The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.
As Tennesseans face the confusing array of constitutional amendments in the upcoming November election, community groups are turning to the League for help understanding exactly what it all means. This past month, I have had the opportunity to talk about the amendments and share LWVTN's position statements at meetings organized by Walk/Bike Nashville, the Wilson County Democratic Women, and the Nashville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. Voter Service Director Jo Singer and I also provided information and voter registration forms at the Foster Community Center Fair. The resources on our website at http://www.lwvnashville.org provide additional background information for those who want to delve deeper into these issues. And, of course, http://www.Vote411.org has nonpartisan information about both the amendments and the candidates.
The four ballot initiatives to amend the Tennessee Constitution that voters will see on November 4 are important, complex, and of enduring impact. Please share League positions widely with others. Remind them that in order for any constitutional amendment to be approved, two things must happen: 1) The amendment must get more "yes" votes than "no" votes; and 2) The number of "yes" votes must be a majority of the total aggregate of votes cast in the gubernatorial election.
As a reminder of what happens when legislation has a detrimental impact in our state we only need to look back two years. In 2012, the League was dismayed when the state legislature passed voter ID laws. The contention of proponents was that the laws would safeguard elections. The League and our partners contended that voter impersonation was virtually nonexistent and, further, the new photo ID requirements would unfairly disenfranchise voters in Tennessee. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is the investigative arm of Congress, released a 206-page report this week that bears out our concerns through an analysis of turnout statistics from six states, including Tennessee at http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665966.pdf. Articles in the Washington Post at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/10/09/gao-voter-id-laws-in-kansas-and-tennessee-dropped-2012- turnout-by-over-100000-votes/?wpisrc=nl-wonkbk&wpmm=1 and the New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/09/us/parts-of-north-carolina-law-limiting-vote-are-restored-by-justices.html?module =Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI %3A12%22%7D recount the analysis of voting patterns. According to the Post, a potential additional 88,000 Tennesseans would have voted in 2012 if the new laws had not been in place! Interestingly, voters in the age cluster from 24 to 33, African- Americans, and newly registered voters were the groups that were more likely to see bigger drops in turnout. LWVN will continue to advocate for the voter ID law's repeal while working in collaboration with other organizations to mitigate its impact.
Indeed, Nashvillians--including voter rights advocates Hedy Weinberg, ACLU; Patricia Stokes, Urban League of Middle Tennessee; John Teague, Planned Parenthood; Rev. Judy Cummings, Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship; Matt Mullen, Tennessee Citizen Action; Nick Alexiou, American Constitution Society; Debby Gould, League of Women Voters; Doug Johnston, Barrett, Johnston, Martin & Garrison--gathered on October 15. The message was simple and direct: "Tennessee's voter ID law is an affront to one of `our most fundamental rights,' and impugned the motives of those who supported the law, in light of a new report showing its effects on turnout." (See coverage at: http://www.nashvillescene.com/pitw/archives/2014/10/15/cooper-denounces-voter-id-in-wake-of-gao-report; http://nashvillepublicradio.org/blog/2014/10/15/tennessee-democrats-latch-onto-report-voter-id-suppresses-turnout/; http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2014/10/15/advocates-tout-report-linking-voter-law-turnout-drop/17325805/.)
It is useful to reflect that now, as in the past, major cultural change does not happen overnight, but rather 3 LWVN Voter--October 2014 with consistent and persistent effort of those who care deeply.
Beginning in 1914 through 1920 when the final vote in the Tennessee legislature made the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution possible, Tennessee women and men worked to reach this goal. The League has been particularly inspired by the incredible leadership and vision of Nashville's best known suffragette Anne Dallas Dudley. We are thrilled that the honorary chairs for our November 18 Celebration of Women's Right to Vote at the Hermitage Hotel are her daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Jane Dudley Anderson and Trevania Dudley Henderson. Invitations to this exciting celebration are in the mail and reservations can be made at http://lwvnashville.org/2014_annual_meeting.html. Please make plans to be part of this memorable event!
League of Women Voters of Nashville
Consistent Voter Services
League members can impact the election process by volunteering to help educate the citizens of the community and provide opportunities for voter registration. Voter education and voter registration opportunities are continuous but peak during election years. Get involved by:
League members can impact public policy by educating the public about issues important to good government and community well-being, and advocating for League positions on key issues. Because we live in the state capital, Nashville League members work on both local and state issues. We also answer calls to action from the LWVUS when issues are pending in Congress. Whatever your interests, you can get involved!
Specifically, the League advocates for access to health care; education to prepare students for responsible citizenry and the economy of the future; good stewardship of our natural resources; election processes that are fair and secure; and ethics and transparency in government. League members interested in issue advocacy can participate by: