May 2021

This spring, 361 bills in 47 states have been introduced that would impose significant barriers to ballot access. There has been a 43% increase in bills with restrictive provisions in less than a month's time, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. In five states these bills have already been signed into law. 

These continued attacks on the election process feel almost personal.
They are personal. Our votes are personal - they are our voice. 

Our Democratic process is based on counting votes - every single one. Every voice needs to be heard. Every vote counts. 

This is why the League worked to make sure that everyone could vote during a pandemic. It is why we need to ensure there are no barriers, none, to our essential right to vote. It is why we wait patiently for every vote to be counted in every election. 

It is why we advocate for fair maps and testify in redistricting hearings. It is why we meet with legislators in open conversation - to exchange information and hold them accountable to the voices in their communities. It is why we observe public meetings in our local communities. It is why we are adamant about education and civic engagement. 

The loss of any voice is the loss of every voice. It is all personal. We all need to speak up, reach out, share. It is incumbent on each of us to inform those who might not know that there are efforts to silence voters' voices in nearly every state in our country. 

This is our democracy to claim and protect. 
League of Women Voters of Illinois 
National John Lewis Voting Rights
Advancement Action Day, Saturday, May 8
Join a national day of action in support of S1, HR4 and DC Statehood. Find a votercade in your area—there is still time to register and join more than 130 motorcades and rallies taking place throughout the US. Thank you to all local Leagues for helping to organize community events!

S1 - For the People Act of 2021 
Passed in the House and now waiting in the Senate, this once-in-a-generation bill will address money in politics and protect voter access, election integrity and security so that our democracy gives voice to all Americans. With voter access being threatened by bills in 43 states, S1 would guarantee your right to be heard and represented no matter what state you call home.

HR4 - John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act
This bill will directly tackle issues of racial discrimination at the ballot box by restoring and strengthening the protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

HR 51 - Washington DC Admissions Act
We ALL need to care about DC statehood—because if we don’t, we are turning a blind eye to the willing and continued disenfranchisement of 712,000 DC residents who pay more in federal taxes than those in 21 states and more per capita than any state in the nation. Add to this the fact that the majority of the population of DC is Black and Brown, and the goal of statehood cannot be separated from the goals of racial justice. Period. Learn more from the League of Women Voters of DC
Fair Maps Need Census Data 
It was no surprise when the US Census counts were announced last week that Illinois lost one congressional seat, leaving it with 17 congressional representatives for the next decade. Although the loss was not as precipitous as had been predicted, Illinois’ population decreased by 18,124 people.

The census data only reflects the total population in each state. It does not give census numbers at the block-level that is needed to fairly draw maps.

The state legislature has not yet announced what data it will use to draw district maps, which must be completed by June 30 according to the Illinois Constitution. It is concerning that state lawmakers might use the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) 2019 five-year population estimates. 

The ACS estimates result in an undercount of the state population by 41,877 people. A state representative district currently has about 107,000 people. This shift of nearly half the number of people in a state representative district can have a big impact on how communities are mapped.

Lawmakers can fix the situation by seeking a court order to set aside the deadlines so that maps can be drawn after complete, block-level census data is available. 

Contact the governor and your state legislators now and ask them to request the Illinois Supreme Court to set aside the redistricting deadlines. Illinois State Senate and House district maps can represent communities of interest fairly by using accurate census data, not by using ACS estimates.  

Redistricting must be based on real numbers so that all voices are heard at the ballot box for the next decade. 
Building Strong Legislative Relationships
Every spring, local Leagues across the state turn their attention to building relationships with their legislators. These annual legislative interviews are an opportunity for open conversations around issues of interest along with discussions about specific bills before the legislature.

The results of legislative interviews often inform League advocacy efforts. Recently, the Responsible Budget Coalition used information from League interviews to track support for budget initiatives and map strategies to focus advocacy on specific legislators and their constituents. 

Legislators and communities benefit from strong channels of communication between local Leagues and elected officials. Many legislators have come to rely on the League’s well-deserved reputation as a source of nonpartisan, fact-based information around key issues. And as engaged community members, Leaguers are able to voice concerns and gain insight into legislation as it makes its way through the General Assembly. 

To date, nearly 20 local Leagues have interviewed 33 state legislators, and more interviews are scheduled. LWVIL’s Issues and Advocacy committee compiles individual interview reports for later release.
Real-time Updates on Illinois Legislation
You can now track legislative action on bills with a new feature on the Action Alerts page of the LWVIL website. This scrolling update is a curated list of bills that LWVIL issue specialists are watching as they move through the Illinois General Assembly (ILGA). Details such as a bill summary, sponsors and latest ILGA action are a click away.

Bills LWVIL is currently tracking include: 
  • HB 25 - Immigration-Right to Counsel, crossed over to Senate
  • HB 119/SB516 - Healthcare-Prescription Drug Repository, HB crossed over to Senate
  • HB449/SB1707 - Housing is Recovery Pilot Program, HB crossed over to Senate
  • HB804/SB1718 - Clean Energy Jobs Act, SB 3rd reading deadline is May 7
  • HB 2775 - Homelessness Prevention, crossed over to Senate.
  • HB2784/SB2117 - Mental Health, Community Emergency Services and Support Act, HB crossed over to Senate.
  • HB3232/SB1840 - Hospitals-Financial Assistance, SB crossed over to House
  • HB3447 - Criminal Justice-Reducing Barriers to Recovery, crossed over to Senate
  • HB1736/SB647 - School Code: Sex Abuse-Sex Education, recreated as a shell bill, SB818
Lobby Day Advocacy Every Day
Legislators need to hear from you. Let them know about the three issues that were the focus of LWVIL’s Lobby Day on April 26. Find resources and watch the video, then make your voice heard about the following:
  • Reducing Barriers to Recovery in cases of small scale drug possession (HB3447); discussion by State Representative Carol Ammons (103rd) and Senior Advisor for Women’s Justice Institute Elizabeth Cruz.
  • The Clean Energy Jobs Act and its potential as discussed by State Representative Anna Moeller (43rd).
  • Restoring Evidence-Based Funding for Education on the FY 2022 Budget is crucial for our youth; hear from Advance Illinois' Melissa Figueira and school superintendents Jennifer Garrison (Vandalia CUSD #203) and John Price (North Chicago Dist. #187). 
Local League Educational Events
Local Leagues regularly host virtual events related to both voter education and action on issues.Events are open to the public. See what's coming up on the LWVIL calendar.
Errata: A sentence in an article last month should have read: LWVUS advises and advocates on behalf of more than 500,000 members and supporters nationwide on a variety of critical issues.
The League of Women Voters of Illinois is nonpartisan and neither supports nor opposes candidates for elected office but does work to influence public policy on specific issues after member study and consensus.

The League of Women Voters of Illinois Education Fund (LWVILEF) encourages informed and active participation in government by providing civic education and voter services. Make a difference today for you and your community with a tax-deductible gift to support our work to defend democracy and empower voters.