Making Democracy Work

Focus newsletter for January 2019

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

President's Column

Diana BodtkerDiana Bodtker

I haven't picked up all the wrapping paper, eaten the last cookie or figured out where to put all those books I received as gifts, but here it is time to consider New Year's resolutions. Mine are always the same + eat fewer sweets, exercise more and procrastinate less. Because I never manage to stick to them for very long I just recycle them year after year. Because of my past failures I have decided to look at a list of new resolutions that involve others so I can't be such a backslider.

I resolve to assist LWVMPC in encouraging the citizens of Marion and Polk Counties to vote in all elections. Elections at every level of government are important. Those elections that directly affect our state, county and city government probably impact our lives more directly than elections at the national level. The national elections receive all the media attention but that does not necessarily make them more important to our lives.

I resolve to to assist LWVMPC in providing information for the citizens of Marion and Polk Counties about issues of concern at the local as well as national level (e.g., state redistricting that will happen after the next census). On the basis of population migration and growth within the state Oregon district boundaries may need to be redrawn to have an equal number of citizens in each district. On the basis of population growth we may gain a congressional representative. That would have a large impact on the redistricting process and our state's impact in Congress.

I resolve to assist LWVMPC in providing information and encouraging those who will be voting for the first time in Oregon. These may be the youth in our schools or voters new to the state. Our youth may not recognize voting as an adult responsibility or the power of their votes. Those who are new to the state may have little or no idea of the region's issues or their history.

I resolve to assist LWVMPC in providing opportunities for each of our members to be involved in those League activities that interest them the most. This includes being involved at the local or state level. There are many opportunities at the state level due to both our proximity to the LWVOR office and the state capitol.

These are my resolutions for 2019 and I am asking each of to you assist me in keeping them.

Happy New Year to you all!

Hot Topics/Unit Meeting: REDISTRICTING

Redistricting is coming to our state after the 2020 Census, so we all need to be informed and prepared. There will be a Hot Topics/Unit Meeting on redistricting the morning of January 9 at the Salem Library in the Anderson Room from 9 to 11 a.m. This is your chance to discuss this complex topic in a comfortable venue with League friends and look at the various proposals on how it should be accomplished. Several new proposals have been made public since the LWVMPC-sponsored forum on November 7. A good place to start is to review Sally Hollemon's article below. Diana Bodtker will lead the discussion.

Redistricting in Oregon--History and LWV Proposal

Notes by Sally Hollemon

Norman TurrillLWVOR President Norman Turrill and LWVOR Redistricting Project Coordinator Candalynn Johnson spoke on Candalynn JohnsonA Look at Redistricting: Issues, History and Reform at the November 7 forum to 15 League members and four guests in Loucks Auditorium.

Importance of the Census--The U.S. Constitution requires every resident to be counted in each state. The 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are apportioned to the states based on population as are state houses of representatives. Federal funds are distributed according to population for schools, hospitals, roads, public works, etc., so an accurate count of population ensures that each community gets its share of the $675 billion per year in federal funds.

The 2020 census could be especially important for Oregon. Due to an increase in the state's population, Oregon may receive a sixth congressional district.

Gerrymandering--The U.S. Constitution gives states the power to redraw the lines of both congressional and state legislative districts to reflect the most recent census. Our current single-member winner-take-all election system encourages the political party in power to draw district lines to create safe districts for that party. Computers make it easy for legislators to select their voters. Gerrymandering can also be used to create a district in which a minority group can elect a representative, but this is rare.

Redistricting in Oregon--A legislative committee is created to propose new maps, hold public hearings to gather input and debate the maps, and pass a bill instituting the newly drawn boundaries by August 1. The governor can either approve or veto the maps, in which case the legislature can override the veto with a supermajority vote. If the legislature fails to draw the maps, the secretary of state draws the legislative districts and the Oregon Supreme Court draws the congressional districts.

In Oregon the process rarely works well. During the past 100 years Oregon Oregon Senate Districtslegislators either failed to draw the boundaries or its map was vetoed by the governor or a lawsuit ensued. An exception was 2011 when the Oregon House was evenly split between the two parties and Senator Courtney wanted an orderly process. So the legislature did a bipartisan gerrymander to protect incumbents in both parties. Since the party in power changes every so often, everyone should want a process that is fair to all, a process in which voters choose their representatives.

Federally Required Criteria--Each district must be of equal population size (Oregon specifically does not allow a deviation of more than 1%). This coincides with the "one person, one vote" doctrine where the districts must be equal so that each legislator represents the same number of people, and the influence of each vote is as equal as possible.

The Voting Rights Act requires special districts that have a majority of a minority population group if that population is large enough to constitute a district and if there are voting patterns specific to the communities of interest. In addition, districts must be contiguous (all parts must be connected) and congressional districts must be single-membered.

Oregon Criteria for Redistricting--Oregon law requires that each district, as nearly as practicable, be contiguous; be of equal population; respect geographic barriers (as they can divide communities); and respect current political boundaries so that districts may be easily identified, communities of interest (defined by shared ethnic, geographic, socio-economic or other shared interests) are protected, and so as to not confuse voters with constantly shifting borders.

In addition, no district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring any political party, incumbent legislator or other person nor dilute the voting strength of any language or ethnic minority group.

Two state House of Representative districts must be wholly included within a single senatorial district.

League Goals for Reform--The League proposes that an independent commission perform the redistricting process, that a backup be more neutral than the partisan Secretary of State, and that a neutral court handle legal challenges related to redistricting. The League also proposes adding a requirement that districts promote competition and an increase of representation; districts should represent people, not geography. The law should specify that redistricting can only occur in the year following the decennial census (to prevent redistricting whenever the majority party changes in the legislature).

The Plan--The League will ask the 2019 Legislature to approve a new redistricting process and to refer a constitutional amendment to voters to allow the new process. If the legislature doesn't act, an initiative petition is likely.

The League's redistricting proposal is detailed and too lengthy to include here, but you can see the full proposal at RedistrictingMatters.org.

Get Involved: Legislative Interviews

Chris Vogel

Chris VogelBefore each long session of the legislature League members interview our local representatives and senators to learn about their priorities and to tell them ours. We go in groups of two to four to meet legislators representing Polk and Marion County. This year we'll schedule our interviews between January 29 and February 7. I hope you will spend one day during that time and join with me and other members of LWVMPC to meet with your own state representative and senator to interview them.

I'd especially encourage League members who have never done this to join us--you'll be paired with me and someone else with prior experience. I've enjoyed coordinating these LWVMPC interviews in the past two long sessions in 2015 and 2017, and I hope you'll join me for 2019.

Please contact me if you are willing to participate. Following our interviews, we'll recap in the Capitol Café. We do these interviews after the session starts so that you may also have an opportunity to attend a committee hearing or watch the House or Senate on the floor, if you wish.

The purpose of these interviews is two-fold. First, it gives us a valuable opportunity to personally meet with our legislators, develop relationships, and remind them of the League's interest in dealing with important local and statewide issues. In addition, these responses give the LWVOR Action Committee an initial idea of the legislators' thinking. This allows those on the LWVOR Action Committee to prepare for subsequent advocacy efforts throughout the January-July 2019 session.

We'll be asking these four questions: ● What do you think will be the three most important issues that will need to be addressed during the 2019 session of the Legislature? ● What two issues would you like to work on during the session? ● What did the voters in your District say was the most important issue for the Legislature to address? ● How will you work with legislators from the other political party?

We'll also provide the legislators and their staff with The LWVOR Legislative Action Team priorities for the 2019 session that lists all of League's Action advocates and the many areas we follow in the legislature (included with this newsletter).

So please contact me and join the fun!

Thanks!

LWV is 100 years old in 2019

The League of Women Voters is a citizens' organization that has fought since 1920 to improve our government and engage all citizens in the decisions that impact their lives.

The League of Women Voters operates at national, state and local levels through more than 700 state and local Leagues in all 50 states as well as in DC, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.

The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920, just six months before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving all American women the right to vote after a 72-year fight for women's suffrage.

From the beginning, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy.

PROGRAM PLANNING 2019-2020

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF OREGON

Current Position Statements--Please look in your membership directory at the synopses of LWVOR positions (Page 15). Think about whether to retain, drop, update or restudy each of them. (Definitions of terms are below.) An index of the full position statements is at http://lwvor.org/full-lwvor-position-index/.

Update or Study--If you suggest an update or study, state the topic of statewide importance and specify what aspect(s) of it to update or study. Consider the items in the box below. Also recruit a few members of a committee to carry out the project.

The Future of the League--As part of preparations for our 100th Anniversary, the LWVOR Board suggests a discussion of the Future of the League.

The LWVUS Board stated: Today we are faced with many challenges that threaten to compromise our democracy. Our efforts to support voting rights and to fight against voter suppression and discrimination at the local, state and national levels have been very successful, and this has been achieved primarily by educating and empowering voters, circulating special petitions, and intervening in several critical court cases. The League's historic commitment to register, educate and mobilize voters is not only stronger, but more effective than ever, utilizing such tools as VOTE411.org--a cutting-edge election information website utilized by millions of voters each election cycle.

How can the League continue to help Make Democracy Work?

Bylaws--If any changes to the LWVOR Bylaws are needed, suggest those. The current Bylaws are at http://lwvor.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/LWVOR-Bylaws-2017-05-07.pdf.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF MARION AND POLK COUNTIES

Current Position Statements--Please look in your membership directory at the synopses of LWVOR positions (Page 19). Think about whether to retain, drop, update or restudy each of them. An index of the full position statements is at http://LWVmarionpolk.org. In the menu at the left of the home page click on Positions.

Update or Study--If you suggest an update or study, state the topic of local importance and specify what aspect(s) of it to update or study. Consider the items below. Also recruit a few members of a committee to carry out the project.

Definitions of Terms

RETAIN: Keep position as is; no change. DROP: Remove the position completely from our list. All further advocacy will be discontinued. It may not again be incorporated into the program without a new study. 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. RESTUDY: Undertake a review of the position in order to potentially change it.

Consider the following when proposing a new study:


1. What issues of importance are most critical in Marion and Polk Counties?

2. How could the issue give the League visibility and credibility?


3. Would the issue stir the imagination of our members and attract potential members, including individuals representing different viewpoints, ages, racial or ethnic identities or others who are underrepresented in the League?

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.