Making Democracy Work

LWVNYS STATE/ PROGRAM/ BLOG

The Local Program Positions for the LWVNYS well as the LWVNYS links and blog.

League Mission Statement

LWV State President Dare Thompson wrote in the LWV State Voter for July that the new LWVUS mission statement Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy - seems to have been written just for today. She commented that she had been in Seneca Falls for the annual celebration of the event that kicked off the women's suffrage movement 17 decades ago. At the original celebration, the reading of the Declaration of Sentiments dared to say that "all men AND WOMEN were created equal" and was almost dismissed by the crowd had not Frederick Douglass - a newly-free 30-year-old black man with a best-selling autobiography to his name - stood up in support of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's bold statement. It also would not have happened if Lucretia Coffin Mott, the very prominent Quaker from Nantucket and Philadelphia, were not among those who helped Stanton write and present it. "How different they were - a woman who was remarkably privileged except for her gender, a man who was only recently a slave, and a woman who'd spent her early years primarily among Quakers and Native Americans. People of such different life paths and strong wills, But they were totally united in their commitment to human rights and to the hard work that achieving these would entail. These years are particularly historic as well, with so much at stake. We need to look into ourselves and all around us and find the courage and persistence that our times require and remember that our mentors didn't find it easy. Good luck to all of us as we move forward into history empowering voters and defending democracy!"

Paraphrased and excerpted from the July State Voter

Students Inside Albany

The 2018 Students Inside Albany Conference had 59 attendees. The Schenectady League sent two students. The students came from all over New York State and ranged from sophomores to seniors in high school. Sunday evening, Jennifer Wilson, LWVNYS Legislative Director, explained the roles of the various branches of New York State government and the differences between the state government and the other levels of government. She also discussed some of the bills being considered in the legislature. Monday, a mock debate was organized for the students in the Assembly. They were surveyed ahead of time and it was found that gun control/safety was their first topic of interest. Monday afternoon, the students were provided with the do's and don'ts of lobbying the legislators + how to approach them, make arguments and be persuasive. On Tuesday morning, the students had a tour of the Chambers of the Court of Appeals and heard about the different levels of the judiciary in New York State. After lunch, the students watched the Assembly session for a short time before going to meet their Senators and staff in their offices.

The legislature had scheduled a joint session of the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday, to appoint the new Attorney General, Barbara Underwood. This was a rare event+only held when a statewide officer needs to be appointed. After dinner Tuesday, the students heard from a panel of media representatives which included Rachel Silberstein of the Times Union, Dan Clark of PolitiFact, and Tim Williams of WCNY. The students asked insightful questions on sources, "fake news," and also about careers in the media. Wednesday morning, the students engaged in a discussion of what they saw in the Assembly and Senate. Each student received a certificate for attendance at the Conference and a few students noted that they had been offered internships in their legislators' offices for the summer.

Condensed from the LWVNYS website

Problems with Absentee Ballots

(condensed from a letter sent by Assemblyman Philip Steck to the LWVNYS Executive Director Laura Ladd Bierman)

"The Legislature passed absentee voting legislation in 1920. Unfortunately, the law as it currently stands in New York, allows for a qualified absentee voter to have their absentee ballot application and absentee ballot carried for them by an individual they designate, the ballot may be mailed to another persons home and it allows for the ballot application and the ballot itself to be filled out by another party. It only requires the signature of the other. All this has offered additional opportunities to corrupt the absentee ballot process. This corruption is very real. It is happening all over the State. Election insiders continue to constitute the greatest threat.

  • Absentee ballots are not counted electronically...they are canvassed by hand approximately two weeks after Election Day, thus delaying election results and creating opportunities for inconsistencies as to how the individual ballots are treated. (Errors could result from uncounted ballots)

  • In absentee voting, it is very easy to identify the voter and their chosen candidate through witnessing the public counting process. (Not a secret ballot)

  • "Ballot Mining" This process amounts to legal challenges to ballots candidates know are for their opponent. These challenges come in many forms, such as to the date or signature, inconsistencies or marks on the ballot envelope, ballots becoming unsealed in the mailing process, improper postmarking, etc. The most high-profile case of absentee ballot mining likely changed the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election.

"At the end of the day, voter turnout is low because people feel the government is dominated by big money and unresponsive to them. Responsive government is what increases turnout. When meeting with LWVNYS, it was expressed to me that no-excuses absentee voting will increase the voting opportunities for those who are low-income, thus increasing voter participation. This is the very reason why I support early voting and automatic registration. Having the poll open 7 days in advance, including a weekend, decreases long lines and allows those with challenging work or childcare schedules a convenient time to vote that automatic registration increases voter participation is self- evident."

NYS Campaign Finance System: Closing the LLC Loophole

New York State's Campaign Finance System and Closing the LLC Loophole
LLCs are Limited Liability Corporations.

reprinted from the LWV Buffalo Niagara Voter

Companies create LLCs for many business reasons. But for some companies one reason alone is paramount + the ability to pour huge amounts of money into the coffers of candidates, elected officials, and political parties, frequently without revealing the names of the donors.

In 1996 the New York State Board of Elections decided to treat LLCs as "individuals" under the state's campaign finance laws, with spectacular results. When considered as a corporation, as under federal law, an LLC could contribute up to $5,000 to an elected official, political party, or a candidate running for office; but when considered as an individual under NYS law, an LLC could contribute up to $60,800! If this was not a sufficient pot of campaign money to make recipients happy, corporations and businesses could create any number of LLCs, each with the same outrageously high contribution limit. Each additional LLC is then given a different name and the names of the original donors remain hidden.

LLCs are equal opportunity donors. All political parties, candidates and elected officials benefit from the seemingly endless generosity of LLCs.

In 2015 Glenwood Management, a huge real estate company that figured prominently in the criminal corruption trial of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, created 22 separate LLCs, each with the ability to contribute the maximum amount to favored candidates and political parties. Another state corruption investigation that originated almost a decade ago, involving the Buffalo Billion, is unfolding now and demonstrates again how the LLC loophole works to benefit both donors and recipients at the public's expense.

We know from our Money In Politics study that quid pro quo corruption is difficult to prove. A wink and a nod can convey the intended message when money changes hands. Citizens are rightly suspicious when legislative favors are granted to certain interests and when constituent-supported legislation is defeated over and over or not even discussed in committee. The LLC loophole exemplifies a government failure in both fairness and transparency. Closing it is the goal of the League, of other reform groups and of many government officials.

Closing the LLC loophole through state legislation. In 2015 the New York State Assembly, with broad bipartisan support, passed legislation to close the loophole but the bill died in the Senate Corporations Committee chaired by Michael Ranzenhofer (Amherst).

This year the legislation has been reintroduced. The League strongly supports A.9758A (Simon) and S.27149 (Kavanagh) which will lower contribution limits to the federal level of $5,000 and require donor disclosure. The League urges members to call and write their legislators in support of the legislation + better still, come with us when we visit legislators in March and April 2018. Passage will occur only when enough citizens are alert to the problem and determined to correct it.

NY State League President Dare Thompson wrote, "Closing the LLC loophole is an obvious and long overdue fix to limit contributions by special interests and help end `dark money' in our electoral system. This one small step is just one of many reforms needed to reduce corruption in Albany."

Janet Massaro, Chair

The Power of Awareness

"Empowering All Through Education"

The League of Women Voters of New York State Education Foundation is the educational and fund-raising arm of The League of Women Voters of New York State which derives its strength from the energy and commitment of the women and men in about 60 local Leagues throughout the state. It is strictly nonpartisan, and works primarily on projects that enlighten the electorate i.e., empower through education.

The charitable support of individual people, corporations and foundations throughout New York State help us accomplish three central missions:

  • Educate people on the importance of their participation in government, in the political process and, most importantly, in the life of their home community.
  • Create awareness of the issues at the local, state and national levels and what average citizens can do to have an impact on their government.
  • Instill in young people and new citizens the knowledge of their role and responsibilities in managing their own government.

About the LWVNYS Education Foundation (EF)

Throughout its history the Foundation has produced and distributed nonpartisan, educational materials; funded activities which promote citizen responsibility in the democratic process; and facilitated communication between citizens and their government officials. It has a strong commitment to young people and to the promise of the continued success of democracy.

The League of Women Voters of New York State Education Foundation (LWVNYSEF) was established in 1950 as the Foundation for Citizen Education (FCE) to support the educational activities of the League of Women Voters of New York State. It is incorporated under the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law of New York and is classified as a public educational charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Foundation is dedicated exclusively to the support and promotion of the educational programs of the League of Women Voters in New York State.

Give to LWVNYS Education Foundation Make a tax-deductible contribution to the Education Foundation using your credit card. If you prefer to write a check, please make them payable to the LWVNYS Education Foundation. If you have any questions, feel free to call the state League office directly at 518-465-4162.

League of Women Voters of New York State

Capitol Beat Blog

The League of Women Voters of NYS is pleased to announce the return of "Capitol Beat." This informative and entertaining column, written by the LWVNYS Legislative Director Barbara Bartoletti will contain legislative updates about League issues, as well as political gossip. We will also outline the budget and of course, will chronicle the always-lively end of session. We have created a blog page for "Capitol Beat" on our League website, and we welcome your comments posted on this blog page. We have also linked the Legislative Calendar so you have all the dates of the legislative session. So, check out the blog and continue to watch it for updates - we hope to keep it lively and current. Get all the latest legislative info right on our website and blog!