LWVNJ Convention 2019
LWVNJ Convention Roundup 2019
Ed Gracely, LWVNJ Program VP
The 63rdLWVNJ Convention took place on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at the Imperia, in Somerset NJ. 32 local Leagues were represented with 94 delegates at the opening plenary.
Convention included the usual important business, plus several speakers, training sessions, and awards. It was exciting, interesting, and invigorating (as always).
This report is a mix of shorter reports written by me and other members of the League of Women Voters of Camden County for our local members. We hope you come away from reading it either with great memories of Convention, or the wish that you'd been there if you weren't!
There are a number of important items of business to transact at Convention. These play a major role in how the League will function for the next two years (and beyond). These activities were scheduled throughout the day, to allow time for discussion between the initial presentations and votes. I combine them here as one sequence:
1. Budget: The budget presented for delegate approval (LWVNJ) was is a deficit budget, as were most of the budgets of the past several years, but that's not as problematic as it seems. Why? Well, we don't budget for income we don't expect to get -- and we usually get some! After a few questions, the two-year budget was approved. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey Education Fund (LWVNJ EF) budget was approved by the LWVNJ EF Board of Trustees after the meeting closed, since the EF doesn't have "members," just a Board of Trustees.
2. Program: The most interesting part of the program discussion was that we adopted a new position: Support for a driver's certificate for undocumented drivers. This was approved at Convention, without an LWVNJ study, by "concurrence" with a study done by the LWV of Illinois. Concurrence takes advantage of the hard work of another League to quickly obtain a new position. Our Immigration Committee was very happy to see this new position added! In addition, all existing positions were retained, and we did not approve any studies for the biennium.
3. Bylaws: The main purpose of this year's bylaws revisions was allowing local Leagues (especially, but not necessarily, new ones) to adopt a leaner working structure, with LWVNJ collecting dues directly and handling other administrative tasks. This required a variety of changes throughout the bylaws. In the process we created a new acronym, "SALL" for "State Administered Local League", and retired an old term, "MAL Unit." There will still be members-at-large (MALs) who don't live in the area of a local League, but if they organize themselves in an area, the next step will be a SALL, not an MAL Unit. All bylaws changes were approved.
4. Board/elections: Nancy Hedinger will continue as president for the next two years. Several very long-time board members (including me!) rotated off board but most will remain active, or they moved on to new positions. The new board has a number of new faces, including some younger ones, a change that will be good for the League.
New state board
(Modified from Convention Minutes (taken by Terry Thompson, LWVNJ Secretary)
At every convention a number of awards are given. Membership awards are based on statistics -- growth in your roster. Other local League awards are chosen by the state board from nominees submitted by local Leagues. The Distinguished Service Award is also selected from nominees. Here is a brief summary -- these not only honor the Leagues that receive them, they also show what great things Leagues are doing!
Local League membership awards are given to celebrate Leagues with the largest percentage of growth. This year the awards went to the League of Women Voters of the Township of Ocean, with a 115% growth in membership; to the League of Women Voters of East Windsor-Hightstown, with a 65% growth in membership; and to the League of Women Voters of the Morristown Area, with a 58% growth in membership.
This award is given to a new project or a new twist on an "old" project that made a League visible, added members, or made a difference in the community, and went to the League of Women Voters of the Greater New Brunswick Area for its launching of a “Y Vote” Essay and Video Contest to engage local high school students and highlight the importance of youth civic engagement. Members worked with “student ambassadors” to help promote the contest and received 91 entries. Hear the winning video entries on the GNBA League's website: https://lwvgnba.com/advocacy/
This award is given for a project done in collaboration with other organizations that educated the public on an important issue, and went to the League of Women Voters of Monroe Township, which increased its organization’s visibility and effectiveness through collaborative work with local and state organizations on the program Myths and Misconceptions of Human Trafficking. This program reached many organizations, including the Girl Scouts and the Board of Education. Read about their Human Trafficking Committee on the Monroe website: https://my.lwv.org/new-jersey/monroe-township/human-trafficking-committee-0
This award is given for the most effective communication effort of a local League, and went to the League of Women Voters of Township of Ocean. Through its local television show, Facts & Issues, this League provided information about local government agencies, educated its community on policy issues, and interviewed residents who are working to make a difference in their communities. Check out Facts and Issues on the Township of Ocean web site: http://www.lwvto.org/facts-issues.php
Membership Engagement Award
This award goes to a local League that has effectively engaged new members to ensure an impactful and rewarding League experience, and went to the League of Women Voters of the Greater New Brunswick Area, which in its first year has grown and retained a membership of over 50 dedicated volunteers by offering interesting and inspiring opportunities and programs, including voter registration drives, the “Y Vote” essay and video contest, a “first-time voter” celebration event, and the creation of a civics education committee. (The Y Vote program won the Innovation Award too -- see above for a link).
Distinguished Service Award
This award is given to an individual League member who has served the League in an extraordinary fashion, having directed an outstanding League project, or given selfless service to the League on a continuing basis. This year’s awards went to two extraordinary members, Ann Armstrong (pictured, left, with President Hedinger), a Somerset County MAL, and Peggy Dellinger (pictured, right) of the Township of Ocean League.
Janet Fisher-Hughes, LWVCC Vice President
- The first of our morning plenary speakers was Maggie Bush (pictured) from the LWVUS. She began her talk by describing the four pillars of LWVUS’ mission:Voter Registration – LWVUS priorities include automatic voter registration, online registration (30 states already have this – NJ is not one of them! You can find a form online here, but you have to print, sign, and mail it), election day registration, expanded early voting, and permanent/portable statewide registration
- Voter Protection – Through the DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) lens, a key priority is DC Voting rights
- Voter Education– Vote411
- Voter Mobilization– Voter Contact Project (VAN)
The Voter Contact Project using VAN (Voter Access Network)
VAN is a computerized system that can be used to contact registered voters.
This project is being piloted for the June primaries and the League hopes to expand its use for 2019 general elections and beyond. Previous research has shown that phone calls by real people can increase voter turnout by as much as 3%; outreach like this is particularly impactful for younger and new voters.
- A user can access voter files, but VAN also allows user to compile their own lists
- The system shows name and telephone number of registered voters, but not party affiliation
- Caller ID shows call coming from LWVNJ
- Since many people screen calls, the system allows caller to leave a message (this was a popular idea with attendees!)
- Training webinars for VAN for June primary occurred late in May
- Numbers are automatically dialed and captures call results and voter contact so that impact of these calls may be measured
Advancing Equity and Inclusion
by Kristin Burke, President LWV Camden County
During the morning plenary, attendees next heard from Yvette Murry (pictured) from YRM Consulting. As has been acknowledged in the LWVUS "Transformation Roadmap" (executive summary available here), the League as a whole is relatively homogeneous and lacks racial, economic, age, and social diversity. Yvette noted the challenges of living "in her skin" as she called it, because there are so many ongoing reminders of racism and racial bias in this country. She said that too often these biases and resulting inequities are hidden behind "white speech" which obscures the reality of the situation. For example, we agonize over whether affirmative action is appropriate while ignoring the reality that society has provided a powerful, ongoing, implicit affirmative action program for whites, especially white males, for almost all of our history.She challenged us to go beyond claiming we are an ally to minority group members. Don't, she told us, say that -- act like a real ally, and she will call you one.
LWVUS has four webinars this summer/fall on the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we encourage you to register for one or more, or watch the archived recordings later. It's important for each local League to be representative of the community it serves, and Yvette challenged us to consider whether our Leagues include enough different perspectives. We may feel that our Leagues are welcoming and anyone who's interested can join, but diversity and inclusion means actively seeking out and listening to ideas and concerns from people who are not represented at our "table". And, she added, to create an opportunity for them to "own the table" rather than just be seated at it.
Luncheon Keynote Speaker
Harriet Snyder, Treasurer LWVCC
The keynote speaker, Ari Berman (pictured), a journalist and author, spoke on voting access and voter suppression. Since the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holden nullified part of the 1965 VRA, which required certain states with a fraught history of voter suppression to request judicial permission before changing voting laws, the campaign to restrict voting rights has intensified. Voter suppression through new ID laws, restrictions on early voting, limiting the number and accessibility of polling places, gerrymandering to target minority voters, and other measures have become common in many states. And even states that are generally in favor of expanding the mandate, like New York and New Jersey, have been slow to institute or expand early voting, automatic and same-day registration, and other means of raising voter participation. He encouraged us to lead the country in these matters!