants, which currently helps run Pay As You Throw plans for 800 municipalities including Binghamton, Utica and Worcester, MA.  Zero Waste Capital District is a coalition of non-profit & concerned citizen groups focused on education and outreach about the importance of reducing waste, including LWV Albany County.

LWV of Buffalo/Niagara is part of the Our Outer Harbor Coalition, which is advocating for the Outer Harbor to be turned into a state park.

The book club of LWV of the Mid-Hudson Region is discussing Songs of America by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw in January. LWV of Saratoga offered members three choices of books to discuss at their January book club meeting: Radium Girls (Moore), Merchants of Doubt (Conway & Oreskes), and Climate of Hope (Bloomberg & Pope).

We are proud that NYC League member Adrienne Kivelson has revised her groundbreaking booklet, What Makes New York City Run?. This 40th anniversary version is an invaluable tool for anyone who wants to learn about our local government. The guide describes the various city offices and explains how budgeting, contracting, service delivery and land use are implemented under the current Charter. Go to LWV of NYC's website to purchase your copy.

Historian and member Chris Kelly will present highlights of their 80 year history at the January meeting of the LWV of Rensselaer.

LWV of Rochester organized a meeting, Crisis at the Border, with speakers:  Cary Jensen, Senior Counsel and Director of International Services, University of Rochester , and  Sandra Mitzner, MD, former Medical Director of the Villa of Hope.

Common Ground, the community conversation where participants can express their viewpoints and listen to different perspectives in a civic environment will continue in 2020. The YWCA's Courageous Conversations, the White Plains Public Library and the White Plains League of Women Voter's are collaborating in continuing the Common Ground Conversations.This is exciting because the notion of what constitutes a community often differs depending upon context. It will be interesting to see what definitions emerge and where there is overlap among different communities.

Happy Holidays to all - and wishing all an exciting and healthy New Year!
League of Women Voters of New York State
62 Grand Street, Albany, NY 12207
Tel: 518-465-4162;  FAX: 518-465-0812
Website: www.lwvny.org
Facebook: League of Women Voters of NYS
Twitter: @LWVNYS
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