Despite the political trauma we are witnessing on a daily basis, this is a very exciting time for the League of Women Voters. I think that is true nearly everywhere in the U.S., but it is particularly true for us in DC.
Our membership has grown significantly since last November. As of the end of April we have 184 members, and we have additional inquiries nearly every day. We’d like to expand the very small group of volunteers who have been working on membership. It looks as if it is a good time for that. The message we get is that more and more people are interested in standing up for democracy.
And there is so much to do — and lots of options for members wanting to get involved. For example, we are members of the Fair Elections Coalition advocating for campaign finance reform that would provide matching funds for candidates who accept only small donor contributions. Abigail Nichols is leading a small committee in that effort, and she would welcome others.
In addition, we are members of the Fair Budget Coalition, the DC Voting Rights Coalition, and the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development. We also collaborate with Fair Vote in their efforts to implement Ranked Choice Voting. Members willing to be liaisons to these groups are really needed.
Alex Dickson is leading two groups in Communications. A small group assists her with community outreach, web development, member updates, and so on. And a slightly larger group is working with her on building toolkits for www.lwvdc.org. The current project is a DC Citizens’s Action Toolkit, which you should see on the web this summer. For general communications, we particularly need people to work on podcasts and our bi-monthly newsletter.
The Voters Services Committee has been very active, and they can always use more help. With all of the turmoil around immigration, there seems to be a fairly big increase in people with Green cards wanting to take the next step to become a citizen. Therefore, we are anticipating that we will have more than one swearing-in ceremony a month. We have found that we need about six people for each ceremony if we are to register more than 50% of that day’s new citizens. Linda Softli, director of Voter Services, is planning several voter education and voter registration events over the summer including neighborhood events such as block parties and markets and collaboration with ethnic churches. All who want to participate will be welcome.
Our lack of representation in Congress is particularly galling as members of Congress gang together in an assault on our laws and our government. Anne Anderson and her Committee on Full Rights for DC Citizens are tracking Congressional action as we continue to look for ways to strengthen our push for statehood. On May 6, LWVDC was honored to receive the Madeline Naumann Achievement Award, named for the first president of the League of Women Voters of the National Capital Area. It honors achievements that transcend the borders of the local League, and we received it for the Statehood Toolkit we produced under a grant from the DC government. You can now find the Toolkit on our website, and the committee’s work will continue.
If you are still looking for ways you can participate, we have other committees and other options. For example, Goody Braun heads the Health Committee, which is now planning a forum on federal health care legislation on October 14. Elinor Hart and her Housing Committee are working on affordable housing issues, an especially vital area given reports that DC ranks highest in percentage of residents who are homeless. Kathryn Ray is leading a group of members who are researching and editing Know the District of Columbia. And we always need people to observe Council actions, write and deliver testimony, and prepare background papers.
Come and join in our activities! The more of us we are, the stronger the League will be, and the more we can accomplish!