Equal Rights for DC Citizens: Big Steps in 2016

by Anne Anderson, Chair of the Committee on Full Rights for DC Citizens

Our Committee on Full Rights for DC Citizens has been extremely busy this year!  In the spring, we held an open house at our new office to launch the Report on Advocacy for Full Rights for DC Citizens.  

We followed that with a full-court press at The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) National Convention in support of our Resolution Supporting Full Rights for People of DC. The resolution was approved by a large majority of the delegates.   At that point, our Committee’s mission had been completed, so it was closed -- but immediately re-established as the Committee on Full Rights for DC Citizens -- 2016.  

This committee has looked hard at the plans the Mayor developed for passing a Referendum - Vote onDC Statehood - on November 8th. Members contributed substantially to the discussion on the provisions in the proposed constitution for the new state, and were pleased to see the DC Council adopt the recommended language that there be a constitutional convention with elected delegates tasked with developing a constitution with appropriate representation from all our communities.  We were encouraged to see the Referendum pass handily on November 8th.  

Public Education About Statehood

In the meantime, during the summer, the DC government issued a Request for Proposals, inviting non-profit organizations to submit projects that would help educate people in the 50 states about statehood for the people of DC.  Our Committee jumped in and, working with The League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF) at the national office, wrote a proposal to develop an LWVEF Statehood Toolkit to go up on the LWVUS website and go traveling to sister Leagues. We got funded!

Thanks to the funding provided by the DC government through the national League of Women Voters Education Fund, several of our members were able to travel to Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia to educate our sister chapters about statehood for the people of DC.  The Statehood Toolkit provided the basis for our presentations.  It includes a power point, Fixing the Hole in Our Democracy; a webinar; a power point to show to community groups; two interesting quizzes; tabletop displays; background papers; handouts, and social media suggestions.  

The Committee did an amazing job of developing these materials in a very short time.  We reached out to the organizations listed in our Report on Advocacy to get their perspectives on the best ways to introduce the issues surrounding DC’s lack of representation in Congress and why statehood would be an appropriate remedy.  We received fine support and collaboration from a number of organizations and individuals as we moved forward.  People offered their previous work on the issues for our use, and committee members worked hard to distill mountains of information into the brief background papers that resulted.  

Many thanks to Chair Anne Anderson, Linda Beebe, Josh Burch, Katherine Flaherty, Anita Hairston, Elinor Hart, Sharon Hart, Ann and John Loikow, and Caroline Petti.  We could not have done it without the expert help from national staff member, Betsy Lawson, who provided technical assistance and liaison with LWVEF.

Josh Burch with the League in Illinois.

Josh Burch with the League in Illinois.

Once we had materials in place, it was time to visit sister Leagues.  We emailed and called about half the state Leagues in the country, searching for those who would be able to host us during the weeks between the election and the middle of December—a firm ending date because, according to the provisions of the grant, all work had to be done and a final report turned in by the end of 2016.  We were able to identify five locations that were feasible, and had offers to have a speakers skype in, or be on conference calls, which may still happen in 2017.  Utah also invited us, but we could not work out logistics.  So, let’s see how our speakers were received:.

Josh Burch led off with a trip to Illinois, where he met with the Glenview/Glencoe, Illinois League and then with the Illinois State League Board the following day.  He reported great interest and willingness to help in the future.  

Linda Beebe and Caroline Petti met with leaders of several Virginia Leagues over lunch, during which there was a lively discussion with several good suggestions for how to use our materials on statehood.  

League members in Minnesota listening to Caroline Petti's presentation.

League members in Minnesota listening to Caroline Petti's presentation.

Caroline Petti traveled to Minnesota and gave a talk that was livestreamed and went up on YouTube. She reported that one participant said, “I came in skeptical but you have convinced me and I want to help!”  She then later traveled to Albany, New York, where she met with the New York State league.  

At the Delaware, Ohio League, Anne Anderson presented the powerpoint to an audience of about 40 people, who expressed similar interest and concern for DC’s situation.  The Ohio organizer commented later that she thought the presentation was “eye-opening” for a number of her members.  

And, finally, Linda Beebe and Anne Anderson gave a webinar on December 8th that was taped and can be found in the webinar library at www.lwv.org.  

All our materials are now up on the LWV website and can be found at http://forum.lwv.org/category/issues/protecting-and-engaging-voters/dc-voting-rights.  

Looking Ahead

In thinking about our future work, we designed banners, yard signs and buttons, all with the slogan, Equality for DC:  Make Democracy Work for All.  The banners and buttons are printed and ready for use, while the yard signs are ready for printing at an appropriate time.

Furthermore, we now have a google group that we invite you to join to keep abreast of significant events related to statehood for the people of DC. Never fear—we will not inundate you.  The group is set up just to announce items, so there will not be discussion on line, although there always will be a way to respond by email to the LWVDC Full Rights Committee. To join the google group, LWV-DC-Full-Rights-Alert, please contact our coordinator, Ann von der Lippe at ann.vonderlippe@gmail.com

Finally, in 2017, we are clearly in a new phase of work on statehood and full rights for DC citizens. 

Interested in participating in our Committee for Full Rights for DC Citizens?

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