Making Democracy Work

Focus newsletter for January 2020

Focus is the monthly newsletter of the League of Women Voters of Marion and Polk Counties.

Program Planning for 2020-2021--Y'all come!

Current Position Statements--Synopses of our current positions are in your membership directory beginning with national positions on Page 10, local positions on Page 19.

The full statements of positions are at:

LWVMPC: http:// LWVmarionpolk.org.
In the menu at the left, click on LWV Position Statements.
LWVOR: http://lwvor.org/full-lwvor-position-index/
LWVUS: https://www.lwv.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/LWV%202018-20%20Impact%20on%20Issues.pdf.

Local Program Planning for 2020-2021--For our local League, review our current local positions and think about whether to retain, drop, update or restudy each of them. (Remember, if we drop a position, we would have to do a restudy before using it again. So generally it's better to update an old position when needed.)

STUDY--Before you suggest a new local study, check the LWVMPC directory (and, if necessary, the full position statements) to see if we have a state or national position that we can use.

If you decide that we need to study a new topic of local importance, please be specific about what you want to study.

Also recruit a chair and committee to carry out the project.

RESTUDY--If we have a position that you think may be out of date, an interest group (small committee) could review the position, gather new information, and then recommend at next year's Program Planning meeting what action is needed, if any.

UPDATE--If we have a position that you think is adequate for

Suggestions for Advocacy

If you see a local issue on which you think the League should publicly advocate and for which we have a position, suggest that topic, being as specific as possible.

If you are interested in local advocacy, please offer to be Action Chair to recommend issues for advocacy and work with the Board on testimony. doing advocacy but you think our members should be informed about the topic, perhaps by a speaker or panel of speakers, suggest an update of the topic. It would be helpful to also suggest possible speakers.

Definition of Terms

RETAIN: Keep position as is; no change.
DROP: Remove the position completely from our list. We may not use it for advocacy without a new study.

RESTUDY: Undertake a review of the position in order to potentially change it.

UPDATE: Study the position topic for informational purposes only, with no intention to update the position, only to update the knowledge base for the members.

Listen to LWV forum on the Student Success Act

There was much information at the December 4th forum presented by five educators from local school districts. Attendees were inspired by the educators' thoughtful suggestions on how best to use the additional money appropriated by the Oregon Legislature to improve the schools in their districts.

So instead of trying to write up the highlights for the newsletter, we urge you to listen to it at https://kmuz.org/the-forum/. Scroll down to the LATEST EPISODES headline and then to "The Forum + 12/13/2019 + Oregon's Student Success Act + What It Is And How It's Being Implemented."

National LWV Program Planning

After almost 100 years, the League of Women Voters does not have a position on how we should vote for representatives. The LWVUS has recommended an Electoral Systems position be adopted by concurrence at the 2020 LWVUS convention. Delegates to the convention will have extended time to discuss the proposed statement, printed below, before voting on its adoption.

The position statement is based directly on language from many state and local Leagues around the nation, including Oregon. Approving the concurrence at our 2020 national convention will provide Leagues which have not done related studies a position with which to act on electoral reform. The position will be flexible and broad enough to allow for local Leagues to consider various reforms. The statement is permissive, not prescriptive.

If you have questions, contact Barbara Klein of Rogue Valley LWV, who is co-leader of this LWVUS concurrence project.

Proposed Concurrence Statement: Voter Representation / Election Process

The League of Women Voters [of US] promotes an open governmental system that is representative, accountable and responsive. We encourage election methods that provide the broadest voter representation possible.

Whether for single or multiple winner contests, the League supports election methods that:

● Encourage voter participation and voter engagement
● Encourage those with minority opinions to participate, including under-represented communities
● Are verifiable and audible
● Promote access to voting
● Maximize effective votes/minimize "wasted" votes
● Promote sincere voting over strategic voting
● Require the winner to receive a majority of the votes for executive and other single-seat offices
● Are compatible with acceptable ballot-casting methods, including vote-by-mail

The LWV[US] believes in representative government. The League supports electoral systems that elect policy-making bodies--legislatures, councils, commissions, and boards--that proportionally reflect the people they represent. We support systems that inhibit political manipulation (e.g. gerrymandering).

The League of Women Voters [of US] supports enabling legislation to allow local jurisdictions to explore alternative election methods, as well as supporting state election laws allowing for more options at both the state and local levels. With the adoption of any new electoral system, the League believes that education of the voting public is important and funding for startup and voter education should be available. We encourage a concerted voter-education process.

Suggested New Year's Resolution: Support Local Journalism

Les Zaitz, editor and CEO of the online Salem Reporter, wrote in a December 31 email:

My inbox and social media feeds almost daily pile up with accounts about the fate of news in the United States. The theme is the same: the news profession is dying as more Americans forsake paying for competent news. Right now, about 1 in 10 pay something to get news. ...You can find free "news sites" that really are pushing a particular political or social interest. What's missing: Credibility.

Too many people decide that if it's online, it's true. Of course, that's not the reality. There is a risk in bad information. People can make ill-informed decisions, whether it's what medicine to take or not take, which public official to believe or distrust, which school program to support or oppose.

In Salem, the news team of Salem Reporter fights hard every day to find the truth. We question, we seek documents, we insist on getting direct access to data. We do that to provide the very best factual information about the community. We want to fairly reflect what life is like in this growing, thriving town. ...

As a journalist said at a recent Salem City Club meeting, unless we support local journalism, we must accept "normal corruption." So check out the Salem Reporter at http://salemreporter.com as well as the Statesman Journal at http://statemanjournal.com and seriously consider supporting local journalism.

Implicit Bias and Fake News

Four LWVMPC members attended the LWVOR Fall Workshop in Eugene on October 19; they were Cindy Burgess, Kathleen Clark, Patty Davenport, and Sally Hollemon. Following are highlights of the presentations on bias and fake news. The following two articles are from Sally's notes.

IMPLICIT BIAS--THREATS TO DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION Erik Girvan Erik J. Girvan, JD, PhD in Social Psychology--Mr. Girvan is an Associate Professor at the University of Oregon School of Law, where he teaches courses in civil litigation, the psychology and law of discrimination, and the psychology of conflict. His research investigates how stereotypes, attitudes, and other biases might impact decisions in the legal system and related contexts (e.g., arbitration and mediation, school discipline). He also explores, develops, and empirically tests practical ways to reduce or eliminate those effects.

Prof. Girvan said that we all use heuristics or mental shortcuts. For example, there are many varieties of dogs, but we easily identify any of them as a dog. When we think of risk in travel, we may think that flying is dangerous because, although plane crashes are rare, they get a lot of publicity when they happen, unlike when much more frequent car crashes happen.

Broader experiences, more knowledge, diverse interpretations and diverse approaches to solving problems all help one make better decisions. Therefore, we should welcome people into the League who have different perspectives. This is difficult to do (we feel more comfortable with people who agree with us) and conflict can occur. When we meet someone who disagrees with something we care about, we assume that the person has less information than we do, so we share our information. If they don't agree with us then, we tend to think they can be disregarded. But we fail to hold ourselves accountable for our own biases.

Decision-making processes should be inclusive and transparent. People should perceive that the procedures for making decisions are fair. Those procedures should involve:

● Active listening: Acknowledge the person, ask questions to clarify, empathize, and (most important) summarize back what the person said.
● Give a speaker time and space to make her points
● Be aware of body language (yours and the other person's)

Fake News and Propaganda

Donna CohenDonna Cohen--A former teacher and librarian, since 2016 Ms. Cohen presents non-partisan civics workshops in Oregon and Washington that fill in gaps in civic and political understanding and encourage critical thinking and increased civic engagement. Information about her workshops may be found on her website at https://www.civicthinker.info.

Fake news--Ms. Cohen said that democracy requires critical thinkers. Information without source is just an opinion. Fake news is false information. Unfortunately, journalism and opinion are often mixed, especially on the internet. So check for subjective words. Look at the website's url (web address). Is it the company's real url or are there extra letters? Check the logo; is it real or slightly off? Look at the bottom of a questionable article to see if there is a notation that "This is a satyrical website."

If you see a story online that has dramatic information about an important issue, check to see if the same story is reported on other websites that you know are reputable. Check questionable information on a fact-checking website, such as snopes.com, factcheck.com, politifacts.com. And don't forward a website unless you first check to be sure you aren't passing on false information.

Deep fakes are a new problem. Facial Reenactment Real-time facial reenactment is a technology in which an actor speaks and the mouth of a famous person on TV appears to say the words the actor spoke. This technique can make it appear that a famous person said something he never said.

Propaganda is intended to influence. Aspects of propaganda are

● Simplicity--It includes only a few points.
● Repetition--When a lie is repeated over and over, some people will believe it.
● Emotion--especially to invoke fear.
● Doubt--makes people question a fact.
Example: Smoking--Cigarette makers didn't have to prove that smoking is harmful. Doubt about its harm was enough to keep addicted people smoking.

Political ads can legally lie to voters (based on the 1st Amendment). The Bipartisan Ads Act before Congress would provide some limits:

● No foreign money could be used to buy political ads.
● Rules for online ads would be modeled after the rules for political ads on TV and radio.
● The source of an ad must be identified.

Political statements (as with ads in general) should be looked at carefully. What information is missing? For example: "Liberty Mutual customizes your insurance." (All insurance companies do this.)

Terminology matters. Estate tax, inheritance tax, and death tax all refer to the same tax. Other examples of terminology used to influence belief are: regulation = protection and chain migration = family-based migration.

When polls are cited, try to find out how the questions were phrased because that can influence the responses. For example, one poll offered two options. A few people insisted on answering that they didn't have enough information to choose an option, so the poll results were shown with 3% undecided. However, when researchers went back to other respondents, (To Page 6) they discovered that a majority of them were actually undecided but hadn't been given the option to say so.

Logical fallacies are statements that don't make sense but are intended to divert attention. Example: Pres. Trump tweeted: "I don't know Putin, have no deals in Russia,... yet Obama can make a deal with Iran."

Correlation is not the same as causation. Family Circus cartoon →

A list of websites compiled by Donna Cohen with additional information on how to spot misinformation is at https://cdn-cms.f-static.com/uploads/2516289/normal_5d9bc33ae6513.pdf.

Common Scams

From https://www.dhs.gov/be-cyber-smart

Phishing attacks--Don't open an email attachment if you're not sure who it's from. If it purports to be from someone you know, look at the email address; is it the right address? Check the grammar in the message; scams from foreign countries usually reveal that English isn't their first language.

Imposter scams--If you receive an email or phone call purporting to be from a government official, family member or friend asking you to wire money, verify whether or not the situation is real.

"You've won" scams--You receive an email stating you've won a prize, the lottery or a sweepstakes and you're asked to pay a fee or tax for the prize or there's a request for your credit card or bank account information.

Healthcare scams--Calls, emails or letters that promise big savings on your health insurance. Cyber criminals will usually request your Medicare or health insurance information, social security number or financial information.

Tech support scams--If someone claiming to be with a technology company contacts you to diagnose a computer problem--help which you didn't request--stop! If you receive an unexpected pop-up or spam email about an urgent problem with your computer, stop! Scammers are likely using a nonexistent problem to obtain remote access to your computer or banking information.

Identity theft--Signs that you may be a victim of identity theft:

● bills for products or services you never purchased
● unauthorized withdrawals from your bank
● unauthorized charges on your credit card statements
● new credit card accounts in your name for which you didn't apply
● a decrease in the amount of mail or bills you receive
(This is an indication that your address has been changed so your mail and/or bills are going elsewhere.)
● being rejected or denied credit
Don't ignore any of these suspicious signals; report them immediately. The longer you wait, the more time-consuming, costly and exhausting it can be to rectify the situation.

Oregon Votes by Mail

A video on the history of Oregon's Vote-by-Mail system produced by CCTV and including LWV Voter Service cochair Kathleen West as a panel member can be viewed at https://youtu.be/C4YFMJn2MNs.

THINK BEFORE YOU INK

READ the initiative petition and then consider the following before signing it:
Is it TOO COMPLEX? - Some decisions may be simple yes or no votes. Other decisions will affect many areas of government. Make sure you understand the implications and consequences if this petition becomes law.

Is it CLEAR? Some proposals aren't well-written. They may have conflicts requiring court interpretations or resolutions.

If the initiative is a constitutional measure, does it BELONG in the Constitution? Is it a fundamental law that should be protected? Changes or mistakes would require another (costly) election to amend the Oregon Constitution.

Is it an "unfunded mandate?" Would the Legislature need to pull funds from other essential programs? Initiatives should generally not earmark, restrict, or obligate specific General Fund revenue percentages.

Before you sign, ask to see ID. Paid gatherers must carry photo ID issued by the Secretary of State. If they don't have the required ID, you can reasonably wonder why. Numerous instances of fraud could have been avoided by insisting on seeing ID.

Like LWVMPC on Facebook!

Barbara Sellers-Young, Publicity Chair

Thanks to Kathleen Mason we were able to get our Facebook page up.

See LWVMPC page

If you click on "like" it, you'll receive notices from Facebook that will keep you updated on League events and related activities.

League Lingo

Program -- It all starts with the several steps of Program:
  • Program Planning + members submit ideas of governmental issues that different levels of League (national, state or local) should consider for study.
  • Program Adoption - Selected governmental issues are chosen by the membership at local, state and national levels for study and member agreement in the upcoming year/biennium at Conventions or Annual Meetings. Those governmental issues that League members choose for concerted study usually lead to a new position and potential action/advocacy. 
  • Programs - Forums or other meetings with speakers or discussion or other activities which may be based on League Positions or on issues the League members want to learn about.

Position -- statement of policy



To most in the public policy world, "taking a position" on something means that the organization or person actively supports or opposes a particular piece of legislation.  

To the League, a Position is the statement of governmental policy based on member research, study and agreement. A Position is approved by the appropriate board (national, state or local) once study and member agreement is complete. Positions that have been approved are written up in Impact on Issues (national), Issues for Action (state) and on our local League website <http://LWVmarionpolk.org> under Position Statements. Synopses of national, state and local Positions are in our LWVMPC membership directory.

League Positions do not support or oppose any particular piece of legislation. They are statements of general principles against which specific legislation or ballot measure can be measured to determine whether or not the League can support or oppose it.



Action -- Positions form the basis for League Action/Advocacy 



The boards of the respective Leagues use the previously approved Position statements to determine support or opposition to a specific piece of legislation or to influence governmental decisions by supporting policies, budgets, comprehensive plans and initiatives or referenda. League leaders may also use public forums or other means to develop public support for League goals.
 

Who can speak for the League?



The president at each level of the League is the official spokesperson, although she/he can authorize others to speak for the League.  

League members are encouraged to contact their legislators and speak for themselves; applicable personal experience is especially valuable in showing legislators how proposed legislation would affect people's lives.

LWV Mission Statement Explained

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League carries out its mission in two ways:

1) Education of voters with unbiased, factual information on issues and candidates appearing on a ballot, so citizens can cast an informed vote; and

2) Advocacy for public policy issues only after members have studied each issue and reached a consensus position.

The League never supports or opposes any political candidate or political party, and any use of the League of Women Voters name in campaign advertising or literature has not been authorized by the League.