The Voter

November 2020
League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area









Democracy is not a state. It is an act.
— John Lewis
From the President
Bexar County saw record turnout in the general election, with 65 percent of registered voters participating and nearly 89 percent either sending their ballot by mail or voting early. This robust turnout in the midst of a pandemic and in a state with restrictive voting laws didn’t just happen. There were many forces at play. Among them were scores of dedicated volunteers – members and supporters of the League who informed, encouraged, and helped voters to vote safely at the polling sites. I wish to express my gratitude to each one of you for your commitment to make democracy work for all. I hope this season of quiet repose and reflection brings you satisfaction from an effort well done.

After we take a moment to catch our collective breath, we return our focus to shaping governmental policies that affect our lives. With the Texas legislative session starting in January, we must ensure that citizens’ voices remain an important part of political dialogue. There is no dearth of paid lobbyists and special interests who seek to influence public policy through their access to legislators. Yet, it is vitally important for state legislators to hear from their constituents. The legislators need to know what issues are a priority in their constituents’ communities, and that is best communicated by the people who live and work in their community.

The League will keep you informed through this newsletter and the website about important legislation and ways to reach your legislators. Let us make sure that the needs and concerns of citizens are not overshadowed by political rhetoric and high-profile maneuvering among powerful special interests. Citizens are the guardians of democracy. As quoted above, John Lewis reminded us in his posthumous essay, published in the New York Times, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act . . . “

Wishing you Happy Thanksgiving. Stay safe, stay healthy.

Madhu Sridhar
You DID Make a Difference
The pandemic severely limited our ability to engage our fellow citizens of Bexar County, but it didn’t shut us down completely. The primary Get Out the Vote goal was to encourage people who were registered to vote but didn’t, to take the first step in making voting a habit — to vote. 

Creative solutions abounded – yard signs, door hangers, block walking, store signs, postcards, more block walking and postcards – and League volunteers pitched in enthusiastically. 

It was an incredibly busy, exciting, and exhausting four weeks before the November 3 election. In the midst of this work, it was not surprising that this question would come up: Will this make a difference?

Overall, more Bexar County voters turned out in 2020 compared to 2016. Even more encouraging, in the precincts where the League focused its GOTV efforts, the voter turnout increased.

We can’t take sole credit for the increased turnout since there were many other groups encouraging voter turnout this election, but the League was in the neighborhoods with door hangers and postcards, doing what it always does – encouraging voting and providing accurate information. And more of those non-voting registered voters went to the polls this election.
2020 versus 2016 election – voter turnout breakdown

Registered voters:        1,188,913 (+13%)
Total ballots cast:           773,796 (+29%)
Early votes cast:            596,961 (+37%)
Mail ballots cast:            92,589 (+136%)
Election Day votes:          84,246 (-31%)

Source: Bexar County Elections Department
What a difference four weeks make!
How we started the get out the vote effort: in masks, in shortsleeves, in the South Texas heat
How we ended the get out the vote effort: in masks, in jackets, in the South Texas chill
What's Next?
Membership
Want to get involved with the League, but not sure what might fit your interest? Plan to attend a virtual Committee Roundtable on December 15 where members can learn what activities are planned by the chapter’s standing committees. Each committee chair will describe the committee’s activities for the next six months, offering new opportunities to engage with the League. A survey will follow the Roundtable to determine member interest.

It’s important to remember that the next election is in May 2021 for San Antonio mayor and city council positions, and the Texas Legislature will be in session beginning January 12!

Watch your inbox around December 8th for an invitation to the Roundtable. Your survey will arrive on December 15 via email.  
Program Committee
Nuclear Waste Transportation
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a proposal to store high-energy nuclear waste at a facility in west Texas. The waste will arrive at the facility by train, using the same rail corridors that pass through congested urban cores as well as rural communities. The Program Committee sent letters to the four congressional representatives for Bexar County, alerting the representatives to the League’s concern about this plan. The committee did hear from Sarah Laven, legislative assistant from Representative Lloyd Doggett’s office, who briefed committee members on steps the Congressman’s office has taken on this issue and offered suggestions on how committee members can keep the pressure on the three congressmen who have not responded to the letter from the League.
Texas Legislative Interviews
Every two years, following the election of Texas legislators, local League members interview newly elected representatives and senators from the legislative districts comprising the League service area. For the San Antonio League, these are the representatives and senators from these legislative districts that include Bexar County.
House of Representatives
Districts 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125
Senate
Districts 19, 21, 25, 26
The interviews are an opportunity for you to get acquainted with the legislators that represent you and to learn what their priorities are when the legislature convenes January 2021. Given COVID-19 protocols that are in place, the interviews will be virtual this year. 

No experience is required to conduct an interview, and you don’t have to formulate your own questions. The state League has the form and the questions for you. There are also training videos and experienced League members to help you through it. 

Does this sound like something you’d like to do? If so, contact Elaine Talarski at bookdoll99@gmail.com for more information.   
The Income Inequality Study
In recent decades, the gap between the rich and poor in the US has grown to the point where our country is now the least equal of the advanced economies that comprise the G-7. Economic inequality harms our democracy. In the words of Justice Brandeis: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” 
 
Because it is such an important, far-reaching, and complex issue, League members authorized a study of economic inequality in Bexar County at the chapter’s annual meeting in May 2020. Since that time, League members have been busy collecting information on the extent of inequality in our area. The group has also been evaluating many of the factors that might contribute to inequality: Our tax policies, our educational system, housing, health care, childcare, our criminal justice system, and workforce issues. 
 
Final recommendations for policy updates that might be considered by the LWVSA membership will not be available until late in 2021, but the study group is now at the point where some study results can be shared. Several public forums are being planned, starting in February. Initially, these will be virtual forums. As time passes, we will evaluate our public health situation and may consider moving to an in-person format or some hybrid format. Please watch this newsletter and our website for updates.  
Welcome Our Newest Members!
Linda Murray
Charla Davies
Tiffanie Clausewitz
Catherine Clausewitz
Jo Anne Johnson
James Johnson
Nicole Juel
Bobbie Malone
Bill Malone
Yvonne Kylstra
Angelica Powers
Michelle Byrne
Keith Woodruff
Erica Tomsic
Leslie Tramer
Jon Tramer
Thanks also to all of our renewing members!
Coda
All volunteer deputy voter registrar Certificates of Appointment expire on December 31, 2020 and need to be renewed after January 1, 2021 if you would like to continue registering people to vote. The Bexar County Elections Department has not posted the when or how the new schedule of classes will take place on their website, but continue to check elections.bexar.org for updates.