Thank you to all of the members who have returned their member interest forms. We still
need observers in the areas of housing, health care and women's Issues. And proofreaders
for the VOTER. As a member of DCTV, LWVDC may send four members for training in video
program production. Our website needs a web-maintainer. Could one of these volunteers be
As the nation celebrates African American History Month, the D.C. League looks forward
to exciting times. The Coalition for D.C. Representation in Congress is moving to Make
Democracy Work for this city. (See below.)
The D.C. Affairs Committee fresh from coordinating local program planning, will host a
General Meeting (ALL UNITS INVITED) on the 17th to advance our mission of holding our
elected officials accountable to the D.C. Comprehensive Plan (see below). The
LWVDC (IR Committee) together with the American Bar Association and the United Nations
Association will sponsor an open meeting on the International Criminal Court (see flyer).
The IR Committee also invites you to their Great Decisions Discussion Group (see below). Our newest unit at Trinity
College will hold a fundraising "Voters and Friends Coffeehouse" on February 7,
at 7:30 p.m. Call Jenn at 347-3020 for details.
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Feb 2 (Tue) 10:00 a.m., D.C. Affairs Committee, LWVDC, 1234 Mass, Ave,, NW
Feb 3 (Wed) 10:00 a.m., LWVDC Board Meeting, LWVUS, 1730 M Street, NW
Feb 7 (Sun) 7:30 p.m., D.C. Voters and Friends: Coffeehouse at Trinity College, 125
Michigan Avenue, NE, Call Jenn Kletter, 202/347-3020
Feb 9 (Tue) I.R./U.N. Assoc. Meeting:
International Criminal Court
Feb 9 (Tue) DC Voter: March Deadline
Feb 10 (Wed) 10:00 a.m., Education Committee, LWVDC office
Feb 17 (Wed) noon, I.R. Great Decisions:
Weapons LWVUS, Goodman Room
Feb 17 (Wed) 6:30p.m., General Mtg:
Comprehensive Plan, 441 Fourth Street, NW Guest: Council Chair Linda Cropp
Feb 19 (Fri) March Voter Mailing
Feb 24 (Wed) noon, I.R. Great Decisions: U.N.,
LWVUS, Goodman Room
Mar 24 (Wed) 10:00 a.m., General Mtg: NCA Water Resources Sumner School, see p.2
Feb 5 (Fri) 10:00 a.m., NCA Board Meeting, LWVUS
Feb 19 (Fri) 10:00 a.m., NCA Membership Roundtable LWVUS
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"The LWVUS board determined that the League, at all three levels, will decline to
support Abolition 2000, a citizens campaign to negotiate a multilateral treaty by the year
2000 that would abolish nuclear weapons. The League's positions do not support the
Abolition 2000 campaign's central goal.
"The league's Arms Control position anticipates a progression of treaties to
reduce the quantity and risk of weapons, leading eventually to a nuclear disarmament
agreement. The position supports the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons "as a
long-term goal." Abolition 2000 calls for a treaty abolishing nuclear weapons to be
completed by 2000, an unrealistic time-frame. As a practical political matter, it is
highly unlikely that the two major nuclear powers, the United States and Russia, would
participate in negotiating any such treaty within the next two years."
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Please Note: there are no Unit Meetings In February, instead the D.C. Affairs Committee
February General Meeting
With D.C. Council Chair, Linda Cropp (D)
Topic: Recent Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan
Wednesday, February 17, 1999 at 6:30 p.m.
441 Fourth Street NW, Conference Room 700
Come and learn how informed citizens can help to improve the quality of life in our
city. Adequate public participation in planning is a position we support. Bring a friend
or neighbor. Light refreshments will be served.
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Mark Your Calendars Now:
The Sumner School, Lecture Hall
10:00 a.m. to Noon
Look for more information in the March Voter.
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Welcome new members:
Jane Fishkin, Katherine Harris, Arlene Holliday, Katherine McQueen, and Anne Perman.
We regret to report that we just learned of the death which occurred in February of
1998 of one of our members, Wyndell Watts. His wife, Althea Watts, still lives at 2630
l0th St. NE, 20002.
We continue to receive donations from our members as a result of the Fall Finance
Drive. Thanks to Dorothy Beltz, Frank Daspit, Dorothy Dillon, Ruth Dixon, Charlotte Frank,
Yvette Hutchinson, Sheila Keeny, Clara Kirkman, Lloyd Leonard, Barbara Luchs, Jeanette
Miller, Richard Mintz, Ruth Nadel, Betty Nyangoni, Irving Panzer, Lillian Rubin, Clara
Schiffer, Joy Simonson, Connie Tate, Pat Wheeler, Frances Wilkinson, Gladys Weaver, and
Membership Drive Brings in Dozens
We are pleased to announce that to date, our "sampler membership" drive has
reached 45 persons. The drive will end February 12, 1999. Until then, you can still time
to submit additional names. Perhaps you'd like to remember someone at Valentine's Day or
get your local community leaders involved in the League?
For $15, you may submit the names and addresses of three persons to receive sampler
memberships. Each recipient will receive the local Voter for three months with an
invitation to full membership.
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Recreation in Southwest was our Unit Choice Subject. Our speakers were A.B. Morgan from
the D.C. Department of Recreation and Alvin Hudgens, Director of Police Boys and Girls
Club No.4. Mr. Morgan brought reams of printed material on scheduled recreation activities
city-wide and in Southwest. Mr. Hudgens described the many activities of the club which
benefit the community in addition to the competitive athletic activities that get most of
the publicity. However, when questioned about opportunity for pick-up games and other
informal exercising, the answers were not very satisfactory
Both men emphasized the problem of shortage of funds. One reason for the shortage is
that more families with children have moved into the renovated public housing in
Southwest. -- Grace Savage
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See notice of February General Meeting, p. 2.
The committee meets next on February 2, 10:00 a.m. at the D.C. League office. Anna
See report on Reform and Standards in Education, p.4.
The Education Committee suggests that any Giant and/or Safeway sales tapes be given to
the chair of your unit, dropped off at the League office, or brought to one of the general
meetings this month. Garrison Elementary School is most appreciative of our support.
The Committee meets next on February 10 at 10:00 a.m. at the D.C. League office.
Kathy Schmidt, Chair
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Meeting Planned with United Nations Association. The I.R. Committee
will sponsor an open meeting on Tuesday, February 9, on the proposed International
Criminal Court (1CC). The meeting is also sponsored by the United Nations Association of
the National Capital Area and the American Bar Association's Section on international Law
and Practice. Speakers Monroe Leigh, Chair of the ABA Working Group on the ICC, and John
Washburn, Co-Chair of the Washington Working Group on the ICC, will address the issue of
whether the U.S. should ratify the Court Statute, which 120 nations voted to adopt in
Rome, July 1998. The U.S. was one of seven nations voting against the treaty; 21 nations
abstained. The Court, which would try individuals accused of the most heinous crimes, is
an important current issue that the League's 1977 position on the United Nations fails to
address. See enclosed flyer for information on time and place.
Speaker Series Opens: The first of three open meetings of the
Committee took place on January 13, when Dr. Nancy Gallagher shared with us her personal
views, as Scholar-in-Residence at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency on the need to
ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Dr, Gallagher pointed out that failure by
the United States to ratify the CTBT should be a major blow to the credibility of the U.S.
and would have serious consequences for U.S. efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons
and for U.S. arms control and security policy in general.
Final Meeting in March: A third open Committee meeting on U.S.-U.N.
relations and the threat to the U.N. Charter, featuring speakers from the United Nations
Association of the U.S. and LWVUS, will close the series in March (see March DC Voter for
details). All League members are invited to attend these open Committee meetings, thereby
sharing the informational aspect of the Committee's work as it prepares for Unit Meetings
on "U.N. Treaties in Trouble" to be held in April.
Great Decisions: "Weapons of Mass Destruction: Re-emerging
Threat?" is the topic to be discussed by participants in the Great Decisions
discussion group on Wednesday, February 17, while the following Wednesday, February 24,
will find us discussing "U.S. Role in the U.N,; A Changing Dynamic?" New members
and/or auditors welcome -- we meet in the Rosalie Goodman Room at LWVUS for brown bag
lunch and discussion. Call Janet Burmester, I.R. Committee Great Decisions Coordinator
(202/2374948) for information or to register. -- Sheila Keeny, Chair
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As of this writing the LWVUS Board has yet to meet (in January) so we do not have
results to report here. Be aware, however, that your Board has asked the LWVUS Board to
take up the subject of accelerating its efforts on the D.C. representation issue. We are
concerned that the original schedule for producing information (i.e., by Summer 1999) now
seems too late to buttress the lawsuit filed by Covington & Burling on behalf of
individual citizens and the District. You may have noticed a short item in the
December/January issues of the National Voter in the article reporting on the 105th
Congress. The topic was mentioned under Making Democracy Work.
With respect to the lawsuit, responses to the filing requesting summary judgment have
been received from the respective defendants all in the negative. Each side then
may file replies, as it chooses (in January and February). I am obtaining a set of the
main responses for the office records and will follow up on any subsequent replies.
Notwithstanding holidays, some members of the Coalition for D.C. Voting Rights in
Congress joined in a conference call this past December in lieu of a formal meeting. Kathy
Schmidt participated on behalf of LWVDC; her report appears below. Barbara
T. Yeomans, 3rd Vice President (National Program)
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The position description for Executive Director of the "Coalition for D.C.
Representation in Congress Education Fund" was agreed to and we hope the job will
have been filled by mid-January. Requisite bank accounts have been established, both 501
(c)3 for the Education Fund and 501(c)4 for the Coalition generally. Grants from
interested foundations have been solicited, and one has already been received. The
coalition still plans to have the neighborhood informational gatherings in the middle of
February, as I noted in my January report. Anyone who is willing to host a morning,
afternoon, or evening group should contact me ASAP.
The Coalition for D.C. Representation in Congress 501(c)4 and the
Coalition for D.C. Representation in Congress Education Fund 50l(c)3 have
separate bank accounts. Checks for their support should be mailed to P.O. Box 73708,
Washington, DC 20056-3708. If you know of any organization which might be interested in
joining the coalition, please call the League office. Kathy Schmidt
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Readers are woefully aware that D.C. lacks full voting representation in the House (and
Senate). You will recall that the D.C. Delegate gained, and then in 1995 lost, the
privilege of voting in the Committee of the Whole of the House of Representatives. Lack of
voting power took on new meaning during the 1998 impeachment proceedings. On December 18,
D.C. Delegate Norton sought approval by the House to vote on impeachment. She cited the
23rd amendment to the Constitution, giving the residents of the District the right to vote
for President and Vice-President. She argued that the "same Constitution that gives
the District the right to vote for President must recognize the right of District
residents to representation for a vote on removal of the President." An excerpt from
her statement follows:
"I have submitted a narrowly tailored resolution, along with a legal memorandum,
for a narrowly-tailored right. I am not here asking for the delegate vote in the Committee
of the Whole at this time. 1 am not asking for a House vote. I am asking to vote only on
impeachment, in order to perfect the rights of the District residents, under the 23rd
amendment. The House has abundant authority to grant me this right at this time. Clause 2
of the 23rd amendment gives the House the power to enforce the amendment through
legislation. My resolution is that legislation, The District clause, as this body so often
reminds us, gives members full authority over the District of Columbia, and the
impeachment clause gives members unilateral authority, or the sole power or impeachment.
The 23rd amendment explicitly treats the District as a State for purposes of electing the
President and Vice-President... The decision to expel a President from office is as
important as the decision to elect the President to office... There are no partial rights
in the Constitution. It is unconstitutional and irrational to interpret the 23rd amendment
to afford a vote for President, but no vote on whether to impeach a President."
The House leadership did not agree with Mrs. Norton's position. Speaker pro tempore
Rep. Ray Laflood (R.-Illinois) cited the current House rules, the same by which the
Delegate lost the vote in the Committee of the Whole, (P.S. We are not sanguine that the
Delegate will regain that privilege in the 106th Congress).
As to the national League's position on impeachment, the following statement has been
issued for members:
The League does not have a formal position on this matter, one rarely raised. In view
of inquiries the League has issued the following statement for members:
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization, It does not support or oppose
any political party or any candidate for elected office, whether or not candidate is
affiliated with a particular party. The organization's nonpartisanship policy has added
valuable strength to its positions on issues and credibility to its voter services and
educational work. Safeguarding the League's reputation for nonpartisanship is of paramount
The current impeachment process splits across party lines and has become a clearly
partisan fight. To support either side of the issue would greatly compromise the League's
nonpartisan policy. What we are doing is providing information to concerned citizens to
assist them in expressing their opinions whatever those opinions may be to
their government representatives and leaders.
For questions or additional information, please contact Vicki Paris or Monica Testa in
the Communications Department, 202/429-1965. Barbara T. Yeomans, 3rd Vice
President, Educational Program
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Reform is an on-going trend in education: establishment of public schools, public
education for most students, public education for students with special needs, and
educational standards/opportunities for females and minorities all represented reforms at
Reform in education is evolutionary and, as in other endeavors, has many
"revolutionary" movements. Reform is not static and takes place in many areas at
the same time.
It has become the consensus that American schools need to improve in many areas in
order to ensure a basic level of quality among schools to prepare all Americans to become
responsible citizens. Thus, the concept of standards has become linked with that of reform
Academic (Content) standards delineate what students should know or be
able to do at specific grade levels. Such standards have been the efforts of research at
all levels for all content areas. Approximately 22 states have indicated minimum skills
test for graduation. Recent data indicate that many students do not pass these tests.
Non-Content (Behavioral) standards include expecting students to
become complex thinkers, skilled information processors, effective
communicators/producers, collaborative/cooperative workers, self regulated learners,
community contributors/responsible citizens, tolerant learners/culturally diverse
Non-student standards include professional development standards for teachers,
certification standards for teachers, systems standards for school districts, and school
Educational Leadership Standards. Administrators should be required to
show knowledge in the same broad areas but should be prepared in the separate program for
elementary principals, secondary principals, curriculum directors, supervisors and
superintendents. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) has been
involved with other associations to promote such changes by developing guidelines for
strategic leadership, organizational leadership, instructional leadership and
Certification Standards for Teachers. Certification requirements
include credit standards set by school districts and performance assessments. Strategies
that capture what teachers do in the classroom and learning experiences for teachers are
sought. A basic problem concerns consensus on the vision for teaching.
Assessment Standards. Traditional graduation requirements (Course
credits); English, History or Social Studies, Mathematics, Science; electives as
designated by the school district or/and the local school.
Formal demonstration of learning (outcome-based education): a basic problem revolves
around the perceived value of effort over ability.
Alternative standards are perceived as promoting equity in performance assessment,
Basic problems arise in distinguishing among assessments of different quality and
appropriateness for students, i.e. collaborative groups versus individual assessment.
National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAEP) Assessment Test for
Mathematics and Science.
The reform movement of the late 1900's centering on standards is fraught with
frustrations and controversial results. Standards, academic and behavioral, will continue
to claim the efforts of administrators, teachers, parents, students and other researchers.
Concomitant to this research and inextricably related are such topics as private versus
public education, vouchers, alternative schools and home schooling. The responsibility of
the local community in public education issues must continue if public education is to
survive in the USA. -- Constance P. Tate
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LWV/The National Capital Area
President: Naomi Glass, 202/6864)124. Editor: Forest Williams.
Madeline Nauman Award. NCA's ad hoc Award Committee has draft rules
arid procedures that the Board will act upon at its snowdate meeting on January 15. Soon
thereafter, member Leagues will he invited to enter the competition for the first biannual
award at NCA Convention, May 8.
D.C. Congressional representation. As instructed by the Board, NCA
president Naomi Glass has beseeched LWVUS to do its duty for D.C. Congressional
representation. Naomi's letter to LWVUS president Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins stated:
The Board of the National Capital Area League of Women Voters, along with 425 other
local, state, and ILO Leagues, sent its delegation to the 43rd National Convention of the
League of Women Voters of the United States. That convention voted overwhelmingly to add
full Congressional Representation for the District of Columbia to the Making Democracy
Work program. We are sorely disappointed with the minimal and delayed LWVUS response thus
far evidenced, and we urge the LWVUS Board and staff to take the actions required to
"make democracy work" within the League.
It is vital that LWVUS immediately develop an action plan for the full D.C.
Representation component of the MDW program. The action plan should of course, include
goals and objectives as well as a timetable and budget.
We are eager to review the action plan and hope that it will be available before our
February 4 NCA board meeting.
Dates to Remember:
Feb. 5 10:00 a.m, NCA Board Meeting, LWVUS 1730 M Street, NW
Feb.19 10:00 a.m. NCA Membership Roundtable, LWVUS LWVUS
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American Historical Association
Considers D.C. Voting Rights:
Eleventh Hour Annual Meeting News
One session at the American Historical Association meeting in Washington, D.C., January
7-10, was devoted to voting rights in the District of Columbia. Sponsored by the Urban
History Association, this panel was entitled "Evaluating the Past, Planning for the
Future: Full Political Representation for the District of Columbia." Participants
included historians Howard Gillette from The George Washington University and Charles
Harris from Howard University; James Gibson, president, D.C. Political Agenda, John Ferren
D.C. corporation counsel; and Mark Plotkin, WAMU political analyst.
Gillette's presentation provided historical context. Harris spoke on "The Nation's
Capital: an International Comparison," which concluded that D.C. ranked near the
bottom arnong capitals seeking self-government. Gibson distinguished between problems
common to most large U.S. cities and those unique to D.C., noting in particular abuse of
the latter by Congress and self-serving suburbs. Ferren summarized the present lawsuit
filed by the D.C. firm of Covington and Burling for full voting rights for D.C. citizens,
anticipatirig that it will be decided in the Supreme Court within two years. Plotkin
lashed out at those whom he regarded as responsible for, or neglectful of, D.C. citizen
disenfranchisement. Discussion focused on the dearth of national support for D.C.'s
plight. Only the League of Women Voters U.S., it was noted, has undertaken to make this
issue a national one. == Al and Kathy Schmidt
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Congresswoman Nortons Town
Meeting with Mayor Williams and Control Board Members
This is a short report, squeaking under the deadline. I will not repeat media accounts
of this meeting; but it's true the place was packed. The 500-plus attendees filled every
usual seat in the Cannon House Caucus Room, perched on the sides, stood 1-2 deep, packed
formal seats for House leaders, and flowed into the hallway. Use of any other space would
have required hamging on the chandeliers or sitting under the speakers' table.
The program was straightforward: welcome and introduction by Mrs. Norton, short remarks
by the Mayor and the Control Board Members, and then a full hour for questions from the
floor. (Press reports have given the flavor of the range of interests.) To remind, the
Chair is now Alice RivIm, who also has the public works portfolio, and the other Members
and their portfolios are: Constance Newman, Vice Chair, also Education; Eugene Kinlow,
Health and Human Services; Darius Mans, Finance and Economic Development; and Robert
Watkins, Public Safety. Their resumes are impressive.
Mrs Norton distributed three news items (file copies at the office). One concerned her
December plea for the right to vote on the matter of impeachment. This is reported
elsewhere in this issue (see p.4). The others concerned bills, introduced on January 6 and
A. District of Columbia Democracy 2000 Act (D.C. Democracy 2000), with two goals:
(1) that the new city administration has the necessary control of city agencies to be
held accountable, and
(2) to "sunset" the Control Board a year ahead of time in light of the
District's fiscal progress.
B. District of Columbia Prison Safety Act (PSA), amending the 1997 Revitalization Act
mandate to "privatize" 50% of Lorton inmates in five years The bill would allow
the Federal Bureau of Prisons greater discretion in determining the number to be
privatized. She is responding to concerns about the reports of serious problems in
privatized facilities. She is not attempting to bar privatization per se or alter the
deadlines for closing Lorton, political non-starters. (Recall that the prison issue is
summarized in our publication on the ABC's, XYZ's of the 1997 Revitalization Legislation.)
Stay tuned! These items are part of a package of other bills to come: D.C. Budget
Autonomy Act, D.C. Legislative Autonomy Act; D.C. City Employee Tax Fairness Act (Commuter
Tax for District Employees); and Delegate Vote Restoration (House Committce of the
Whole).-- Barbara Yeomans
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Please print the Membership form and send it
together with dues to LWVDC.
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D.C. Healthy Families provides free health insurance for low to moderate income working
families in the District of Columbia. The Children at Risk Committee has informed the
LWVDC Board that members can help in two ways:
ONE If you know someone in D.C. whose child is not health insured, tell them to
TWO Volunteer to be trained to help parents apply for free health insurance. You
can assist days, evenings, or on weekends. Call 30l/650-0232.
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The DC Voter is a monthly publication of the League of Women
Voters of the District of Columbia. It is available either through membership
($40.00/year) or through direct subscription ($10.00 per year). President, Luci Murphy,
Treasurer, Naomi Glass; Editor, Virginia Spatz (email: email@example.com).
LWVDC, 1234 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005. 202/347-3020. Fax:
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
1234 Massachusetts Avenue. NW, Suite 208 Washington, D.C. 20005-4504
Dr. Ronald Walters, Professor of Political Science at the University of Maryland, and
Mr. Curtis Gans, Director, Committee for the Study of the American Electorate (CSAE), were
guests of the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia at the eleventh Brown Bag
Dialogue which was held in the board room of the League of Women Voters of the United
States (LWVUS). [Mr. Gans has served for 22 years as Director of the CSAE, which conducts
research on voting participation and public education issues. The topic of the discussion
was "The Impact of Voting Patterns on D.C." They presented the results of the
1998 election, a history of the national and District of Columbia trends of registration
and voting, reasons for lack of motivation of voters, and suggested approaches toward
change in public attitudes toward voting. The following is drawn from remarks made during
the dialogue with Dr. Walters and Mr. Gans.
Dr. Walters indicated that the District of Columbia has come a long way toward
self-determination in the past 35 years, thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, with its
expectations for political participation, many of which were realized. The first home rule
charter (1974) was a product of the civil rights movement, as well as the right to elect a
board of education (1968) and a non-voting delegate to Congress (1970). We are still a
very young city in the way we are being managed, and we are still evaluating how to make
political participation work.
All parties in the District have had increases in membership, but one of the biggest
increases was in the registered number of "no party" voters (in D.C. voters with
no party affiliation are registered as "independent", and they cannot vote in
primary elections in the District). Independent voters increased by 32,000 in 1988 and by
44,000 in 1998.
Dr. Walters suggested that the D.C, League should consider study and action on the
structural disparity of its ward populations. The Ward Index reveals that population
descends from 79,000 in Ward 1 to 72,000 in Ward 8. In the 1998 elections, the largest
number of voters clustered in Wards 3, 4,, and 5. and voters were also predominantly
middle-class. Lower income voters did not turn out, as they had when Marion Barry was a
candidate. This fact will have continuing significance for the administration of Tony
Williams, as he balances expectations of poor people, who constitute less and less of the
voting population, with those of the voting middle class.
From a national perspective, Mr. Gans indicated that we do have a national crisis in
voter participation. In this election, turnout was 36%, the lowest since 1942. Outside the
South, this was the lowest turnout since 1818. D.C. and 37 states showed their lowest
turnouts ever. The voting age population has increased by eight million, while the number
of people voting has decreased by 2.5 million. This is the fourth election in the last
seven in which the number of people voting decreased. We've seen a 38-year decline in
voter turnout. The U.S. ranks 139th out of 167 democracies in presidential and mid-term
election turnout; our turnout is lower than that of any advanced democracy in the world
Moreover, people who tend not to vote tend not to participate in other civic
activity... voting is the lowest common denominator. Public policy is increasingly
adjudicated of, by, and for the interested and zealot few. If party affiliation goes down,
cohesion of politics suffers. If only 12-15% of young people participate, the future is
bleak. Non-voting is a sign of inattention, which leads to increased demagoguery.
There have been two other major declines in voter participation in American history.
The period 1896-1924, that of a decline, was marked by four important developments.
- the end of Reconstruction in the South, along with segregation and disenfranchisement of
the blacks, resulting in a drop from 40% to 10% participation in southern voting;
- nomination by primary rather than by party leadership, an otherwise healthy development,
weakened party cohesion;
- xenophobic registration barriers of the 1910s and early 1920s; and
- the enfranchisement of women in 1920.
The recent decline in voter participation is based on declining motivation. This has
been fueled, in part, by doubts about Presidential honesty over the past 30 years, doubts
stemming from the actions of both Democratic and Republican Presidents. Other contributing
factors to the lack of motivation to vote are the lack of shared national goals and the
lack of grassroots involvement of the political parties. Nevertheless, the election
yielded three minor positive developments: the defeat of the extreme right, grassroots
mobilization, and the election of Jessie Ventura, which says: citizens can make changes.
Dr. Walters noted, though, that recent grassroots efforts have included Jesse Jackson's
national lobbying, phone banks, radio, TV, and print ads, and White House conference
Mr. Gans indicated that we need to address the question of parental civic literacy. We
need to find a vehicle to realign our party structure so that the whole of the electorate
gets represented. We need to cease being the only advanced democracy that does not address
the issue of political television advertising. Expecting purchasers of televised ads to
speak to the camera for a full two minutes would help return accountability to
advertising. Major broadcasters should not have the option of telling the President that
he cannot have a press conference or of declining to cover a convention. These people are
obligated to us. We need at least one hour of nightly news on some broad spectrum of
broadcast outlets, not 60-second blips.
Dr. Walters said the Foundations are seriously funding programs to repair the
"civic culture." Mr. Gans cautioned that many kinds of alienation are involved
in voter turnoff ... from racial discrimination to vocal attacks on authority which began
in response to American involvement in Vietnam. Studies of college freshmen show they are
turning their backs on political participation. The constant pillorying of one's own
government must not continue unchecked until we no longer have one. Ideology has gone too
far, and the fallout is low rate of voting. We must have a counter-ideology supporting
government. Groups like the League can do more to promote this ideology.
A LWVUS staff member, Cheryl Graeve commented that the Civic process does not resonate
deeply with youth, because government does not work, and big institutions are not
prevailing to provide solutions. Young people want to maximize their time, so they put
time into community measures that show them the fruits of their labors. "Got to have
things happen now, or I don't believe it works." Local issues, people issues, are
important to young people. The question is how you juxtapose that against a national
message, how to carry out beyond grassroots mobilizing, how to match and measure the need
to have a civil civic message. What will get the youth engaged, what is important to
people on local levels?
Dr. Walters commented that we have led young people to believe they can privatize all
this. If we go down the road for privatizing, it is a sure formula for dissolution of the
whole thing. The debate over education and the charter schools is really the privatization
of the educational system. We must teach them to place a positive value on government.
Other Leaguers spoke of the need to have a more robust interaction with educational
institutions. For example, the NEA (National Education Association) has a program in
schools on how to structure a model city council. NEA has produced a wonderful set of
materials on charter schools, but the problem is no one knows it exists because they have
not bothered to meet with institutions that can consume this information. What is wrong
with the League sitting down with the political science department and doing just what you
are doing? It is a natural fit between this non-partisan organization and the universities
in this area to meet, introduce, and talk about how to structure and introduce the civic
curriculum to high school students. A model city council would be a great project. It
would introduce people to local issues they would have to face every day. Dr. Michael
Nwanze of the Political Science Department of Howard University runs both a model United
Nations and a model organization of our community, every year.
Mr. Gans suggested demanding a course curriculum that includes civic education and
talking about the positive things that government does, building a grassroots
infrastructure on a nonpartisan basis. Dr. Walters added that there is a constituency out
there for nonpartisan mobilizing.
Citizens are not hearing the kind of messages to motivate them to come out and vote. He
also suggested working to counter the profound vilification of the District and the
"nothing works" theme. D.C. voter turnout is comparable to that of other cities
in spite of the lack of voting representation in Congress.