League of Women Voters of NYS


December 2014  

From the President

As we rapidly approach the end of 2014, I am proud of  all the work we did this year - increasing the use of Vote411, working to pass Proposition 1, and hosting more students than ever at Students Inside Albany just to name a few - but I also know there is much more work ahead. We continue to hear reports of low voter turnout and the increase of "dark money" in our political process. As 2015 rolls around, we must continue to fight for fair and open elections and help combat the view that democracy is controlled by special interests not citizens. Every vote counts in this country and we must continue to put that word out so people show up to exercise their power.

Knowing that 2015 will be another busy League year, I hope you have a nice holiday season and are able to take a breather before diving in again in January.


I also hope you will also take some time to make a gift to the state League's Education Foundation. As you have heard, we are currently in a special fundraising Campaign - the League Matters Campaign - to safeguard the future of the state League and create the resources necessary to increase the support we provide to you in your local Leagues. This Campaign is important to me personally because I see the potential of what the state League can do for the local Leagues  but we need increased funding to realize that dream. The Campaign is a three year effort to raise $400,000 above and beyond our normal annual fundraising efforts. Through the generous support of many leadership donors, we have already raised over $335,000. If you are interested in joining them and making a gift to the Campaign, you can do so online here.

And, since we still have to maintain our regular Annual Fund as well, if you would like to make a gift to the Education Foundation's programs (SIA, Vote411.org...) please click here. A Board member is matching online gifts now through year end so please make your gift during the next few weeks if you haven't already.


I hope you will be able to support both our Annual Fund and the League Matters Campaign so we can maintain our current activities and also prepare for growth in the future.


I want you to know that we at the state League also appreciate all you do for the League through your volunteer activities throughout the year. We could not be successful without you. It is because of you that the League remains a respected, non-partisan voice for good government in this state and we thank you for another successful year.


All best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and terrific beginning to 2015!


Sally Robinson, President

League of Women Voters of NYS
Facebook: League of Women Voters of NYS
Twitter: @LWVNYS
Join the LWVNYS Leadership Team in 2015
Grassroots Lobby
Advocacy Program
LWV of New Castle Voter Survey
Travel with the League
Local League News
Shop and Support the League's Educational Programs
During this holiday season, if you are purchasing gifts at Amazon.com, you can have a small percentage of your purchase price be donated to the League's Education Foundation. Simply click here and sign into your regular Amazon account. The donation will be sent automatically to the League's Education account for any purchases you make. Thanks!

The 2015 State League Convention will be held on 
June 6-7, 2015, at the Desmond Hotel in Albany. Mark your calendars now to join us!
State Office
Happy Holidays from the State League office staff!

From left, Kate, Katrina, Victoria, Lisa and Laura

As the Nominating Committee for the June 2015 LWVNYS Convention we take our responsibilities seriously and passionately. We're genuinely excited about the terrific team of LWVNYS leaders that we are already assembling for 2015-2017 and invite you (or a League colleague of yours) to consider applying for one of our small number of open positions including directors for youth programs, membership, and citizen education.


The coming years will be both challenging and inspiring for League in New York State. Many local Leagues are in transition, and looking for ways to attract and retain new members in compelling ways. The state League stands ready to assist in these efforts, strengthening our skills, imparting information and tools, and sharing best practices across the state.


If you (or a friend) are passionate about League, willing to work with a team from all parts of the state to further League goals and engage with our talented and inspiring local League members and boards, please consider joining our LWVNYS board and working in an area you find compelling. It will be a way for you to share your strengths, learn from others, and help lead LWVNYS in the important years ahead.


For more information please contact Lisa Scott, Chair of the Nominating Committee (tel. 631-523-1653) or email lisawscott@gmail.com.


Dare Thompson, darethompson@gmail.com

 Join us in Elmira

January 10, 10:30 am - 3:00 pm

Join us in Elmira on January 10 (snow date is Jan. 24) from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm for a get-together with League colleagues to share ideas, gripes, successes, etc. and learn from one another. All members are invited to join LWVNYS Vice President Dare Thompson, LWVNYS Board Member Terri Parks, LWVNYS Executive Director Laura Ladd Bierman and LWVNYS Director of Programs and Policy Victoria Melillo-Jordan at the Steele Memorial Library in Elmira. Possible discussion topics (you'll choose) include:

  • growing and diversifying your membership
  • developing leaders
  • serving your communities and having the most impact with the least effort
  • working with community allies and other area leagues
  • getting the attention and respect you deserve
  • voter service issues (e.g. getting candidates to debate!)
  • fundraising
  • avoiding burn-out
Call or email Katrina at the state office to register (518-465-4162 or katrina@lwvny.org). We will be collecting $10 at the door to cover coffee, munchies and lunch. Join us!
Carol Mellor, Camellor@aol.com
Over 30 members signed on for the call held on December 11.  Carol Mellor, as Grassroots Lobby Director moderated, while Barbara Bartoletti shared her extensive experience in the front line of our advocacy as Legislative Director and Laura Ladd Bierman described the role of the State office in implementing League advocacy. For more information on the state advocacy process, please see the power point presentation.


We covered the process from League position to the decision to support or oppose a particular piece of legislation, ballot proposal or coalition.  Members seemed to be most interested in how they, as members, could be a part of the process.  Two ways were discussed:  first, all members can bring issues to the Issues Committee by "calling a meeting", which is done by sending an email to the committee members.  A second way to be a part of the process is to either volunteer to be an Issue Specialist, or volunteer to assist an Issue Specialist in her/his work.  Just recently, a member interested in health care took on the position of specialist in this area, and has assembled a committee of nearly twenty members, who are in the process of attending public hearings across the state on the topic of single payer provider.   


As second concern was a perception that communication on action the League is involved in could be more widely disseminated.  In response, it was pointed out that each month State Board Updates and the Voter are sent from the state office.  Each of these documents contains information on the advocacy actions being taken.  In addition, members are often sent "Updates" and "Action Alerts".   In response to a suggestion that members be "polled" on support for a particular course of action, Barbara and Laura described the need for almost instantaneous action based on changes in the situation in Albany which can be lightning fast.  The need for quick decisions would make such a deliberative process unworkable, but the actions taken rely on the established positions as contained in Impact on Issues, and the policies passed by the Board. 



Program Planning

The process for evaluating the state League's program and positions begins now. We have emailed each local League all of the information and timeline on the process. Your local League should review the state League's positions and decide if you want to keep them, update them, revise them or delete them. You also have to discuss any new positions you might want the state League to consider for new studies. The responses from all of the local Leagues are reviewed by the state League Board in March. The Board's recommendations are then presented to the delegates at state Convention in June for consideration and a vote. Make sure you attend your local League's meeting to discuss the state League program and positions with your League members in January or February. This is your opportunity to influence our program - new items CANNOT be introduced at Convention; the ideas and suggestions must first be included in the local League's responses on Program Planning forms.


Legislative Agenda

The Issue Specialists and state Board recently met to discuss a new legislative agenda document. It was decided that we will no longer be creating a legislative agenda brochure identifying a couple of the issues that the state League will be working on during the upcoming legislative session. Instead we will be creating a booklet with one page on each of the main issues that we monitor: election law, government reform (ethics, campaign finance reform), health care, judiciary, environment, women's issues, transportation, financing education. We will have a summary page which may include a couple of other issues that don't need a full page for explanation of the issue. We are still working on exactly what this document will look like, but we're hoping it will be some kind of booklet to be distributed. With this new approach, we believe that members, the public and legislators will see the full breadth of issues (rather than the few listed on the former legislative agenda brochure) that we are monitoring, even if we don't expect to accomplish all of these during this session. Watch for more info and forms to order your copies of this new booklet.


Advocacy Training Session

The state League will be holding its annual Advocacy Training session on February 3 (from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm) in New York City. The State Advocacy team, including our Issue Specialists, will be presenting information on the League's expected action during the upcoming legislative session. We hope that holding it in NYC this year will encourage more downstate members to come learn about our advocacy agenda. Plans are being developed to organize a lobby day later in the spring in Albany for members to directly lobby their legislators in Albany. To attend the Feb. 3rd Advocacy Training Day, please call or email Katrina at the state office (518-465-4162 or katrina@lwvny.org).

Kate Jankowski, kate@lwvny.org

Year-end is always a busy time for development and this year is no exception. Here are a few ways you can maximize the impact of your year-end giving:


Online Gift Match is Back

A Board member has offered to match all online gifts we receive for the Education Foundation between now and year end. To double the impact of your gift, click here.

Make a Gift of Appreciated Stock

Making your year-end gift with appreciated stock not only helps the LWVNYS Education Foundation but also increases your tax advantage because it allows you to avoid capital gains taxes on the donated stock and also gives you a charitable gift deduction.

 Make a Gift from your IRA

Based on current tax code, donors can select a charity or charities to receive distributions directly from their IRA. The benefit of this is that the IRA distribution is not counted as income for the donor and reduces the amount of taxable income for the donor.


If you are in the position to make a gift of stock or interested in making a gift from your IRA, please contact Kate Jankowski at kate@lwvny.org or (518) 465-4162 to find out how.

Online and Credit Card Giving to Local Leagues

The state League office recently announced a new way for local Leagues to receive tax deductible gifts. Members and friends wishing to make tax deductible donations to their local League through the grants management system can now use credit cards and do it online. Click here:  Local League EF Donations.  When you donate using this link, you will be required to select to which local League you want your donation sent. The tax deductible donation will be deposited into your local League's grants management account here at the state League. 

Voter Participation Survey by LWV of New Castle


 "I always vote. It is a citizen's civic responsibility and a privilege." 

"I have never missed an opportunity to vote, never will. It's an obligation of living in a democracy."


 These quotes from two New Castle residents capture the sentiment expressed by many in our community who completed the recent voter participation survey conducted by the League of Women Voters of New Castle. Although New York State's participation in the midterm elections was the fourth lowest in the country at 28.8%, we are pleased to report that the 

voter participation rate for New Castle was almost 50%. 


The League's objectives in doing a survey were to find out whether the community feels it is getting the information it needs about the candidates and the issues, and the community's thoughts on what would make voting more accessible.


About 300 people participated in our survey; 82% of survey respondents had voted in the last election and 63% of respondents felt that they were sufficiently informed.


The following chart illustrates where survey respondents obtained their information on the candidates: 


Of the 50 respondents who had not voted, about 40% stated that they were disillusioned, disgruntled or otherwise not sure their votes mattered. Here are a couple of their quotes:

"My vote can't change anything in politics."

                     "Difficult to determine who was telling the truth and who was not. So many negative ads and constant phone calls left more questions than answers."

Research shows that negative ads late in a campaign can reduce voter turnout (see http://mediaproject.wesleyan.edu/blog/what-matters-with-negativity-is-timing/). 


About 40% of nonvoters said they could not get to the polls because of their jobs.  Suggested remedies included early voting, voting on the weekend, voting by mail or online voting.  Early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee ballots are reforms that the League of Women Voters of New York State supports. In fact, New York is one of only 14 states where early voting is not available and an excuse is required to request an absentee ballot.  The New York State Assembly has passed an early voting bill over the last two years, but the Senate has opposed it.


Our survey findings reflect only the opinions of those willing to complete our survey and are not meant to be a statistically valid sample. However, the survey provided us good information from the community. While our survey confirmed that the League's Voters Guide-a Guide that the New Castle League provides free to every household in New Castle-is still a valuable resource to the community, the League's interactive voter information website,www.vote411.org, is a great resource for candidate information but rarely used. We now know that we will need to more actively promote this site. 




Travel Concepts - Travel with the League
A former NYS League member (Cazenovia) is now a travel agent who organizes educational trips and programs around the world. Many League members have participated in these trips, most recently to England and Cuba, with great experiences. The state and local Leagues also receive a share of the trip cost. 

Local Leagues can advertise these trips by using the link, www.serioustraveler.com/index.php.

And, click here for the latest newsletter from Travel Concepts.

Many local Leagues are celebrating with a holiday event this month. Some of these events are:

  • The LWV of Schenectady County hosted speaker Rowie Taylor who will talk about, "Adovocating for Women in Schenectady" 
  • The LWV of Somers hosted a night of games, music, and chit-chat on December 8th.
  • Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk was the speaker at the holiday lunch for the LWV of Albany County.
  • LWV of the Hamptons collects donations for their local Food Pantries at their holiday party; over $1300 was collected at last year's event.

Congratulations to the LWV of Buffalo/Niagara for distributing 22,000 Voter Guides!


The LWV of East Nassau is having a book discussion at their general membership meeting in January. The book they will discuss is, "The Parties vs. the People" by Mickey Edwards.


William Schneider PhD. in epidemiology and community health will speak about, "Citizen Science, Environmental Health & Social Justice in Buffalo's West Side" on January 16 for the LWV of Buffalo/Niagara.


The LWV of Somers will hear a "Report from the Legislature" by Peter Harckham and Michael Kaplowitz on January 12. The LWV of Somers also marched in the Veterans' Day parade (see photo left). 

The LWV of Geneva offered a "Lunch With the League" program with the guest Speaker, Dennis Money, President of the non-profit corporation Seneca White Deer, Inc. (SWD.) The mission of Seneca White Deer is to conserve the world's largest white deer population and to preserve the military and civilian histories of the former Seneca Army Depot.  


LWV of Bedford, Lewisboro and North Salem hosted a forum, "A Local Example of Fair and Affordable Housing in Northern Westchester," a presentation by Westchester County Deputy Commissioner of Planning Norma Drummond.


Dr. Julie Davis Lutz, Chief Operations Officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, spoke at a recent meeting organized by the LWV of Brookhaven


The Elmira Corning Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People joined the Chemung County LWV, and All Saints Home COGIC to sponsor a health care forum entitled "Health Care, We Care."


Patricia Fuchs and Joyce Whitehead were recipients of the LWV of Huntington Voter Service Awards at the LWV-Suffolk County Post Election Brunch. Pat and Joyce went beyond expectations as members of voter service committee. 


LWV of Mid-Hudson continued its book club discussion with the book, The Price of Inequality: Why a Divided Economy in Endangering Our Future, by Joseph Stiglitz. LWV of Saratoga also has an active book club and is meeting to determine its books for the spring.  The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs will be discussed at the LWV of Scarsdale's new book club. 


LWV of Syracuse organized a tour of the new WCNY Studios to learn about their Enterprise America Program. The Enterprise America program is an exciting hands-on co-curricular program for middle school students with the goal of preparing them for the 21st century. Following the three week program students spend a day operating WCNY's Enterprise America City where they are responsible for governing the city and operating businesses.


Barbara Traynor of LWV of Albany County had the opportunity to volunteer with Vote Smart earlier this year in Montana; read about her experiences here


Many of our local Leagues are holding meetings for consensus discussions on the two state studies: term limits and ballot access. These meetings are very important and we appreciate the work by all of the local Leagues and members. 

League of Women Voters of New York State
62 Grand Street, Albany, NY 12207
Tel: 518-465-4162;  FAX: 518-465-0812
Facebook: League of Women Voters of NYS
Twitter: @LWVNYS