League of Women Voters Update


January 25, 2021 - News, Updates & Action Redistricting ACTION ALERT! Tell your Legislators you want fair and open redistricting! 2021 LWVTX "We Support" Here is a summary of all the League Positions! League Lobby Day: Sat. Feb. 6, 2021, 10 AM - 1 PM Central Time It is a long-standing League tradition for members to walk the halls of the Texas Capitol and talk with their Representatives and Senators about the League's priority issues at the beginning of each Texas Legislative session. Often braving bad weather, one hundred or so League leaders from around the state have convened in Austin every other year to represent the thousands of members and supporters across Texas. The upside of the COVID-19 pandemic is that while we cannot gather in Austin, so many more members and supporters can join us virtually for our February 6th, 2021 Lobby Day. This virtual event also allows us to bring you Michael Li, a national expert on gerrymandering and redistricting. In addition, Dr. Defrancesco-Soto from the LBJ School of Public Policy at UT and Dr. Price from Prairie View A&M will be joining us to discuss the impact of gerrymandering and restrictive voting laws have on people of color in Texas. League Issue Chairs Cinde Weatherby and Stephanie Swanson will update you on what we expect from the 87th Texas Legislature and review key talking points to share with your legislators. Join us on Feb. 6th for the 2021 League of Women Voters of Texas Lobby Day. You will not want to miss this important and interesting event! Register for the 2021 LWVTX Lobby Day here. Respond to the Redistricting Action Alert now! Check out the League Advocacy & Issues webpages for updates on all of the League positions. Texas Senate Will Hold Virtual Redistricting Public Hearings The Senate Redistricting Committee has decided to start holding virtual public input hearings the week of January 25, 2021. Since the Senate has not given us much lead time to alert our communities, we need your help to spread the word about these hearings! Public comments at the Committee hearings will be used to assist the Legislature when it draws district boundaries. The focus of public testimony is to provide suggestions about improving the redistricting process and information about a region’s unique geographic and demographic characteristics from those residents most familiar with their own neighborhoods. Speaking up about your community is critical to ensuring district lines are drawn to keep your community whole and grouped with nearby communities with similar interests. This ensures that your voice is heard by your elected leaders across all kinds of government decisions. This might be the only opportunity we get to present oral testimony to the Committee virtually, so now is the time to speak up about your community! Instructions for how to register to present testimony virtually can be found on the Texas Legislature's website. The tentative hearing schedule can be found here. For help preparing testimony, you can refer to the League's nonpartisan testimony guide. You can also find very important procedural recommendations to include in your testimony in our Action Alert in the League Take Action! webpage. We must let the Legislature know that we demand a fair and open process, just like a federal judge has called for! Voting Rights & Election Law - Wait & See for Now Two words sum up the 2021 Texas Legislative Session to date -- totally abnormal. This year the Texas Legislature is off to even more of a gradual start than normal. While the pandemic is a big reason why members have been in recess more than in the Capitol, we also have a new House Speaker not hurrying into organizational chores. House committee appointments are likely weeks away. Who fills those posts makes a big difference in our advocacy. For example, insiders are predicting a new House Elections Committee Chair and member changes. It is also uncertain how citizens may participate in the legislative process, either in person or virtually. It is wise for LWVTX to wait to address individual bills until the Legislature completes its organizational stage. We are following ALL the voting rights/election bills. There are some great bills that we clearly support, such as:

  • Allowing temporary or mobile polling places once more (it was eliminated in 2019)

  • 10 bills implementing some form of electronic voter registration

  • Allowing ballots received by mail to be returned in person to the early voting locations

  • Eliminating voter ID requirements or broadening voter IDs allowed

  • Requiring polling places on most college campuses

Just like every session, there are also bills we will speak loudly against, such as:

  • Allowing election workers to photograph voters whose ID they question

  • Requiring a passport, certified birth certificate or citizenship papers to register to vote and

  • Only allowing voter registration through the Secretary of State’s office who will maintain the registration cards.

As soon as any of these and other bills are referred to committees and committee hearings begin, League members and supporters (you!) will receive Action Alerts to contact your legislators. Like most recent sessions, we expect more action on bills that would make voting more difficult than those making the democratic process equally available to all eligible voters. Legislative and political party leaders are calling priority attention to election bills. This is especially the case for the voting and election rules and processes argued in the courts in 2020. Almost all actions settled through court cases are being “retried” by both sides in House and/or Senate bills. Keep up with Voting Rights & Election Laws legislation on the League Advocacy webpage.Donate Now to Support League Action! LWVTX Lobby Day - February 6th 10 AM -1 PM Voting Rights & Redistricting - A National Perspective Michael Li Michael Li serves as senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, where his work focuses on redistricting, voting rights, and elections. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Li practiced law at Baker Botts L.L.P. in Dallas for ten years. He was the author of a widely cited blog on redistricting and election law issues that the New York Times called “indispensable.” He is a regular writer and commentator on election law issues, appearing on PBS Newshour, MSNBC, and NPR, and in print in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Roll Call, Vox, National Journal, Texas Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and San Antonio Express-News, among others. In addition to his election law work, Li previously served as executive director of Be One Texas, a donor alliance that oversaw strategic and targeted investments in nonprofit organizations working to increase voter participation and engagement in historically disadvantaged African American and Hispanic communities in Texas.Li received his JD with honors from Tulane Law School and an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin. Voting Rights & Redistricting - Impact on Communities of Color in Texas Dr. Victoria M. Defrancesco Soto is the Director for the Center for Civic Engagement and a lecturer at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, where she was selected as one of UT's Game Changers. She is also a faculty affiliate of the Department of Mexican-American and Latino Studies and the Center for Mexican American Studies. She received her Ph.D. in political science from Duke University, during which time she was a National Science Foundation Fellow. Named one of the top 12 scholars in the country by Diverse magazine, she previously taught at Northwestern University and Rutgers. In her research and teaching, Dr. DeFrancesco Soto brings an interdisciplinary lens to the understanding of American politics and policy. Her areas of expertise include immigration, women and politics, political psychology, and campaigns and elections. She is a contributor to MSNBC and NBCNews.com, as well as a regular political analyst for Telemundo. She has provided on-air analysis for CNN, Fox, PBS, Univision, and NPR, and has appeared on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher." Most recently, she was a featured expert in the PBS documentary "Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice," about the civil rights trailblazer. Dr. DeFrancesco Soto also has been published in both academic and popular outlets such as POLITICO and Talking Points. Dr. Melanye Price is the Endowed Professor of Political Science at Prairie View A&M University and principal investigator for their African American Studies Initiative. Dr. Price was recently named inaugural director of The Ruth J. Simmons Center for Race and Justice. Price is the author of two books: The Race Whisperer: Barack Obama and the Political Uses of Race (NYU, 2016) and Dreaming Blackness: Black Nationalism and African American Public Opinion (NYU, 2009). Dr. Price completed her B.A. magna cum laude in geography at Prairie View A&M University and her MA and Ph.D. in political science at The Ohio State University. Price was the 2017 Black History Month lecturer for US Embassy in Germany where she lectured at universities and community organizations across the country. Professor Price was one of the contributors to Stanley Nelson’s documentary, Obama: Through the Fire, which aired on BET. She is a regular contributor for The New York Times Opinion section and has also done political commentary for CNN, Ms. Magazine, Hartford Courant, Vox, Pacifica and Houston, New York City, and CT Public Radio. You Can Take Action at the Texas Capitol League Issue Chairs, Stephanie Swanson and Cinde Weatherby will address messaging, contacting legislators, and taking action on Redistricting and Voting & Election Laws legislation. LWVTX Vice President of Advocacy Janet Imhoff will highlight how Leagues take action and specific actions you can take the week after the LWVTX Lobby Day. Register for the 87th Legislative Session League Lobby Day here. Your Texas League in the News New Texas district boundary lines underway, advocates concerned - KRGV.com (1/18/21) Upcoming Events & Calendar Unpacking the Latino Landscape: 2020 & Beyond with Dr. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto All eyes are on Latinos in the United States, who became the largest minority voting group for the first time in American history in the 2020 general election. While Republicans experienced the promise of the Latino vote, the Democrats’ performance put them at peril. Now questions about the political, social, and cultural landscapes seem unresolved. Join the LBJ School for a four-part series on the Latino landscape, unpacking what happened in 2020; demography and what so many people get wrong about destiny; what lies ahead; and the ongoing transformation of what it means to be Latino/a. Starts on Jan. 27. Register here. League of Women Voters of Texas |lwvtexas.org

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