The following entry is written by LWVNJ Board Member, Ed Gracely.
I just returned from an exhilarating experience at the League of Women Voters of the US Convention in Atlanta. I am always impressed by the breadth of interests League members have! For example, during this convention members proposed, discussed, and adopted statements on marriage equality for same sex couples (we support it!), the travel ban to Cuba (we oppose it), the Senate filibuster (we’d like a lot less of it), and “improved Medicare for all” (we support it). In addition, we will be busy over the next two years working on the studies adopted (one on privatization, the other on the federal role in education).
These activities illustrate the processes by which the League of Women Voters reaches decisions. Our members choose the issues that we will study and our members decide the positions that we will take – a very grassroots process! Potential issues to study are proposed at convention and debated, often with informative caucuses, and speakers. After debating, members vote on whether or not to undertake the study. Now that we have two new studies, committees will be formed, materials distributed, and local Leagues will hold meetings to provide their input to the national League. The conclusions reached from local League members will determine our future position on the issues studied. This process of proposal, debate, study, and consensus is at the heart of the League’s approach to public policy issues, and represents a significant part of why the League’s views are respected on so many topics. Every member of the League of Women Voters has a voice within our respected organization, which translates to a powerful voice in government on important legislation — a great reason to be a member of the League!
We didn’t spend quite all of our time debating positions and adopting studies (see more pictures from Convention)! Among other things, there were numerous interesting workshops and caucuses to attend. For example, proponents of marriage equality, Medicare for all, and the education study all held caucus meetings to promote their views. Workshops offered training on how to advocate at the federal level, issues in redistricting, creating a League web site, and many other topics. League of Women Voters of New Jersey members participated in panels on using online tools in the community, encouraging women to run for office, and election integrity. We also heard from notables like Kathleen Sebelius (Health and Human Services Secretary) and John Lewis (civil rights leader and inspiring congressman from the Atlanta area). We had a speaker on women’s suffrage at the banquet, and we got to watch a movie all about gerrymandering (creating election districts to achieve political goals).
I love conventions. I always learn a lot, plus I enjoy the give and take of the debates on the floor, and even the nit picky challenges to procedures (which I’ve been known to make!) The best part about conventions is the same thing I love about the League of Women Voters — both provide an opportunity to be personally, hands-on, involved in a wide variety of decisions and activities that are part of the League’s mission of making democracy work.