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  • 21 Aug 2023 10:35 AM | Anonymous

    What do local news, VOTE411, and an amicus brief filed on behalf of the State of Washington in State of Washington v. Meta Platforms have in common? These are all areas where the state League has been active in recent weeks.

    The amicus brief asserts that voters are entitled to know who is paying for campaign ads posted on social media; finding out must be possible so voters can cast an informed ballot. News regarding a local news organization in Kansas speaks to the importance of keeping local communities informed about what's happening so voters can cast an informed ballot. Finally, Vote411, when it goes live on October 9th, will offer voters a way to learn about candidates' views in their own words. All of these are integral to empowering voters and defending democracy. This is what League doesin these ways and many more!

    The League has many active volunteers and not everyone can be active at different points in their life; but if this is a time that works for you, check out your local League or contact the state League office to find out how to plug in. Democracy thanks you!

    After hearing about the events in Kansas, the Local News Committee decided an op-ed was needed. Below is the op-ed created by Local News Committee Chair Dee Anne Finken (Thank you Dee Anne!) and sent out to newspapers across the state:

    "News of the police raid at the Marion County Record in Kansas on Aug. 11 ignited outrage across the nation. Similarly newsworthy was the announcement by the county’s top prosecutor days later that he had insufficient evidence to justify the search or the seizure of the newspaper’s property or material.

    Few of us know much about what happens in Marion County, an hour and a half southwest of Topeka and home to fewer than 12,000 people. The last time national attention focused on that section of Kansas was in 2010, over construction of the controversial Keystone Pipeline.

    Condemnation of the raid by news organizations like The Seattle Times and free-press advocates is understandable. But beyond the police action, the events of the past week or so also should remind us of the vital role local newspapers play throughout the country, serving us all.

    The county’s oldest newspaper, the Record has seen a number of owners, publishers and name changes in its 154-year lifetime. With a newsroom across the street from the Marion County Courthouse, it provides an accounting of the administration of justice in the region every Wednesday. Both its print and online pages keep readers informed about decisions by elected officials, developments in the schools and the ups and downs of local business, like recent coverage of the 50th anniversary of a local furniture store and an area dairy’s award-winning cheese.

    Why does this matter?

    In the past 15 years, for a variety of reasons, a quarter of local newspapers nationally have gone out of business; if the trend continues, we’ll have lost one-third by 2025. Washington has lost more than a fifth of its local newspapers and more than two-thirds of their newsroom staff members.

    Research by the League of Women Voters of Washington as well as by scholars and others tells us local newspapers are critical to healthy communities. “The Decline of Local News and Its Impact on Democracy,” which the League published earlier this year, along with reports by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and others, have linked the loss of a community’s newspaper with higher government costs, reduced voter participation, reductions in the number of candidates vying for local office, increased political polarization and less effective public health campaigns.

    When they are robust and independent, local newspapers also fulfill the vital role of watchdogs, keeping an eye on the work of government and politicians, allowing the rest of us to sleep more soundly.

    The League of Women Voters is about defending democracy and empowering voters. Local news is critical to this enterprise."

    Mary Coltrane,
    LWVWA President

  • 18 Aug 2023 12:52 PM | Anonymous

    by Karen Verrill, The State We're In: Washington Project Manager

    The LWVWA is happy to report our popular civic education textbooks are now available in Spanish! This is one way of helping our Spanish-speaking residents feel welcome and to help them learn how government works in our state.

    Our books, The State We’re In: Washington. Your guide to state, tribal and local government (TSWI) are available in two editions. One is designed for grades 6 and up and the other for use in elementary schools. These textbooks include information about Native tribes in Washington—how tribes governed themselves pre-contact, how they are governed today, and how they interact with Washington’s state and local governments. These colorful books include the ethnic and geographic diversity of our state and are designed to inspire students to become active citizens in their community.  

    The Washington State Council for the Social Studies and the Washington State Indian Education Association have both endorsed these materials.   

    Two years ago, the League learned the largest and fastest growing population in Washington are Latinos.  Thus, with the urging and support of LWV Snohomish County, we had our poster "What Does It Take to Be a Good Citizen?" produced in Spanish. This was followed by research on and the production of The State We're In: Latino History in Washington, which is available in both English and Spanish.

    Recently the League shared these books with the Directors of the Multi-Language Learning Department at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). They encouraged us to get the elementary edition of TSWI and Latino History in Washington translated into Spanish because these textbooks would be useful in dual language classes. More than 40,000 students in WA are in these (English/Spanish) classes.

    All of the above materials are now translated into Spanish, and digital copies of most can already be found in our shop. The rest will soon be available there and at the OSPI website.

    Unfortunately, we have not been able to print the Spanish edition of the elementary edition of TSWI, the teachers’ guides, or Latino History in Washington due to lack of funding. We are currently pursuing grant opportunities to fund these amazing booksif you have experience with grants, we could use your help! Please contact Karen Verrill.

    Please help us spread the word about these textbooks!

    The books and downloadable materials in this article, as well as our other civic education materials, can be viewed here.

  • 18 Aug 2023 9:50 AM | Anonymous
    By Irene Finley, LWV Clark County Redistricting Committee Lead, Member of the LWVWA Redistricting Reform Task Force  

    A Washington Western District Court judge ordered on Thursday, August 10, 2023, that Washington “redraw a legislative district in the Yakima Valley region because its current boundaries undermine the ability of Latino voters to participate equally in elections.” You can learn more here.

    Highlights from the decision: 

    • U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik invalidated the map for the 15th Legislative District drawn by the bipartisan state Redistricting Commission in 2021. 
    • The district encompasses parts of five counties in south-central Washington and is represented by three Republicans.
    • Lasnik wrote in his 32-page decision that the “line-drawing which, in combination with the social and historical conditions in the Yakima Valley region, impairs the ability of Latino voters in that area to elect their candidate of choice on an equal basis with other voters.”
    • The state needs to reconvene the Redistricting Commission and draw up new boundaries, due to the state Legislature by Jan. 8, 2024, for enactment by Feb. 7.  
    • If the commission does not meet the deadline, the federal court will decide the maps. “Regardless of whether the State or the Court adopts the new redistricting plan, it will be transmitted to the Secretary of State on or before March 25, 2024, so that it will be in effect for the 2024 elections,” Lasnik concluded.

    The current redistricting process was established in 1983, when the WA Legislature created the bipartisan Redistricting Commission configured to have two commissioners from each of the major political parties and a non-voting chair. The redistricting process occurs every ten years, and is when new legislative districts are drawn nation-wide. This process was last undertaken in 2021.

    The League of Women Voters of Washington has a long history with redistricting reformwith positions dating from 1955 ("Redistricting and Reapportionment," p. 17). Before the redistricting process in 2021, the League released a 2017 report, “A Review of Redistricting in Washington State” which concluded the need for redistricting reform even before the 2021 Commission failed to finish maps and settled or lost multiple lawsuits.

    Before redistricting in 2021, the LWVWA also led public education and training opportunities, called Speak Up Schools, and convened listening sessions for communities across the State that resulted in a League-supported legislative map for the Yakima Valley, presented to the Commission. This map kept together most of Yakima and the Yakima Tribal Lands in southern Yakima County.  

    Whether the Redistricting Commission is reconvened, or the federal courts remap the Yakima Valley, the new maps could change the 15th, 14th, 16th, and 8th legislative districts, perhaps others as well.

    The Redistricting Reform Campaign Task Force is working to bring about needed change. To become involved, contact Issue Chair Alison McCaffree, amccaffree@lwvwa.org, (253) 720-6813.

  • 26 Jul 2023 10:02 AM | Anonymous

    Remembrance of Ruth Coffin Schroeder 2006-2023
    LWVWA President 1983-1987

    Ruth Coffin Schroeder, president of the League of Women Voters of Washington from 1983-1987, died on June 24 at her home in Yakima, six days after celebrating her 97th birthday.

    Ruth grew up in Yakima where she developed her passion for community service and volunteer work, including the League of Women Voters, eventually becoming president of the local league. She moved to Seattle in the late 70s, enrolling at the University of Washington, and was soon invited to serve on the state board, taking on the human resources portfolio. In 1983, she was elected president of the state league.

    Following her League presidency, Ruth was appointed by Governor Mike Lowry to a new citizens commission on government ethics and campaign finance reform. She also served on the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Conduct.

    Ruth joined the board of Planned Parenthood of Seattle-King County after her League service, and also a book club composed mostly of League members. After her husband’s death she returned to Yakima, so was unable to attend book club. However, during the pandemic, when we all had to stay home, Ruth was able to rejoin the book group from Yakima, via Zoom.

    Ruth was a wonderful and talented leader, a good friend and will be missed by all who knew her. A memorial will be held later in the year. 

  • 25 Jul 2023 12:06 PM | Anonymous

    Did you know that citizens can form a public hospital district (PHD) to fill unmet health care needs in their communities? Most people don’t know thateven when they live in an area that has a PHD.

    What is a Public Hospital District? It is a special services district (think your library or fire department) organized to assure that a community has access to the services it deems necessary or desires.  It is formed by a vote of the people, governed by elected officials and paid for in part by property taxes like any other special service district, so the community has a vote on decisions made and on who makes those decisions. Typically the taxes required are similar to the other districts, because insurance, Medicaid and Medicare pay most of the costs.

    PHDs are not just hospital providers. They can offer Emergency Management Services (EMS), hospice, palliative care, behavioral health and much more and in fact, many do not even have a hospital. Look at this map to see if one of the 58 PHDs is in your area and links to what each PHD provides.

    As hospital mergers become commonplace, especially in rural and medically underserved areas where healthcare is often paid for by Medicare and Medicaid, and fewer secular healthcare options are available, the role of PHDs in filling gaps in needed healthcare services such as end of life options and full reproductive healthcare may be seen as increasingly attractive.

    There is now a webinar, PHD 101, that is available to local Leagues and the public, that explains what PHDs are and gives examples of what they do and how. It explores all aspects of PHDs to adequately inform people who are interested and to support League members feeling comfortable providing education for other League and community members.

    You can view this webinar at one of the presentations scheduled this summer. At each of these, there will be a League team to answer questions.

    •     Saturday, September 9, Health Care Affinity Group, 1:00 pm 

    For more information, see League of Women Voters of WashingtonPublic Hospital Districts: Making Democracy Work for Local Healthcare.

  • 25 Jul 2023 11:44 AM | Anonymous

    By Jen Winckler, LWVSC Communications Chair  

    Among other tips and reminders for voting found in the Snohomish County Official Local Voter's Pamphlet, voters can find a QR code on page 38 that can be scanned with a phone's camera to open League of Women Voters of Snohomish County’s Candidate Forums page. From therereaders can find links to view or listen to all of the "virtual doorbelling" forums LWVSC hosted for this primary election.  

    Thank you to the Snohomish County Auditor's office for helping spread the word about these nonpartisan forums! 


  • 25 Jul 2023 10:21 AM | Anonymous

    Are you ready for the August 1 primary election? Whether you are trying to choose between candidates for the races on your ballot, understand the ramifications of the state’s top-two primary system, or just register as a new voter, Vote411 can help.  

    Vote411.org is a product of the League of Women Voters Education Fund. It's a prize-winning, nationwide online voters’ guide. In the state of Washington, it offers explanations of the election features peculiar to Washington as well as information on every candidate in every race in the state. 

    The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization which does not endorse candidates. Instead, it offers Vote411 as a tool to enable voters to make their own informed choices. All candidates for a race receive the same questions and voters can see their responses displayed side-by-side for comparison. 

    The League of Women Voters of Washington publishes this online guide as a service to all voters.

  • 25 Jul 2023 9:58 AM | Anonymous

    August 1 is an important day for Leagues of Women Voters across Washington. It's the last day of voting and the League is all about voting because this is how we participate in our representative democracy.

    The League's Voter Services volunteers are working in communities at farmer's markets and other places educating voters about the "how-tos" of votingnever the how towalking voters through the ballot; reminding them they can register right up to the day of if needed; calling VOTE411 to their attention so they can get candidates' view in their own words; holding candidate events. We do this because we believe casting an informed ballot is critical to democracy and thatfor all its imperfections, it's the best system of government to date. Democracy doesn't operate on automatic. It needs attention. That's why League volunteers are out talking to voters.

    The news media tells us—and we likely know from personal experience—that we are living in hyper partisan times. League's nonpartisan policy helps guide us as an organization through the sticky wickets that can arise as we carry out our service to voters. The Member Policy reminds us that respectful discourse is essential to engaging voters in the critical business of voting. Our candidate forums are a place where strong views may be particularly noticed.  

    The Member Policy also calls us to create a safe space for the discourse essential to democracy. Imagine, if you will, Leagues across the country taking note and reminding themselves, attendees, and candidates that here is a safe place to practice the fundamentals of democracy. What an amazing antidote to some of the mis- and disinformation that circulates on social media and elsewhere.  

    I thank all our amazing volunteers who are out there talking to voters in whatever format or space you find yourself. Democracy thanks you too! 

    Mary Coltrane, LWVWA President

  • 25 May 2023 12:05 PM | Anonymous

    On Wednesday, May 24, local League representatives met with Lucy Barefoot, Voter Education and Outreach Specialist from the Secretary of State’s office. Lucy told us that the Secretary of State’s office is expanding and adding a new position on civics education, filled by Misha Lujan, who will be another resource for local leagues.

    Lucy had recently sent out voter registration forms to local leagues throughout the state, but if more are needed, they can be downloaded here. Many other resources are available at the link as well.  

    During the meeting, Lucy walked the audience through the online voter registration (“olvr”) portal. She noted that this website will change over the summer to reflect recent legislation on elections. One new law, effective next year (July 15, 2024), allows the use of the last four digits of a social security number to register to vote. Another new law updated the process for automatic voter registration when getting an enhanced driver’s license of identification card, making it faster and easier.

    Lucy also answered many questions from attendees including validation of residency and citizenship. Although the website will change, she assured us that the URL and QR codes for those sites will not change. She explained that there are several different types of social security cards issued and that a card is not necessarily proof of citizenship. Applicants swear to the fact that they are a citizen when registering and there are penalties if it is found to be untrue.

    The presentation can be viewed here.

  • 25 May 2023 9:32 AM | Anonymous

    The League of Women Voters of Washington recently held its biennial convention with several plenary sessions, workshops, and caucuses. The two civic education workshops focused on partnerships—with schools, with youth organizations, and with community groups. Here is a summary:

    Schools: Seattle/King County League formed a Youth Committee late in 2022, based on the model from other local Leagues across the US—shifting more program planning and empowerment to students. The committee has gifted LWVWA civics posters (“What Does it Take to Be a Good Citizen in a Democracy”) and civics textbooks (The State We’re In: Washington) to schools in Seattle.

    Youth Organizations: Clallam County League has reached out to local organizations serving youth with the questions, “What do you want? What do you need?” The Boys and Girls Club requested volunteer support for their summer food program, and the Clallam League provided this help. Based on this initial partnership, the Boys and Girls Club asked the League for more information on the Legislative Page program and presentations to club members on the basics of this program. Again, the League responded with one League member leading this communication and sharing her previous work experience in the legislature. Here are remarks from one legislative page sponsored by the Clallam Boys and Girls Club:

    KSPS Civics Bowl: The Spokane League has sponsored a civics bowl for three years in partnership with the local PBS station, KSPS. Spokane League volunteers compiled 700 questions and answers to civics questions from high school texts, and nine teams of civics students competed. Test yourself on civics questions by viewing these 2023 Civics Bowl Contests. Listen to contestants share the impact of this experience video of KSPS Civics Bowl contestant interviews.

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