May 16, 2020

League of Women Voters of Alaska–ACTION ALERT

The League of Women Voters of Alaska has received two grants from LWVUS, the national League, to advocate and educate for the following:

1. The Equal Rights Amendment, S. J. Res 6, a bill to remove the deadline date now that the required number of states have ratified this Amendment.

2. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, S. 561, a bill to update the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after SCOTUS struck down part of the VRA in 2013 in ​Shelby County vs Holder​.

The ERA and VRAA bills are now in the Senate after passing the House. LWVAK has a seven-member committee representing the four local Leagues across the state working on the grant requirements. One of our tasks is to let our two Senators know that we want them to co-sponsor and/or support these two important bills.

SENATOR MURKOWSKI:​ Senator Murkowski has co-sponsored these two bills. And she would like more bipartisan support for both of them. Our emails should thank her for her support and let her know, in a sentence or two, why we feel the bills are important. This is the easy part!

SENATOR SULLIVAN​: Senator Sullivan has not co-sponsored either bill. The LWVAK grant committee has asked him to explain his thinking about each bill. And we hope to hear from him soon, but both Senators are consumed with the pandemic issue, so it is unlikely we will hear. But we want to have all LWVAK members send him a brief email asking him for his support on these bills going forward.

We hope to send out periodic Action Alerts similar to this one throughout the summer and early fall. And we hope to be joined by other groups with an interest in these bills also.

It will take the effort of all of LWVAK’s members to make a dent in this. ​You can find the email link to both Senators at senate.gov; select your state at the Find Your Senators box on the top, left-hand side of the page. Please try to write your two emails during the week of May 18th and let the grant committee member in your area know you acted by emailing a yesXnumber of emails sent (we have to report the numbers in the final grant report). Committee members include: Cathleen Rolph: ​[email protected]​ Kenai and the Peninsula; Joan Diamond:  [email protected]  Anchorage; Sue Sherif: ​[email protected]​ Fairbanks; Judy Andree: ​[email protected] Juneau.

These​ TALKING POINTS ​are primarily for your email to Senator Sullivan if you need them: Remember that your email does not have to be long–3-4 sentences expressing your support is sufficient. And as always, be polite. VRAA

  1. States that are guilty of showing bias toward groups based on ethnicity, race, or social status would fall under a modernized preclearance requirement for any changes to the state-level voting laws. The former preclearance requirement was struck down in 2013. Some states have a history of imposing voting regulations or voting processes that hinder voting for certain groups of people. Since 2013, attempts to limit voting for certain groups of people have included last minute polling place changes, unequal allotment of voting equipment and materials, closing polling places all together, requiring voter photo ID’s costing the voter money, gerrymandering voting districts so that various groups are concentrated in fewer districts. When SCOTUS issued its ruling in 2013, it left the door open for a modernization of the preclearance process, and this modernization effort is the VRAA.
  2. The Constitution grants the right to vote to all eligible citizens at the age of 18. There are six Amendments that address voting rights. And yet we still have actions taken at the state level in some states to hamper voting rights for some citizens. The VRAA offers a way to stop these actions and protect the voting rights of all citizens.
  3. At one time, Alaska was subject to preclearance, but is no longer under this requirement as it fulfilled its obligations under preclearance, obligations mainly relating to language issues.

ERA ​: This amendment was introduced by Alice Paul in 1923, passed by Congress in 1972, and crossed the 38-state threshold for ratification in 2020. Passing S.J.Res. 6 would be a fitting way to celebrate the 19th Amendment’s 100th anniversary.

  1. Women’s history in the United States illustrates the unequal view that society has for the female gender. The suffrage movement took years of determination and protesting before it was successful. In spite of that success, women still have little power in this country unless it is offered by men.
  2. In spite of being about 50% of the population, women hold a mere 25% of the state and federal government positions and are represented by 5% of CEO positions and 33% of state court judges.
  3. Women have made great strides in many areas, but many of these advancements have come as the result of laws or court decisions, which can be overturned much more easily than a Constitutional Amendment.
  4. In spite of women’s advancement, women continue to battle discrimination in the form of unequal pay, workplace discrimination, domestic violence, and more. In order to solve these problems, we must address the root cause of inequality by amending our Constitution with a clear statement that the equality of rights shall not be denied on account of sex.
  5. The ERA will encourage further legislative progress toward gender equality and allow the courts to scrutinize sex-based discrimination.

We are currently in the throes of a pandemic the likes of which we have never experienced in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 era is still an unknown as to how long the danger will last and as to the development of appropriate treatments and a vaccine. But one thing we do know is that it will take all of us to rebuild just as it is taking all of us to slow down the pandemic’s spread. The least we can do as the danger subsides is to pass the ERA to state clearly that gender is not to be used to deny civil rights and that ethnicity, social class, or income levels are not to be used to hinder equal access to the voting booth. Keep in mind that many of those fighting on the front lines of the pandemic providing healthcare services and essential food services are putting themselves at risk, and many of those essential workers are women and minority members of our society.

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Thank you from the Grant Committee ​(Laurie Sica, carolyn Brown, Joan Diamond, Sue Sherif, Judy Andree, Cathleen Rolph, and Judith Mitchell)