Voting in a Time of Pandemic
Our first-ever Virtual League Day was offered on May 14, and we couldn’t have chosen a more timely and critically important topic. Ensuring that elections everywhere are safe, fair, open, and accessible to all qualified citizens is essential and presents a real challenge in the current environment. The League Day speakers told us what we League members can do to help make that happen. The miracle of online webinar technology enabled them to address us from Washington, D.C., and from a location in Los Angeles.
LWVUS National Organizing Director Alma Couverthie shared the goals and advocacy priorities of the national League of Women Voters concerning election systems in November. LWVUS believes that the federal government must invest $4 billion to fund upcoming primaries in a number of states and the general election in November. LWVUS is actively engaged in advocacy for such legislation. The funds would help state election boards provide voter education, online registration, early in-person voting, polling place protections, and expanded access to mail-in voting. Members can use LWVUS resources to inform themselves and prepare to take action on this issue: Visit lwv.org/COVIDguidance. Couverthie thanked us for all we have done. We can keep making democracy work by contacting our elected representatives, urging them to support funding for elections, and supporting our local election officials.
L.A. County Registrar’s Report
L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan spoke briefly about the results of the new voting system in the March 2020 primary election. Its key features were extended early voting, countywide vote centers (which replaced the precinct-specific polling locations), online ballot completion, and electronic ballot-marking devices. Fewer than 25 percent of voters actually used the early voting option; most people voted on election day. Many vote-by-mail ballots sent to voters were not used, even though over two hundred drop boxes were available to return them. The registrar believes that better voter education can remedy these problems.
L.A. County’s plans for November emphasize voter education, aimed especially at underserved citizens through multilingual ads via television, radio, social media, and community outreach. Other features include vote-by-mail ballots sent to all registered voters, not just those who request them (which will bring L.A. County in line with the rest of the state)—an increase of 2.3 million mail-in ballots over last spring, a major tactical challenge. Vote centers will follow public health guidelines to ensure the safety of those who choose to vote in person. Early voting will still extend for ten days. More drop-off boxes will be added to make it easy to send mail-in ballots. Logan concluded by emphasizing the value the registrar places on the relationship with the League, saying, “We will rely on your partnership.”
LWV-PA Advocacy Chair Debbie Fagen told us how we can use “The Power of 1,” both individually and locally, to effect change by advocating, volunteering, and donating. The League supports the following election-related bills: at the national level, HR 1, the For the People Act, and in California, ACA 6 and AB 646, the Free the Vote Act. Find your local representative’s contact information on our website at Take Action, Resource Toolbox, and Find Your Elected Officials, and demand their support for this legislation. Fagen’s useful one page guide is in this edition of the e-Voter and will be sent to members.
In these difficult times it was encouraging and motivating to learn that League members can get out there and continue making democracy work by advocating for safe, fair, and open elections.
—Katherine Gavzy, Chair, Events Committee