Making Democracy Work

President's Report

Messages from your LWV President

President's Letter January/February 2019

President's Letter

How do we decide who gets to come to the U.S., who gets to stay and how will they be treated while they're here? The League is sponsoring a forum to discuss these very issues on January 10 at 6 PM in the McChesney Room of the Schenectady County Public Library, entitled "Immigrants in America: How Do We Decide?"

Sarah Rogerson, Professor at Albany Law School, will talk about her experiences providing legal help to undocumented migrants as part of the Detention Outreach Project at the Albany County Jail. Victoria Martinez, Union College Professor, will describe the mini-term projects she runs with Union students at the U.S./Mexico border and Isabelle Paine Thacker will talk about her work with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) and with The Legal Project.

It's relatively easy to enter the U.S. The limiting factor is really how long a person is allowed to stay. Student visas, tourist visas and temporary work visas permit people to stay for short periods of time. The big exception of course is the travel ban barring people from certain countries from coming here even for a short stay. While discussion on illegal immigration tends to center on people who never had legal permission to enter the U.S., a sizable percentage of undocumented workers entered legally and simply overstayed their visas.

Legal permanent resident status, the coveted "green card", allows immigrants to stay here permanently with the potential opportunity for U.S. citizenship. There are a number of avenues to become a legal permanent resident, including winning the "green card lottery", reuniting with a family member who has attained U.S. citizenship and being granted refugee status.

The other focus of discussion on immigration is whether immigration policy should favor high- or low-skilled workers. But whatever the case may be, the very fact that an immigrant is willing to uproot themselves from friends and family to start a new life in the U.S. means that they're ambitious risk-takers that are bound to be an asset to this country.

Cheryl Nechamen

President's Letter December 2018

A record number of women ran for elected office this year and a considerable number of them succeeded in their quest. The new Congress convening in January 2019 will see several historic firsts: the first Muslim Congresswomen: Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota (Omar is also the first Somali-American to be elected to Congress); the first Native American women elected to the House of Representatives: Deb Haaland from the Pueblo of Lagunas in New Mexico and Sharice Davids from the Ho-Chunk Nation in Kansas; and the first Latina Congresswomen elected from Texas: Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia. Congratulations to all of them!

The election also saw a record high voter turnout for a midterm election. Our own Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts, headed by Pauline Kinsella, focused on election districts in the City of Schenectady that had low voter turnouts in 2017.

The GOTV Committee designed and distributed lawn signs and posters, spoke at neighborhood association meetings and persuaded several school districts to deliver GOTV announcements during sporting events.

Voter turnout was definitely higher in Schenectady County districts than in past midterms; we'll have details in the next bulletin (the Board of Elections is understandably rather busy right now). As Kay Ackerman pointed out, we can get an idea of how much we can take credit for this increase by comparing the percentage increase in voter turnout in the city districts that the Committee targeted relative to the percentage increase in the rest of Schenectady County.

The GOTV Committee is already planning on new initiatives for the elections in 2019 which will include many city and town local races. We appreciate the Committee's hard work.

Cheryl Nechamen

President's Letter November 2018

A basic tenet of the League is the support for equal rights for all, including the disabled. Recently, the Schenectady League found an opportunity to take concrete action on that issue.

Andria Berger, a Disability Rights Advocate with the Resource Center for Independent Living in Amsterdam, had contacted the State League for help with several concerns. Since Montgomery and Fulton Counties have no local League of their own, we decided to fill the gap.

Cindy Weissend, Johanna Petersen, Connie Young and I met with Andria and several other Advocates on October 6. During our discussion, Andria mentioned that the Broadalbin Town Hall, a Fulton County polling site, was not handicap-accessible. Even more disturbing, a^er she had informed the Town Clerk of these accessibility concerns, Andria discovered that nothing had changed when she visited the Town Hall again on Primary Day.

Cindy Weissend has taken the lead in gently wielding the League's influence to correct this problem. Cindy and Andria have visited the Broadalbin Town Hall, talked to the Town Clerk and met with the Fulton County Board of Elections Commissioners. The Commissioners have promised to work with the Town of Broadalbin to rectify these problems.

I'm confident that people with disabilities will find better access at the Broadalbin Town Hall on Election Day, thanks to Cindy's diligent efforts.

Cheryl Nechamen

President's Letter October 2018

This is a busy time of year for the League and we're grateful to our many volunteers. Kay Ackerman, as Voter Services Chair, is undoubtedly the busiest of all and makes my job easy. Thank you, Kay!

We've held a number of voter registration events, thanks to Peg Foley, our Voter Registration Chair, and registered quite a few voters, some for the first time, others updating their registrations after moving or changing their party affiliation. Again, this wouldn't be possible without League members staffing the table, helping people fill out voter registration forms and handing out our helpful "Your Right to Vote" brochures for college students, the homeless, individuals with disabilities, mental disabilities or criminal convictions. Under Ann Hatke's leadership, the League has been present at every naturalization ceremony in Schenectady since March. We've registered many new citizens.

Candidate forums will be coming up soon and League members will be serving as moderators, question checkers, question collectors and timekeepers. And once again, we'll be collecting election results at the polls to be reported to the media, for which the League earns a sizable fee. If you'd like to help collect poll results, please contact Dick Shave.

The State League has started a new website, to replace Vote411. It's a user- friendly site to help voters find their polling site and information on the candidates in New York State. On a national level, the League is using which also provides information on candidates.

Cheryl Nechamen

President's Letter September 2018

The League has an impressive track record in registering people to vote, an essential first step. But now we need to focus our efforts on getting people to the polls.

An enthusiastic committee, chaired by Pauline Kinsella, is taking the lead on the League's Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts. The GOTV Committee decided to concentrate on the City of Schenectady because it has the lowest voter turnout of all the municipalities in Schenectady County.

If you'd like to help in these efforts, Pauline will be thrilled to hear from you; email Pauline.

Our September Kickoff Luncheon is coming soon, on Sept. 11, noon, at the Turf Tavern in Scotia. Our speakers will be the Schenectady County Board of Elections Commissioners Amy Hild and Darlene Harris. The Board had met with the Commissioners in April about voting reforms that were under consideration. Board members found the conversation so interesting that we thought we should open the discussion to our membership.

Ms.Hild and Ms. Harris will talk about electronic poll books (their ease of us vs. the potential for hacking), no excuse absentee voting and the rules for purging voters from the rolls. Here's your chance to ask questions about the practical details and the possible effects of these proposals.

Cheryl Nechamen

Letter supporting the work of the SCCC

The following letter was sent by LWV President Cheryl Nechamen on behalf of the League and in support of the work of SCCC.

Jennifer Miller, Director of Community College Support SUNY System Administration Office of Community Colleges and the Educational Pipeline SUNY Plaza, 353 Broadway Albany, NY 12204 Dear Ms. Miller: The League of Women Voters of Schenectady County enthusiastically supports Schenectady County Community College's application to the SUNY Community College Community Schools (CCCS) grant. Schenectady County Community College (SCCC), in collaboration with an array of public, private and nonprofit partners, seeks to support high need students, and to build a network of accessible, on-campus, non-academic resources essential to successfully retaining and graduating these students.

The proposed SCCC Community Schools initiative, DESTINATION: SUCCESS, integrates college resources and community based services for students and their families through a centralized location on the College's campus. SCCC's DESTINATION: SUCCESS is aimed at increasing student retention rates of high-needs students by directly connecting them to multiple community resources available to support them through life's non-academic challenges. On-campus support will help students to navigate and address such issues as employment, food, housing, finances, childcare, primary care and mental health services, legal support, transportation, and other day-to-day needs than can negatively impact student success.

The League of Women Voters will partner with SCCC to develop and implement this important initiative. The League will hold voter registration drives on campus to increase the number of new voters. During the voter registration drives, pamphlets will be available that help students who may have felony convictions, disabilities or who are homeless which will enable them to exercise their right to vote.

The League distributes information on candidates and issues during election campaigns. In addition, the League has a long history of holding educational programs on local, state and national issues that will help students to become active and informed participants in our country.

The proposed DESTINATION: SUCCESS initiative is designed to improve SCCC's retention and graduation rates by significantly scaling up the College's ongoing efforts to provide support to its diverse and ever-changing student population. Providing on-campus access to crucial services will give SCCC students the support they need. This, in turn, will further strengthen student's families, our larger community, and our region. We enthusiastically support the College's application for SUNY Community Schools grant funding.


Cheryl Nechamen


League of Women Voters of Schenectady County