League of Women Voters of NYS


July 2017

From the State President
When I wrote last month, Judie Gorenstein and I were at the LWVUS Council meeting in the DC area and I promised you a report.  Judie kindly wrote the report for us and you can see it below in her report. 
The report stresses the need for all of us to make our state and local Leagues more effective by being more comfortable with new, nimble ways of doing things, while still being firmly committed to being nonpartisan. I am eager for change (hard though it is) but I find myself struggling with our nonpartisan policy when so many issues the League cares deeply about (health care, climate change, immigration, etc.!) - as well as the very structures of our democracy are under attack. 
Yes, there is much we can say and do, and LWVUS has issued statements of outrage that we can use in our own Letters to the Editor in local media outlets, but sometimes I get frustrated with the limits as I watch party members propose candidates, gather signatures, and get about the business of trying to put people in office who agree with them. I even find myself tempted to run for office myself.
But countering those frustrations are my experiences with new advocates who are grateful to be with a group like ours that is listening hard to all sides and knows the ins and outs of advocacy at all levels in a deep and very useful way. It feels so good to introduce so many new people to the restrictive NYS election laws, see their outrage, and help direct their anger into informed and effective action.  I hope you too are training activists, and keeping a close eye on your own governing bodies. Even my own county's legislature is reduced to a level of squabbling that I don't think I've ever seen before. We must insist on better government everywhere.  
Meanwhile, on the state League board we send greetings and thanks to former board members Anne Burton, Georgia DiGregorio, Judy Middelkoop, Terri Parks, and Sue Wilson and welcome new members Sheila Miller Bernson, Betty Ann King, Lori Robinson and Suzanne Stassevitch. The new board had a two-hour board meeting by conference call earlier this month, and besides routine business (minutes, financials, advocacy updates, and reports from board members), we established a committee to come up with new ways to support local Leagues, approved the request from the LWV of East Putnam Co. to become the LWV of Putnam Co., debated and approved some policies related to candidate debates, and discussed Directions to the Board from our state Convention. The State Board Update sent to local League presidents has more details on this last item. It will be good to see board members in the flesh at our September meeting in Albany. 
The state  board also continues with plans to celebrate NY women getting the vote in 1917.  We've already participated in an April women's conference at Hyde Park and SUNY New Paltz which included LWVUS CEO, Wylecia Wiggs Harris, and many of us enjoyed a pre-convention tour of Seneca Falls last month. I was in Seneca Falls again for Convention Days, got into some buildings that had been closed in June, and met many League members from around the country (including new-ish Syracuse member, Erin-Leigh Darnley, who was with some young students connected with the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center). "Elizabeth Cady Stanton" read the Declaration of Sentiments at the opening ceremony (see photo above left).
And now we ready ourselves for the fall election season and for the multi-faceted centennial suffrage celebration in Albany on Saturday, November 4. Is your calendar marked? See you then if not before!
Dare Thompson, President
League of Women Voters of NYS
 darethompson@gmail.comTel: 518-465-4162
Facebook: League of Women Voters of NYS
Twitter: @LWVNYS
Convention Keynote Speaker: 
Sally Roesch Wagner
NYS Archives Partnership Trust:
2017 Archives & History Award
Support the League Through Amazon
Travel with the League
Click here  for trips and itineraries.
Organ Donor Facts
2017 Report from LWVUS Council
Judie Gorenstein, judieL728@aol.com
LWVUS Council of 2017 focused on this being the time for transformation.  The LWV is at a crossroads.  We are moving from the way things have always been done, through a planning and transition change to what the LWV will be in the century to come.   We do not have a choice.  We need to change to be relevant.  We can and should be THE leading voice for fair elections and good government. 
    We may never have an opportunity as good as the one we have right now. Since the 2016 Presidential Election, politics is more polarized than ever and citizens are looking to be civically engaged.  Memberships in many Leagues have already significantly risen.  In Ann Arbor, MI, membership went from 70 in 2016 to 450 members in 2017. Many people look to the League with our nonpartisan policy as a voice of reason and as the experts in voting and elections.  The LWV has won court cases re voting rights in several states.    We are both a voter service and an advocacy organization.  We CAN and DO do both!  Our strength comes from both. In those states where there have been court victories such as Florida, their visibility  - along with their membership  -  increased dramatically.  Success begets success. 
    What does the LWVUS as well as state and local Leagues need to do to continue to be successful in reaching our transformation and goals?  It is important that we increase and retain our membership as well as our outreach and impact.  We need to make it easier for people to be involved.  This can be done by offering different paths to affiliation with the LWV.  In order to help local Leagues do more, national and state Leagues may need to lessen administrative burdens now on local Leagues.  One way may be by restructuring PMP and have dues submitted to national and flow downward.    It is also possible to have different levels of membership. Some Leagues already give scholarships.  A Florida League has been giving trial membership for $21.00.  90% of trial members stayed on for the rest of the year.  It is also important to make it easier for Leagues to form.  This can be done by decreasing the requirements. 
    It is crucial that we increase external perception of us.  First, we have to have clear understanding of who we are.  If we are not clear ourselves , we give out conflicting messages which creates confusion.   If we are more aligned and unified, if we get things done, it gives us a much bigger impact.  We need to speak with one voice.  People need to perceive that we matter, we are knowledgeable and are a force to be reckoned with. 
    WHAT ARE SOME OF THE STUMBLING BLOCKS WE FACE?  A major hurdle may be our own beliefs and feelings.
  • Do we have a fear of failure that keeps us from trying something new?
  • Are we uncomfortable with change and want to keep old patterns?
  • Do we think the "League way" is the only way?
  • Do new ideas make us feel defensive and/or tired, not inspired?
  • Are we fearful of losing control?
  These and other attitudes can keep us stagnant.  They need to be examined. We need to feel positive about change and be able to take risk.  The founders took risks and welcomed change.  As we look ahead at the next 100 years, we need to channel our inner Carrie Chapman Catt.  We need to be flexible and strategic.  While making certain that we remain and continue to be perceived as nonpartisan, we need to set measurable goals and evaluate if we are attaining them.  More than ever, our democracy needs a strong League of Women Voters.  
Legislative Activity
Jennifer Wilson, Jennifer@lwvny.org
In July we received press requests related to campaign finance and the Governor's executive order on voting reforms. At the beginning of the month, there were several articles criticizing the Governor for benefiting from campaign donations from shell LLC corporations. The League has been adamant about closing the LLC loophole and we told reporters that we were dismayed to see the Governor benefiting from the LLC loophole when he has done little to address the problem. The Governor was not the only elected official to benefit from LLC donations, members of the Assembly and Senate also received large sums from these corporations. We will continue to monitor campaign spending as we get closer to the election.
At the end of this month the Governor passed an executive order mandating all state agencies have voter registration forms and help individuals complete the forms. The League issued a statement urging the Governor to do more. In New York State, registration is not the issue. In 2016, New York had a record high of registered voters. The issue in New York is barriers to voting such as long lines and strict party change deadlines. We hope that in 2018 the Governor will focus and more meaningful reforms such as early voting. Our full statement is below:
While we appreciate Governor Cuomo's intentions, his proposed executive order will do little to address the issues New York State voters face on Election Day. Voter purges, strict registration and party change deadlines, and long lines at the polls cannot be fixed with enhanced voter registration. Studies show that voter registration is not a major issue in New York State. In 2016, voter registration in New York State reached a record high. Unfortunately, many of these newly enrolled voters faced barriers at the voting booths that deterred them from casting their ballot. While we agree that state agencies should take a more active role in voter registration, we would prefer to see an executive order that enacts early voting, alters registration deadlines, or allows for electronic poll books. The only way to truly empower voters and ensure ballot integrity is to make voting easier and more accessible. 
Hope the weather was good for the annual Potluck Picnic by the LWV of Buffalo/Niagara. Their speaker was Dave Spiering, conservation project manager of the Western New York Land Conservancy, who joined them for lunch and brought them up to date on the Restore the (Niagara) Gorge project, which received funding in this year's state budget.
LWV of the Hamptons has a tremendous day planned for Aug. 24. They will me et at the recently unveiled Pomeroy Foundation historic suffrage marker and r e-create the Suffrage Rally of August 1913  in celebration of 100th anniversary of women's vote in NYS. The LWVH Committee has invited numerous community groups and expects about 100 marchers to walk from the marker to a program at E.H. Library. Participants are encouraged to wear white or period dress, and a gold satin "Votes for Women" sash. The program and refreshments in E.H. Library's Baldwin Community Room, taped by LTV, will include Coline Jenkins of Greenwich, Conn., a descendant of the 1848 Seneca Falls Conference co-head Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch, who spoke at the 1913 rally!
Antonia Petrash, LWV member and founder of the Long Island Suffrage Association, was the speaker at the annual meeting of the LWV of Huntington.
At their annual luncheon, LWV of Syracuse Metro Area hosted Pamela Vittorio who has done extensive research on the social and cultural history of the Erie Canal over the past decade. Currently, she is the editor of the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum From the Boatyard newsletter and on the CLCBM Board of Trustees. She discussed the connection between the Erie Canal and women's suffrage movement and why upstate New York was such a hotbed for the women's suffrage movement.
The life and contributions of suffragist and abolitionist Matilda Gage was presented by Pamela Poulin, volunteer and docent at the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, at the annual meeting of LWV of Tompkins County.
The LWV of Rochester has a contract with the Monroe County Board of Elections (MCBOE) to open absentee ballots for the Primary and General Elections. League members volunteer to do this project for each day that they are needed. This project is a fundraiser for the League.
At their annual meeting, LWV of Schenectady had Professor of Political Science & Director of American Studies at Union College, Zoe M. Oxley , talk about "What The Election in 2016 Tells Us About America; a Look at Racial and Gender Equality in the USA & What it Means to Be Part of a Post Truth Society"
The Observer Corps in LWV of Albany County has been very involved this summer and encourages its members to attend County public hearings in July and August on the County shared services initiative as mandated by the Governor aimed at reducing property taxes.
What an interesting day LWV of Saratoga spent checking out Susan B Anthony's home in Battenville. Something must be done to save this historic home which is in great disrepair (photo on right).

Leading the parade for history days in the Village of Fredonia, were women from the League of Women Voters of Chautauqua dressed as suffragists.

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