Massachusetts sent 33 delegates to the 53rd LWVUS Convention in Chicago during the last steamy days of June. Over half of our delegates were attending their first convention, a good mix of new and veteran attendees. Total convention attendance was one of the highest ever, with an overflow crowd of more than 900 delegates. In addition to the usual business, there were two trainings, engaging and thoughtful speakers, a large assortment of workshops, caucuses, and information sessions early each morning and late each night, as well as plenty of opportunities to network with League members from around the country. On Saturday, many delegates braved the heat and used their lunch recess to join the “Families Belong Together March” protesting immigration policies in downtown Chicago, bringing real activism into the Convention proceedings.
Virginia Kase, chief operating officer of CASA, an organization at the forefront of the immigrant rights movement representing nearly 100,000 members, was introduced as the new chief executive officer of LWVUS at the convention.
LWVUS offered two training programs. Wellstone Action provided a pre-convention training dedicated to “Developing and Mobilizing Skills to Win in 2018.” A second training program Saturday afternoon focused on “Using Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lens to Strengthen Social Impact and Collaboration,” aimed at boosting League diversity, conducted by Diversity Dimensions.
National experts Nick Stephanopoulos and Ruth Greenwood participated in a conversation on redistricting, an event live-streamed to League members around the country, which was particularly timely given the previous week’s Supreme Court decision in Gill v. Whitford. Other convention speakers included Ashley Allison, the executive vice president for campaigns and programs for The Leadership Conference, on the current state of voting rights; Rosie Rios, the 43rd Treasurer of the United States, on the upcoming 2020 anniversary of the 19th Amendment, and her work to ensure that women’s images and stories are part of our history; and Carrie Davis, the democracy program director for The Joyce Foundation, on ways to tell our collective story. Saturday evening’s banquet speaker was Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, who shared stories about the fight to ratify the 19th Amendment.
Two panel discussions were particularly interesting, one on Election Day preparedness, and one on diversity, equity and inclusion. The first panel featured Thomas Hicks, chair, Election Assistance Commission; Sarah Johnson, Carter Center; and Andy Kang, Advancing Justice Chicago. Key points were the importance of trained election workers, need for election observation, and the need for the League and others to support voter participation and the Census effort. The second panel included Dr. Alfreda Brown, vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Kent State University; Sarah Bury, interim vice president, LWV Lake Michigan; and Cecile Scoon, first vice president, LWV Florida. Each shared personal experiences and encouraged League members to listen more and extend welcome to people of different backgrounds for the health of the organization.
The program adopted by convention included the recommended program to continue the “Making Democracy Work Campaign,” but added items including advocacy for the National Popular Vote Compact and support for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The recommended budget was approved, with some concern registered by Massachusetts delegates about the level of fundraising expense relative to fundraising revenue. Three of the five recommended By-Laws changes passed.
LWVMA co-sponsored two of the many caucuses: Promoting Effective Action on Carbon Pricing, and The Critical Role of Healthcare in a Democracy (with LWV Amherst). Many of us attended sessions on the Transformation Journey, and your collective feedback was helpful to us as we asked questions and raised concerns. LWVUS seemed to take the concerns expressed by many members around the country seriously.
On the last day, convention passed five resolutions related to advocacy on the Equal Rights Amendment, abolishing the Electoral College, carbon pricing, reproductive choices, and alignment of energy policy with current climate science.
The LWV Convention page has materials on convention proceedings of the Convention, and an archive contains presentation materials and will be updated. You can see photos of the Massachusetts delegates on our Facebook page here.