Ellen Miller, LWVJoCo president, shares a monthly update on League activities.
Redistricting Battles Loom
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court held 5-4 that states have the right to draw election districts. That means states can continue partisan and/or racial gerrymandering that strips away rights from voters. LWVUS immediately responded with the “People Powered Fair Maps” grassroots program. It seeks to change state laws and practices so congressional districts and government legislative bodies are apportioned on population. See details here.
This multiyear LVWUS program will involve all 700+ state and local leagues. In October, Teresa Briggs, LWVK co-president, attended Fair Maps training. Goals for all Kansas Leagues working as a unit include:
* Host/participate in at least 15 events/forums/rallies/tabling opportunities that engage the public.
* Hold at least 10 meetings with key stakeholders (community leaders, lawmakers, committee staff, commission staff, etc).
* Participate in February 2020 National Day of Action.
Next up: The state’s nine local leagues and LWVK are now planning Fair Maps’ educational and advocacy steps. The goal is for the 2022 legislature to apportion congressional districts and legislative bodies based on population with no partisan and/or racial gerrymandering. Stay tuned for developments.
Questions? Concerns? Just let me know.
Ellen Miller, LWVJoCo president
501(c)(3) Conversion Tide Grows
Empowering voters takes more than volunteer time; it costs money. Unfortunately, many Leagues — including ours — aren’t able to attract needed donations or foundation grants because we have IRS 501(c)(4) status that prohibits tax-deductible gifts.
That’s why our board recently approved pursuing conversion to IRS 501(c)(3) status. We’re not alone.
In the past eight years, over 175 local and state Leagues have converted to 501(c)(3) status with help from Tom Carson, a LWV expert who offers free services. Treasurer Anita Kaiser and I are heading this effort, with advice from Tom Carson, LWVJoCo member Amy Scrivner and a local attorney.
Key features of IRS 501(c)(3) include:
- Donations and dues are tax-deductible.
- Many foundations and corporate donors only contribute to organizations with a C3 designation.
- Political campaign intervention is prohibited (which has always been a requirement of LWV).
- Lobbying (attempting to influence legislation) is allowed, but it is limited to 20 percent of an organization’s budget.
- Advocacy (educating and influencing on issues) is allowed without budgetary limitations.
This conversion does not change the existing relationship with the national LWV or impose any practical limitations on the typical operations of LWVJoCo.
Does C3 conversion take a lot of time and work? You bet! But this important financial tool will help future boards more effectively protect voter rights.
The 501(c)(3) Conversion Calendar
|October 5 meeting||Conforming with our bylaws, circulate a member petition to request a special business meeting on Jan. 11, 2020, immediately prior to the annual planning session.|
|Fall 2019||Per IRS requirements, draft amendments to our bylaws and articles of incorporation for member approval (votable items)|
|December 2019||Send all votable items to members prior to the special business meeting.|
|January 11, 2020||Hold the special business meeting to present the proposed conversion to C3 to members for a vote. (If approved, continue.)|
|By March 31, 2020||Send the hard copy application for 501(c)(3) status to IRS.|
|By December 2021 (hopefully)||IRS approves LWVJoCo as 501(c)(3).|
You Are An Essential Ingredient!
What do carrot cake and LWVJoCo have in common? Classic, time-tested ingredients beloved by all. Serving as the delectable cream cheese icing for the cake are three popular League activities:
√ Voter registration—over 80 members currently signed up
√ Naturalization ceremonies—over 40 names on the list
√ Experts educating us—100+ attendance on Saturdays at Atonement Lutheran Church
What’s missing? All of the other ingredients. That cake needs flour, eggs and more. Our League needs you to “Power Up for 2020: People, Plans, Progress.” Defending democracy has never been more important. It means tackling large and small jobs now to prepare for the crucially important 2020 elections.
LWVJoCo needs additional hands now to:
- Bring goodies for first Saturday morning programs.
- Be an observer at city council or school board meetings.
- Tell the League story to community groups.
- Help with media outreach.
- Do online research for board projects.
- Donate money (our chapter keeps only $10 of our $60 individual memberships).
- Greet and welcome folks at events.
My challenge to our 300+ members? Add one more item to your current LWVJoCo list! And be an “extra miler” honoree at the March 2020 Annual Meeting. Our community deserves our best efforts in 2020.
You Directed, Board Responded
Each annual meeting finishes up by giving members the opportunity to provide directions to the board. Do all items see the light of day? No, because the board evaluates each in the context of our entire list of priorities and resources.
Thanks to those who spoke at the May 4 session. The board discussed them at its July meeting. Here are the seven “directions,” with the board’s disposition:
- Share the affordable housing study/position with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC). Disposition: We shared the study with MARC, the Johnson County manager’s office and United Community Services, the entities most likely to move this issue forward.
- Advocate that the Johnson County Election Office exercise the county-by-county option that allows voters to use any polling place in the county on election day. Disposition: The board noted that this possibility won’t occur until the Kansas secretary of state writes rules and regulations for the counties to follow. LWVK will be asked to follow this.
- Prepare a new LWVJoCo brochure to reflect our DEI priorities. Disposition: The two DEI co-chairs are working with the Communications Team to prepare a new handout in time for the August 26 Preview Party.
- Monitor issues related to the renewal of the Johnson County Home Rule Charter in 2020, such as proposals to change from nonpartisan to partisan elections. Disposition: This important issue is on the new Advocacy Planning Team’s goal list. Later this year, we will name one or two people to monitor the 2020 Charter Commission.
- Establish high school arts and activism scholarships. Disposition: The board confirmed its February 2019 decision to not pursue at this time; our highest priority for this transition year is preparing to empower voters in 2020.
- Fill the 1,300-seat Yardley Hall for the 2020 Centennial Celebration in February. We appreciate the foresight of Janis McMillen and Dolores Furtado who championed budgeting for the celebration over the last 20 years. Disposition: The board has committed significant funding for this event (speaker, venue, etc.). And the 2020 Centennial Celebration Committee is working closely with the Communications Team for maximum promotion.
- Act on—don’t just study—issues, such as those outlined by Davis Hammet at our 2019 annual meeting. Disposition: Personal member activism is on the new Advocacy Planning Team’s goal list. And it will be a major 2019-2020 theme for LWVJoCo, starting at the Preview Party. If you are interested in helping LWVJoCo build its advocacy team, please contact Leslie Sullivan, who is leading our efforts.
Your feedback and ideas are essential! Do check in with the “info table” at Saturday morning meetings. Respond to online surveys. Even come to a monthly board meeting, which is always held the second Tuesday of the month (check our events calendar for details). We’d love to have you.
Questions? Concerns? Just let me know.
No Calories, Carbs or Bugs—Just Fun!
Who knew that Leaguers could be so loud! The decibel count soared at the June 20 picnic held at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center (take a look at the pictures!). Over 65 people filled their biodegradable plates with scrumptious comestibles, some going back for seconds and even thirds.
LWVJoCo team leaders previewed our packed 2019-2020 year. For details, be sure to check our events page. Here are just a few ways to jump in:
- GOTV: The week of July 1, one month ahead of the Aug. 6 primary election, put out “Your Vote Matters” yard signs. Don’t have one? Contact Ann Norbury.
- Social issues: Attend two Thursday films/discussions with popcorn—climate change on July 11 and immigrants in Garden City on Aug. 8.
- Advocacy: Get tips and training with LWV Kansas’ Carrie Lancaster on Thursday, July 18. The first workshop filled quickly so we added a second. Sign up now.
- Voting matters: Your Qs answered by the county election commissioners of three of the largest counties in Kansas—Johnson, Sedgwick and Wyandotte—on Saturday, Sept. 7.
- Centennial birthday: On Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2020, we celebrate LWV’s amazing 100th birthday at Yardley Hall.
Fast Start to New Year
Just days after members OK’d our LWVJoCo reorganization on May 4, your board hit the deck running! Highlights include:
July 18 advocacy training: Hesitant to contact elected officials? Learn advocacy basics, do’s and don’ts from Topeka Leaguer Carrie Lancaster.
August Movie Month: Don’t miss must-see social issue films + popcorn + (always spirited) discussions.
September 7 monthly meeting: Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker and other Kansas election officials answer your voting questions.
That’s just the iceberg’s tip! For details on these and dozens of other events, watch for our weekly emails and check our League calendar. Tip: Add our event calendar to your Google calendar by clicking the blue “+” symbol at the bottom of the calendar of events. Your mobile device or the calendar on your computer will sync all events the moment we post them.
League Network Nets Scholarships
Leaguers help each other. That’s how LWVJoCo recently received two tuition-free scholarships from the renowned Kansas Leadership Center (KLC).
Three-year member Mary Lou Jaramillo sits on the KLC board. Discussions with her about our proposed Reorganization for Agility and Action included the need for board training. Why? To find out how other nonprofit groups manage growth and outreach.
Since 2007, KLC has offered professional leadership training to Kansas communities and organizations. However, the $595-per-person tuition was not in our League budget.
Mary Lou acted. She got KLC to approve two scholarships for our League. As a result, Tom Stroud (nominated as co-vice president) and Amber Stenger (communications coordinator) will attend KLC’s October “Leadership Edge” training.at the Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Please join me in sharing our hearty thanks to Mary Lou for obtaining KLC’s support for these scholarships. This educational opportunity will help the board address its many tasks as we head into the critically important 2020 election season.
Members Talk Back
Volunteer groups need member opinions and ideas. January offered our Leaguers two opportunities: the planning session, where about 85 people offered hundreds of suggestions, and an online survey about funding options. A large majority, 81 percent of the 93 respondents, indicated that staying at Atonement Lutheran Church for “first-Saturday morning” meetings made financial sense.
February’s online survey targeted LWVJoCo’s proposed Reorganization for Agility and Action. Fifty-nine members listed their own advocacy actions and indicated their likelihood of continuing.
Findings include the League should:
√ Do more to help members feel comfortable about contacting local and state elected officials on public policy issues.
√ Provide talking points.
√ Alert members about deadlines for their advocacy, which can be as early as the next morning for the Kansas Legislature.
With 315 members as of March 22, we use a variety of ways to invite member input. Keep an eye out for future surveys; we need your ideas!
LWVJoCo—New and Improved?
Your board is busy designing the proposed Reorganization for Agility and Action. The goal? To empower more voters in 2020. Currently, Voter Services co-chairs elected in May have only three months before the August primary. Starting in March gives their team more time to schedule voter registration events, reach students before their summer break and hold candidate forums.
Proposed changes include:
√ Holding the annual meeting in March (not May), giving two extra months before the August primary.
√ Partnering earlier with other organizations.
√ Breaking the huge Voter Services Committee into two branches: Registration & Follow-up and Education & Information.
√ Starting a new Advocacy branch that targets local and state government.
√ Utilizing volunteer time and energy better with more technology and software.
√ Adopting the fiscal year of April 1 through March 31, like most Kansas leagues and LWV Kansas.
√ Implementing changes during a one-time transition year (June 2019 through March 2020).
- Dues stay the same.
- All memberships would cover 12 months.
- The annual, online renewal notices would go out in your anniversary month.
- For current members (305 as of 2/18/19!), the anniversary month would be July. For folks joining after July 1, 2019, it would be their specific month.
What’s next? On April 4, members will get an online information package including the proposed Reorganization for Agility and Action. A month later, May 4, the proposal will be part of the “votable” items at our annual business meeting. The bottom line: The proposed reorganization will help our League move to the next level in empowering voters.
We Asked, You Answered—Profusely!
Who says Leaguers are a hands-off bunch, leaving it all to their board? Not so in Johnson County! In January, our members provided priceless input on our future.
On January 5, cold temps and ice didn’t deter folks from coming out to the annual planning session. Setting an attendance record, 89 of our 292 members:
- Unanimously approved that the board study our “Reorganization for Agility and Action” plan. The annual meeting would move to March. Why? To have more time to help voters before the August primary election.
- Enthusiastically brainstormed about ways to better empower voters in 2020.
- Listed over 110 possible issues and topics for upcoming Saturday, nighttime and small-group events.
Currently, the board is digesting your comments. In May, the recommended reorganization plan will be up for a vote.
And just three days later, an online financial survey drew 93 responses! Findings include:
- About 15 percent of respondents would raise dues by a maximum of $5 a year for more outreach tools, such as technology, bilingual banners and publicizing events. But another 52 percent would raise dues by $10 to $15 for those purposes.
- 81 percent said that changing Saturday meetings from its current location at Atonement Lutheran Church wasn’t important. Of the 11 who wanted a non-church location, two-thirds would pay $10 a year more in dues.
- 59 percent prefer keeping our monthly meetings the first Saturday morning of the month.
Primary suggestions from the 34 open-ended comments included:
- Look at a variety of ways to raise money, not only by increasing dues.
- Use a mix of days and times for meetings.
- Offer more informal, small group meetings, such as in members’ homes.
- Look for free locations for meetings.
- Have more social, fun events.
- Consider subsidized memberships for those on limited incomes.
Members, thanks so much for taking time to tell us what you think—whether in person or online. Your ideas are why this League is on the move!
Reorganizing for Agility and Action
We all know that the next elections will be extremely important. At its December meeting, our board unanimously voted to ask members to reorganize our calendar year.
Why: To empower more voters in 2020 by starting voter outreach two months earlier. Currently, our voter services chairs have only three months before the August primary. Starting in March gives us more time to schedule voter registration events; it also lets us reach students before their summer break.
- Hold the annual meeting in March, not May, starting in 2020.
- Remind current members to rejoin in July. New members would get reminders on their anniversary date, starting in July 2019.
- Keep dues the same.
- Change the fiscal year to April 1 through March 31, which is what almost all Kansas local leagues and our state league uses.
- Cement our being a year-round organization.
How you can help: Come to the January 5 planning session, starting at 9 a.m. at Atonement Lutheran Church, for discussion and voting. We need your input!
Online Voters’ Guide Wins Big in General Election
We know that 65 percent of Johnson County’s 419,403 voters turned out for the midterm election. So where did some people go for candidate information? LWV’s online voters’ guide, Vote411.org. Why online? Because printed voters’ guides have become too large and costly.
Vote411.org has been around for several years. In 2018, nearly 37,000 Kansans visited the website in 48,384 sessions. More than 2,000 people printed their ballots.
Candidates were asked to answer questions created by local leagues. For example, LWVJoCo sent five questions concerning the Board of County Commissioner races.
Statewide, about 60 percent of candidates in contested races posted answers on Vote411.org. “Each candidate received three e-mails for the primary and another three for the general election, in addition to being called to participate,” said Vote411 chair Carole Neal of Wichita LWV.
Vote411 also provides answers to FAQs and registration status verification. Grants to the League of Women Voters of Kansas totaling $6,000 paid for the software license from LWVUS and some keyboarding expenses.
What comes next? LWVK will get local league input for using Vote411.org in 2020. Hats off to Carole Neal, Jacqueline Lightcap and others at LWVK for their hard work!
Board Focuses on Post-Election Priorities
LWVJoCo is halfway through its 2016-2020 Long-Range Plan (LRP). For 2018, top priority went to empowering voters for the midterm elections. But what happens after 11/6/18? We’ll be targeting one or two items in each of the five LRP goal areas, specifically:
Membership: Solicit opinions and ideas from new members. Methods include an online survey and committee chair annual plans.
Visibility: Partner with new groups. Methods include attending events and meetings organized by other organizations, such as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Latina Nuestra awards.
Education: Engage youth voters. Methods include creating new programs as well as voter registration in high schools and colleges.
Political Action: Add “What can YOU do” events after monthly Saturday meetings. Methods include postcard-writing campaigns and petitions.
Infrastructure: Inform members that our League sends $50 of the individual $60 membership fees to state and national Leagues. Methods include fundraising letters and VOTER/website articles.
As we pursue these goals, please let us know how we are doing. We’ll discuss our progress at our board meeting on February 12, 2019.
From the Rosedale Farmers Market in Wyandotte County to the Olathe YMCA, wherever crowds gather, you’ll find our Voter Services folks. Since March, this team of dedicated volunteers has registered 1,172 people at schools, colleges, churches, clubs and senior living communities. Leaguers have helped over 100 people apply for an advance ballot and provided information about voting to hundreds more.
This year, technology has simplified our voter registration efforts. The website SignUpGenius.com allows our 80+ volunteers to sign up for shifts and even reminds them of their shift via email the day before.
Increasingly, voter registration itself is also done online with ksvotes.org and Vote411.org. Paper forms still outnumber online registrations 2 to 1, but online registration is growing. Online registration saves registrants’ time, and it doesn’t require us to deliver a paper document to the Election Office.
For National Voter Registration Day, co-chairs Becky White and Julie Lester broke their “personal best,” orchestrating five voter registration events that day and one the day before and one the day after. Since March, there have been 111 such events.
However, the race is nearly over. The last day for voter registration is October 16. “We have a lot of great volunteers,” Becky said, “but I think all of them will be glad to see October 17!”
Here’s a huge shout out to all of you Voter Services volunteers – you’re doing an outstanding job!
—Ellen Miller, President
Put Signs Out & Sign Up
The election finish line looms. Until November 6, we need max LWVJoCo visibility and impact. How? Via max member action.
It’s your choice — just do it!
√ Display “Your Vote Matters” yard signs. Contact Ann Norbury to order or buy one at the September 8 meeting.
√ Register voters until registration closes October 16. Contact Becky White.
√ Educate voters by inviting our Speakers Bureau to speak to your club or group. Contact Candy Birch.
√ Attend and promote three Johnson County Board of County Commissioners candidate events .
Hang on to this fast ride, folks. We’re helping people find their Voice, which is their Vote.
Questions, concerns? Just let me know.
Watch Your Optics!
Sure, we say we’re nonpartisan. But how does that translate into everyday life for our members? Remember three huge facts:
√ Perception is reality.
√ Photos and audios can go viral in minutes.
√ Mixed messages are interpreted as being partisan.
What’s OK for Leaguers:
- Displaying “Vote! It Counts” car magnets.
- In your front yard, displaying either “Your Vote Matters” OR candidate signs (but not both because it sends mixed messages).
- Giving out voting information.
- In your front yard, displaying two signs — ours that says “Your Vote Matters” AND another that says “Vote for Susie Q” (or endorses any candidate or party).
- Saying, “I’m from the LWV AND please vote for Susie Q.”
- On your car, displaying both LWV “Vote! It Counts” magnets and “Susie for Senator” stickers
How to avoid mixed messages? Just remember the four League basics:
Nonpartisan. It’s our rock upon which all is built. We do not support or oppose any candidate or party, period. We must be diligent; no “ifs, ands or buts.”
Our work. At every level — national, state and local — LWV fights for voter rights year-round. Locally, we do this by registering voters, informing voters ahead of elections and helping turn out the vote. LWV Kansas advocates with elected officials and reports on legislative actions. LWV of the United States lobbies Congress for our positions on policy issues.
Local issues. We advocate for or against key public issues with city, county and other leaders. How? By using our carefully researched, member-approved official positions, which you can view on our website.
Women’s action. We encourage women to run for public office and to advocate with
local officials. We partner with many groups, including Mainstream Coalition, Women’s Equality Week, and the NAACP in Kansas.
LWVJoCo in the Media
Watch President Ellen Miller speak to Johnson County’s vote counting issues in the primary election.
Staying ‘In the Know’ with LWVJoCo
Busy Days, Busy People. That was my daughter’s favorite book 40 years ago. It totally applies to LWVJoCo today! How can you keep up?
- Start with our calendar of events. That’s where you’ll find details for the informal “How to Reach Underrepresented Voters” in a member’s home. You’ll also find details about “Lessons from the Local Campaign Trail” on July 19, which features the experiences and insights of three newly elected council members of area cities.
- Visit (and like!) our Facebook page.
- Go to our YouTube channel to learn how to combat climate change in your own backyard and see other informative presentations from our monthly programs.
- Watch for our the weekly e-blasts for the latest news, voter registration events, and links to other organizations. (If you aren’t receiving them, sign up here.)
- Check our website to find out more about what’s ahead.
We’ve also been working with other organizations to make voting easier and to encourage more people to vote. At our request, the Johnson County Election Office posted the federal voter registration form on its website. In return, we posted the election office’s plea for more election workers in the June VOTER and on Facebook.
Once again, we’re part of the metro area Women’s Equality Week, hosting a lunch-and-learn event, “Saving Democracy: It’s OUR Job,” on August 22. Our voter services team has also been partnering with the Rosedale Development Association as well as the ACLU’s Voter Registration Project and Mainstream Coalition’s Voter to Voter initiative (more details below) to register more voters.
As you can see, you are part of a very committed group, working on several fronts to protect voter rights and our democracy. We hope to see you at one of our many events this month.
Working Hard for Johnson County Voters
Who said LWVJoCo takes the summer off? Not anymore! Your new board has been running hard since being elected on May 5.
- Voter registration in new places—Lenexa Public Market, Cross-Lines Community Outreach and Downtown Overland Park’s Third Friday, to name a few.
- “Ways to turn out the primary election vote” and dialogue sessions at members’ homes.
- Summer indoor picnic from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on June 26 at the Matt Ross Community Center.
- “Lessons from the local campaign trail” at 7 p.m. on July 19 at the Matt Ross Community Center.
- Annual preview party at 7 p.m. on August 23 at the Olathe Community Center.
Less visible but essential are infrastructure changes.
- The communications team now has its “board-approved communications strategy” for 2018-19.
- The 2020 committee organized to plan the centennial celebration of the League and the 19th Amendment held its first meeting. (Donna Lauffer, chair; Susan Horst; Candy Birch)
- The board now meets every second Tuesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Members are always welcome!
Best of all, we now have 274 members—welcome!
It’s time to rejoin. Memberships expire June 30. Renew online—it’s fast and easy.
Photos from May 2018 Breakfast and Annual Meeting