Rebecca Fricke, Elizabeth Davis and Barbara Pearson represented the Amherst League of Women Voters at the 2018 National Convention of the League. They were among approximately 20 League members from Massachusetts attending the Conention at the historic Chicago Hilton.
The convention business, conducted during a series of plenary sessions, was interspersed with guest speakers and panel discussions on redistricting, diversity, and voting rights. The panelists were engaging and diverse--more diverse, in fact, than their audience and the League in general. While acknowledging this, all of the speakers encouraged the delegates to do the hard work it takes to be inviting and get to know potential members before asking them to be involved.
One of the speakers was Rosie Rios, former US Treasurer during the Obama administration. Rios was behind the push to have a new US bill feature a female historical figure. That bill will be revealed and go into circulation in 2020 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the women’s vote. Since stepping down she has been working on multiple projects to elevate important historical women including having statues designed and installed in 16 major cities around the country. Check out one of her education projects here.
Besides the speakers who addressed the entire Convention, there were many breakout sessions and caucuses where League members met in smaller groups to discuss various issues. Barbara Pearson of LWVA was one of those who worked with the League of MetroPhoenix to plan a caucus on "The Crititcal Role of Healthcare in a Democracy". The speaker was Dr. Claudia Fegan from the Chicago Cook County Hospital, who made it clear that lack of healthcare drives inequality in America and we all need to work to make good health care available to everyone. (Check out her talk on YouTube!.) Barbara reviewed the history of the League's support for single payer health insurance: "Single Payer was first adopted by the League in 1993 and was addressed again formally from the floor of the convention in 2016, but it has slipped. With active voter suppression and looming losses in democratic process, to say nothing of the national lack of humanity at an unimaginable scale, the LWV-US feels urgent to focus on VOTING at the expense of other advocacy...So many states are struggling without even the Medicaid expansions. Other state initiatives, like us, have legislation filed that’s not going anywhere." She adds, "Lots of candidates in lots of states are 'for' Single Payer. How do we take talk and make it policy?"
A contentious issue at this Convention was the proposed "Transformation Roadmap", a proposal to reorganize the League developed by the current national Board, which was the subject several breakout sessions. "I think what bothered most people was that the national board was not transparent about the data collection which informed their vision and operating budget", suggested Rebecca, at the same time deploring the way in which League members at the session she attended addressed the representatives of that board. Nationally, the League's advocacy efforts are focused on voting issues, including voter suppression and other losses in democratic process, and the Transformation Roadmap pulls back from many other issues, but state and local Leagues will continue their broad-based advocacy for initiatives such as Medicare for All.