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The DC Voter
League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia
Vol. 74, No. 6, February 1999

1234 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Suite 208, Washington, DC 20006
202/347-3020,  fax: 202/347-2522
Website:, E-mail:

President’s Corner
LWVUS Position: “ABOLITION 2000”
February General Meeting
General Meeting on the NCA Water Resources Study
Member News
LWVDC Southwest Unit Meeting: December 15, 1998
Committee Updates

DC Affairs Committee
Education Committee
International Relations

Making Democracy Work/DC Congressional Representation
Coalition for DC Voting Rights in Congress
DC Voting in the House of Representatives on Impeachment? — Denied
Notes from the Education Committee’s January Meeting
LWV/The National Capitol Area
Join the League of Women Voters
American Historical Society Considers DC Voting Rights
Congresswoman Norton’s Town Meeting with Mayor Williams and Control Board Members
“DC Healthy Families” Needs Volunteers
Brown Bag Dialogue on Voting Patterns

President’s Corner

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 you?

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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LWVUS Position: “ABOLITION 2000”

"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 presents...

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:

General Meeting on the NCA Water Resources Study
Wednesday, March 24
(Please note correction from Handbook notice)

The Sumner School, Lecture Hall
10:00 a.m. to Noon
Look for more information in the March Voter.

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Member News

Welcome new members:

Jane Fishkin, Katherine Harris, Arlene Holliday, Katherine McQueen, and Anne Perman.

In Sympathy:

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 Reggie Yancey.

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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LWVDC Southwest Unit Meeting December 15, 1998

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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Committee Updates

D.C. Affairs Committee

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 Marsh, Chair

Education Committee

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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International Relations

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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Making Democracy Work/D.C. Congressional Representation

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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Coalition for D.C. Voting Rights in Congress:
Report of December 1998 Conference Call

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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D.C.’s Voting in the House of Representatives on Impeachment? — Denied

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 importance.

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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Notes from the Education Committee’s January Meeting:
Reform and Standards in Education

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 some point.

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 in education.

Standards — Students

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 learners.

Standards — Non-Student

Non-student standards include professional development standards for teachers, certification standards for teachers, systems standards for school districts, and school level standards.

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 political/community leadership.

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 Norton’s Town Meeting with Mayor Williams and Control Board Members
January 11,1999

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 7, respectively;

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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To Join the League of Women Voters

Please print the Membership form and send it together with dues to LWVDC.

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D.C. Healthy Families” Needs Volunteers

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 call l-800-MOM-BABY.

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:
LWVDC, 1234 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005. 202/347-3020. Fax: 202/347-2522.
Website:   E-mail:

1234 Massachusetts Avenue. NW, Suite 208 Washington, D.C. 20005-4504

November 23,1998

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 calls.

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.

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