Leading up to the 2006 federal elections, and in the lame-duck session following, the LWVUS Advocacy staff continued to implement and defend the Democracy Agenda, along with other priorities for the 109th Congress set by the LWVUS Board.
In election reform, the LWVUS successfully opposed an attempt by Congress to manipulate the voting process by discriminating against legal voters and discouraging voter participation. The Advocacy team mobilized action on the Hill and throughout the country to stop the so-called "Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006" in the Senate. This bill, H.R. 4844, would have required every voter to provide government-issued, current and valid photo identification in 2008 and proof of citizenship in the voting process by 2010. In August, LWVUS President Mary Wilson testified before the Committee on House Administration of the U.S. Congress against requirements for photo identification at the polling place or documentary proof of citizenship in the voter registration process.
In campaign finance reform, the LWVUS and coalition partners urged members of the Senate to support a bill to ensure that Senate campaigns provide timely electronic disclosure: S. 1508, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. In September, the LWVUS cosponsored Seize the Moment: a National Conference on the Public Financing of Elections, a successful effort that brought together experts and activists from local, state and national reform movements. In October, LWVUS President Mary Wilson was in Los Angeles to lend support to California's public financing and campaign finance reform initiative, Proposition 89.
While Congress set aside lobbying and ethics reform in the days leading to the 2006 election, the LWVUS did not. Despite new allegations and emerging scandals, Congress failed to enact much needed reforms. The LWVUS continued to press for meaningful reform, including the creation of an independent ethics process that includes an Office of Public Integrity or commission that would allow outside complaints to be filed and provide for an independent fact-finding process.
The LWVUS, the Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Excellence in Government released a report calling for a national redistricting reform movement and offering guidance for state-level redistricting reform efforts. "Building a National Redistricting Reform Movement" reports on the deliberations and conclusions of a diverse group of individuals from nonpartisan organizations at a 2006 conference in Salt Lake City. The report builds on the broad principles for reforming congressional and legislative redistricting in the 2005 report, "The Shape of Representative Democracy." It also looks at lessons learned from unsuccessful redistricting reform attempts in 2005 and suggests strategies to pursue and pitfalls to avoid in future reform efforts. The group is now working to bring together a broad coalition to build public support for redistricting reform efforts. You may access both reports at www.lwv.org.
Until the 109th Congress adjourned, the LWVUS continued work in the area of civil liberties with other concerned organizations opposing legislative proposals that would legalize the National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping program. Before the election, the LWVUS opposed two such proposals, S. 2453 and H.R.5825, urging that Congress establish real congressional and judicial oversight of domestic surveillance instead of encroaching more on the civil liberties of ordinary citizens.
The discussion continued after the election, when the LWVUS joined other organizations in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter (R PA) raising concerns about S. 4051, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Oversight and Resource Enhancement Act. When the 109th Congress adjourned, no domestic surveillance legislation had passed the Senate. The LWVUS also issued a statement expressing opposition to passage of the Military Commissions Act, legislation that eases restrictions on interrogation techniques and trials for detainees.
In addition to the Democracy Agenda, the Advocacy staff continues to monitor and address issues of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), DC rights and clean air as resources permit. The LWVUS signed on to the Statement of Principles on Global Warming, calling for immediate action to curb the worst effects of global warming by enforcing reductions in global warming pollution and promoting clean and efficient sources of energy.
Disappointingly, before it adjourned the 109th Congress failed to provide citizens of the District of Columbia with voting representation in the House of Representatives. The bipartisan DC Voting Rights Act, sponsored by Rep. Davis (R VA) and Del. Norton (D DC), H.R. 5388, was headed toward a floor vote right up to adjournment, but House leadership blocked the vote. Still, the bill advanced further than any DC voting rights proposal has in more than a generation. The excellent coordination among a few state and local Leagues and the LWVUS, especially the hard work done by the LWV of Utah, contributed to this progress. The LWVUS and coalition partners have already begun to work with the leadership of the new Congress to ensure enacting DC voting rights is a priority for the new majority in the 110th.
The Grassroots Lobby Corps, the League's legion of online activists, grew dramatically in numbers and impact in 2006, more than tripling its membership. The LWVUS Advocacy team generated 39 action alerts on our priority issues, more than twice the number of alerts sent during the previous Congress. Most notably, because our online activists are responding to the urgency and importance of our alerts in increasing numbers, more of our messages are reaching Members of Congress. The number of e-mail messages sent through the League's easy, online system increased by 500 percent!
Thanks to all of you who take a few minutes to respond to our action alerts. To keep flooding Congress with our concerns, forward the next action alert you receive to people you know with a personal note asking them to sign up to receive free League action alerts by e-mail.
To learn more about how you can take action on the League's priority issues, please see Hill Bulletin on page 14. Also visit Take Action at www.lwv.org and sign up for the Grassroots Lobby Corps to receive action alerts by e-mail.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 2007|
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