Making Democracy Work

Focus newsletter for November 2018

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

President's Column

Diana BodtkerDiana Bodtker

As I write this today, October 21, the Sunday Oregonian has an article on why people don't vote. The reasons given were not agreeing with the position of either candidate, gerrymandered districts or the electoral college determining the winners, their candidate not needing their support or their candidate having no chance of winning. In addition to these stated reasons the poorest counties in the nation had on average the lowest voting participation. Although voter suppression is a national concern, it was not given as a reason for avoiding the polls.

For those of us passionate about voting, these are hard facts to accept. Members of LWVMPC have worked hard to get out the word about this election and its significance. We have partnered with many like-minded groups and individuals.

We worked with City Club to host a successful meet-and-greet evening for local state senate candidates. We helped a Sprague High School student organize voter registration for fellow students. Deanie Anderson made a well received ballot measure presentation at the request of Salemtowne residents.

We also had a ballot measure presentation at Capital Manor and a well-attended ballot measure forum with the American Association of University Women that was filmed and can be viewed at https://youtu.be/RUNj7dme25Q. In addition we conducted local candidate interviews for CCTV. They can be viewed at https://www.cctvsalem.org/2018generalelection/. Thank you to every one of you who participated in these efforts.

In spite of our hard work there is much more work to be done to increase voter participation. The League of Women Voters is as relevant at all levels today as when we were founded 98 years ago. Be proud that you are part of this organization working to make democracy work.

Correcting misinformation in campaign ads

Campaign ads often contain misinformation or misleading information. One example, which LWVOR President Norman Turrill pointed out in his recent letter to League leaders:

"Supporters are saying that Ballot Measure 106 will save the state $2.9M, the current annual funding for abortions. However, the official financial impact statement in the Voters Pamphlet says that deliveries, health care, food, and nutrition services for additional babies will cost $22.2M in the first year, compounding in following years. The net cost increase in the first year, offset by $14.5M in increased federal resources, would be $4.8M."

Legislative Process Day on November 16

Friday, November 16, 9:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Oregon State Library across Capitol St. from the Capitol

Legislative Process Day gives us a preview of likely legislation in 2019--in health care, education, gun safety, energy and jobs--and an opportunity to learn techniques for effective grassroots action. Sen. Kathleen Taylor will speak, and Rep. Andrea Salinas will talk about health care. (No Republican was willing to speak.) Dale Penn, a lobbyist, and our LWVOR Action Team members will also speak.

Cost: $30, which includes breakfast pastries, coffee and lunch
Please register by November 9 at http://www.lwvor.org.

A Look at Redistricting: Issues, History and Reform

Candalynn Johnson, LWVOR coordinator of the Redistricting Educational Project, and Norman Turrill, president of the League of Women Voters of Oregon, will present a program to explain the Issues, History and Reform of redistricting at a public forum on Wednesday, November 7, from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. in Loucks Auditorium at Salem Library, 585 Liberty St. SE. See their bios below.

Following the 2020 census all states will adjust their legislative and Oregon Senate Districts congressional boundaries to conform with the national requirement that districts have approximately equal numbers of voters. Oregon may get an additional member of Congress.

The League of Women Voters of Oregon has received a grant from the U.S. League of Women Voters Education Fund to create a program for state-based education and advocacy that aims to promote a reform to our current redistricting process here in Oregon.

The League supports redistricting reform that would promote taking the process of redistricting out of the hands of legislators and putting it back into the hands of an independent redistricting commission to create fair and representative districts. We believe that voters should be choosing their representatives, not representatives choosing their voters. This reform would require an amendment to the Oregon Constitution.

One of the issues in redistricting is gerrymandering by the use of computer programs to put voters into districts to benefit the political party doing the redistricting. Since the LWV's proposed reform would involve amending Oregon's Constitution, there are many questions to answer about an independent redistricting commission. Who would appoint it? How would independence be assured? What criteria for drawing district boundaries are proposed?

We urge you to invite friends and relatives to attend the League's November 7 presentation with you to learn about the redistricting proposal and ask questions.

The forum will not be recorded by CCTV due to scheduling conflicts, but it will be recorded by KMUZ radio.

About Our Speakers on Redistricting Reform

Candalynn Johnson has a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Oregon Candalynn JohnsonState University and has a long history of non-partisan advocacy work here in Oregon. After college, she served a year in AmeriCorps, where she coordinated a mentorship program at Chemeketa Community College for teens at the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties. Before her time in AmeriCorps, she was a board member of the Oregon Student Association and organized a voter registration and education campaign that registered over 4,500 students to vote. She also has advocated for youth voters in both Salem and Washington D.C. and educated the public on how to communicate with their representatives and navigate the Oregon legislative process. Currently, she works as a Campaign Coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Oregon and is coordinating forums across the state to educate voters on the issue of redistricting. When she isn't working she volunteers as a confidential advocate for the Center for Hope and Safety's 24-hr crisis line and as a chaperone for BGC field trips. Her hobbies include reading fantasy novels, collecting and learning how to play new board games, and watching the latest historical fiction series on Netflix. 

Norman TurrillNorman Turrill has MS degrees in Chemistry and Computer Science from University of Washington. He worked as a teacher in the Peace Corps in Somalia and then as a software engineer. He is now "mostly retired" and self-employed as a consultant, computer analyst/software engineer. He and his physician wife have two adult children.

Norman was an active member of Common Cause in Seattle in the 1970s working on such issues as sunshine public disclosure, sunset laws, annual legislative sessions, campaign finance, government ethics and redistricting. These were often in close coordination with the League, which he joined soon after the organization voted to accept male members.

Norman's career moved the family to several parts of the U.S. After they moved to Portland, Norman joined the Portland LWV Board and was active in Voter Service and Advocacy. He joined the LWVOR Board in 2004 and that year was appointed by Secretary of State Bill Bradbury to his Campaign Finance Disclosure Panel, which eventually led to the 2005 Oregon Legislature instituting the ORESTAR online continuous campaign disclosure system. Norman was elected to the national LWV board in 2008, the first man to ever serve on that board. Since 2015 he has served as LWVOR president.

Why an essay contest on Civil Discourse?

Diana Bodtker, President, and Barbara Sellers-Young, Project Coordinator

This last year the LWVMPC Board had a series of discussions about its role in fostering community dialogue. We noted a lot was done to register and encourage people to vote, provide information sessions on legislative topics, prepare research reports on higher education, water, mining, environment and other issues. However, the majority of these initiatives engaged the older members of the community.

How then does one involve the younger members of the community? Civil Discourse words The suggestion was made that an essay contest for high school seniors that focused on a current issue would be an approach. This group was chosen as they are on the cusp of voting and thus contributing to the electoral process. It was also felt that hearing their thoughts on a topic might expand our own understanding of the direction of an issue and thus invigorate our thinking. As civil discourse is fundamental to a democracy, this was chosen as the topic for the first essay contest.

We will not know until December what the response will be from high school seniors at the nineteen high schools in Marion and Polk Counties. We have reached out to over 70 social studies teachers at the high schools. With the support of publisher A.P. Walther there will be a flyer in upcoming editions of Salem Weekly, and the Salem/Keizer School Board has received copies of the flyer.

Beyond this, Chuck Bennett, the Mayor of Salem has endorsed the project or as he phrased it: "Thank you for giving me an opportunity to endorse this outstanding program. And, absolutely I endorse it!"

The Salem/Keizer Education Foundation is providing support through facilitating the collection of the essays. And as noted in September's Focus, there are six people who have generously offered to review the essays--Helen Caswell, Roz Shirack, Jim Sellers, George Dyer, Louise Brantley and Steve Chambers. An anonymous donor has made available $1000 so that we can give a first prize of $500, second of $300 and third of $200.

We have made a good start on moving this new initiative forward, but we do encourage you to let those you know who are high school seniors learn about this opportunity.

Essay form

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.