The League of Women Voters is a proud partner of the second annual #GivingTuesday campaign, a movement to promote a national day of giving at the start of the holiday season. From fighting to protect voting rights to leading efforts to prevent climate change, and so much more, the League is committed to educating and engaging Americans around the major public policy issues that impact our daily lives.
In celebration of #GivingTuesday, we've been sharing a look at just some of what the League has done to increase political participation and strengthen our democracy -- and our country -- in 2013.
Protecting Voting Rights
Rooted in the movement that secured the right to vote for women, the League of Women Voters has been working to protect voting rights for over 90 years. But this summer, our work went into overdrive. In June, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights (VRA) Act of 1965, resulting in widespread attacks on voting rights across the country. Immediately, the League sprung to action -- calling on Congress to repair and restore the Voting Rights Act to its full strength. At the same time, League leaders across the country got to work filing lawsuits, publishing op-eds, participating in protests and rallies and holding community meetings in efforts to thwart state and local voting restrictions.
We've also helped usher in some major wins for voting rights. This summer, LWVUS and the League of Women Voters of Arizona were involved in the Supreme Court voting rights case, Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (ITCA). The case, which focused on the pivotal voting rights legislation, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), resulted in a victory for voters.
Leagues across the country have also been busy rallying for improvements to the nation's flawed voting system. LWVUS and Leagues in Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania testified to the newly-established Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) on the need for a free, fair and accessible voting system. Our testimonies upheld the importance of these goals and focused on pro-voter reforms, including expanded early voting, improved polling place management, providing for portable voter registration and establishing secure online voter registration.
Educating & Empowering Voters
At the same time that we pushed to protect voting rights, we also helped educate and empower voters. Throughout the year, Leagues across the country registered tens of thousands of new voters at naturalization ceremonies, baseball games, high schools, colleges and more. In September, nearly 300 local Leagues joined a total of over 800 partners to help register 58,000 voters and counting for the second annual National Voter Registration Day. But we did more than just energize voters to head to the polls -- we also made sure that they had everything they needed to vote! As Election Day approached, state and local Leagues hosted numerous candidate forums and debates to ensure voters knew where candidates stood on the issues most important to their communities. Additionally, through VOTE411.org, our nationwide online voter education resource, we connected voters with local candidate and ballot information, registration deadlines, voting requirements, polling place details and more.
Defending the Environment
The League believes that preventing climate change requires action from both individuals and policymakers. After months of advocacy efforts, we were successful in driving President Obama to take the lead to protect our climate and work to reduce carbon pollution, a move that will protect our children, our nation and the world at large. We sent over 5,000 letters urging the U.S. Senate to put people before polluters, partnered to hold the largest rally on climate change in the history of the country and continue to help lead the fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline -- a project that comes with a laundry list of health and environmental risks.
Curbing gun violence is a matter of public safety and public health. The League urged both chambers of Congress to pass new legislation addressing the gun violence plaguing our nation. Our supporters helped us urge Senators to help save lives by supporting proposed gun safety solutions, including closing the gun show loophole, increasing penalties for straw purchases of guns, banning assault weapons, placing limits on high capacity ammunition magazines. We're buoyed by successes in Connecticut, where the League of Women Voters of Connecticut helped lead efforts to pass landmark state gun control legislation.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The League was founded upon the belief that our democracy is enhanced by a diversity of voices. In June, we commended the Senate for passing a comprehensive package. Our work includes explaining how comprehensive immigration reform -- including family reunification and a pathway to citizenship -- will strengthen our nation and society. We're encouraged by positive remarks from President Obama and House Leaders on renewing the push for immigration reform, and we continue to urge the House to support the legislation.
Money in Politics
The League believes that it is essential to stop the flood of secret money and to protect our political system from big-money corruption. We submitted an amicus brief in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), the major Supreme Court case heralded as "the next Citizens United," challenging aggregate contribution limits made by individual donors to political candidates and committees. We also lobbied both the President and Congress to take legislative action to fix and protect our nation's campaign finance system, including closing gaping loopholes in campaign finance laws and preserving critical anti-corruption legislation.
Year in and year out, League members across the country do everything in their power to make democracy work, but their work requires the support of all the members of all the communities which benefit from that effort. #GivingTuesday is propelled by those who believe that passion and commitment can make a difference. On December 3rd, we ask that you think of the League as you reflect on the need to strengthen our country and our great democracy.