LWVNJ Convention 2013

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Friday evening, May 4: Two of our members (Lee Forbes and Sandy Smith) attended the Hurricane Heroes Cocktail Reception & Awards Ceremony. Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the LWV of the United States, was the distinguished guest. Attendees viewed a documentary film about citizens, government officials, and LWVNJ members whose efforts following Hurricane Sandy ensured that citizens displaced by the storm could participate in the 2012 General Election.

The LWVNJ plans to purchase the rights to certain clips of storm footage; the film without that footage is almost all interviews, so the storm footage makes it much more real and interesting. The cost is about $9000, and LWVNJ requests donations to reach this goal. Awards were given to various individuals and organizations that worked tirelessly to ensure that New Jersey citizens could vote. For a list of the honorees, please visit www.lwvnj.org.

This event was also a fund raiser. Many members of the Princeton Area League donated items for the Silent Auction. Special thanks to these individuals for their generous donations: Nancy Hall and Toshi Abe for a sushi-making class; Netty Lowenstein for hostess items; Edith Neimark for one of her still life pastels; Chrystal Schivell for her baking and sewing talents; and Lee Forbes for a spa set and bottle of wine that was included with generous gift certificates from McCarter Theater and Blue Point Grill for a “Princeton Evening” package! Everything sold, raising several hundred dollars for the State Education Fund.

Saturday, May 5: Four of our members (Lee Forbes, Melissa Scott, Nancy Hall, and Sandy Smith) attended the all-day Convention as voting delegates. Three members (Edith Neimark, Frieda Gilvarg, and Sandi Rabinowitz) attended the lunch and guest speakers/awards session. Sandi Rabinowitz was recognized as an honorary lifetime member. In the Parade of Local Leagues, Sandy Smith represented our League and briefly described our accomplishments of the past 2 years, such as the 2012 Princeton mayoral debate, the Voter 101 Workshop, and our anniversary party in October 2012.

Notable accomplishments of other local leagues included: an event where attendees come dressed as important women in history and describe their contributions; holding voter registration drives at locations where immigrants are receiving their US citizenship.

Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the LWVUS, joined the LWVNJ for Convention. She discussed issues related to our national organization and highlighted priorities such as replacing the outdated database and upgrading technology. She commended local leagues such as Princeton Area that have created websites, and enthusiastically supports appropriate use of social media to further our mission.

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Elizabeth MacNamara, LVWUS president, and Toni Zimmer, LWVNJ president, selecting the winners of the raffle

Highlights of Presentations

Advocacy: Nancy Hedinger, LWVNJ Vice President, reported that the Advocacy Team held 3 training sessions, increasing the lobby corps to more than 30 members covering half the New Jersey legislative districts. State activities included forums on human trafficking, education, and Citizen’s United.

Membership: Anne Maiese, LWVNJ Vice President, shared the encouraging news that League membership increased nationwide in 2012 to approximately 50,000. Net growth was 0.3%, reversing a trend of declining membership over the past several years. Local Leagues participating in the Membership and Leadership Development (MLD) program in 2012 grew by 1.34% overall.

Membership continues to be a concern for LWVNJ. Our state total has declined from 1527 in 2011 to 1291 in 2013. Of the 31 local Leagues, 3 maintained membership and 6 had modest increases. Our Princeton Area League declined from 79 to 66 members, but remains one of the 5th largest (not including Members at Large). About 10 new members have joined our Princeton Area League over the past 2 years, all of whom are still active. Nine local NJ Leagues, including Princeton Area, are now participating in the MLD program, with emphasis on strengthening leadership and boosting membership.

State Program Positions: All current positions will be retained. The position on Charter Schools will be addressed in an Update Study. A proposal for a new study, Human Trafficking, submitted by the Montclair Area League, was approved. LWVNJ does not support a study on hydrofracking because it would prevent us from advocating on the issue during the study period.

Amendments to the Bylaws: Two amendments were approved: (1) clarified inclusion of Convention delegates chosen by “MAL Units” and (2) modified rules for number of Convention delegates per League, including MAL Units and Inter-League Organizations.

Development: To strengthen state finances, the Development Committee held a fundraiser in spring 2012 and another prior to Convention (Hurricane Heroes Cocktail Reception). An upcoming Board Retreat will include emphasis on continuing fundraising.

The 30-year anniversary of ownership of our state office building in Trenton is 2015. The board set a goal of raising $3,700 for the Building Campaign.

Budget: The proposed budget for LWVNJ (all members) was approved; deficits will be covered by previous surpluses. The Board of Trustees will approve the LWVNJ-Education Fund budget per the bylaws; deficits will be covered by seeking additional grants and using previous surpluses.

Officers and Directors: The 2013-2015 slate of state Officers and Directors, as proposed by the Nominating Committee, was approved. Congratulations to Lee Forbes, Director!

Guest Speakers: The keynote speaker was Myrna Perez, League member and Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. She discussed the cases presented to the Supreme Court regarding voting rights, and expressed concern that more states are introducing restrictive laws.

The cases relating to voting rights pending in the U.S. Supreme Court discussed by Myrna Perez are: Arizona v. Inter Trial Council of Arizona (challenge to provisions of Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship to vote in national elections) and Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder (challenge to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act). Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prevents certain "covered" jurisdictions from implementing any change to voting practices or procedures unless and until the jurisdiction demonstrates to federal authorities that the change "neither has the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color."

Steve Kornacki, co-host on MSNBC's ensemble show "The Cycle" and senior political writer at Salon.com, spoke about the political climate in Washington. He emphasized the importance not only of the President but also of Congress in governing. Steve had many anecdotes from his years covering NJ politics during various scandals.

Awards: Congratulations are in order! Our local League received the Communications Award based on our submission of 11 items that included our website, videos of candidate forums and the Armchair Advocacy Workshop, and numerous newspaper articles. Many thanks to everyone who helped prepare the submission and contributed to the information included.

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Elizabeth MacNamara, LVWUS president, and Toni Zimmer, LWVNJ president, selecting the winners of the raffle