Making Democracy Work

News and Information

Recent News and Information

Get Out The Vote (GOTV) 2017 Tool Kit

The Bucks County League of Women Voters is a member of a coalition of Bucks County Organizations working to assist non-profit organizations in providing their constituencies with the information to become registered and informed voters.

A new 2017 Toolkit has been developed to assist these organizations.

Fair Districts PA

The PALWV has initiated a project with other organizations to promote the passing of legislation to reduce gerrymandering in the drawing of Pennsylvania legislative and congressional districts. Please consider getting involved.

Information can be found on their website and their Facebook page.

There is also a local Bucks County group already formed. Follow their activities on their Facebook page

2017 Legislative Guide

The League of Women Voters of Bucks County's 2017 Legislative Guide is now available at various locations around the county as well as available for download.

The League thanks the The First National Bank & Trust of Newtown for sponsoring the printing of this Legislative Guide as a public service for the residents of Bucks County.

High School Video Contest

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania is sponsoring the 2017 High School Video Contest - Every Election Matters

The contest is open to Pennsylvania students currently enrolled in high school or an equivalent academic program.

The deadline for submission is March 1, 2017.

The top prize is $1000, with a second prize of $500 and a third prize of $250.

Contest details are available at the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania website.

Please forward this information to anyone who could benefit. We would love to see Bucks County students in this year's contest!

Union Edge Radio Partnership

The League of Women Voters US is excited to partner with The Union Edge, the only nationally-syndicated labor talk radio program in the country.

League leaders will participate in regular radio segments to discuss voting rights, public policy issues and advocacy.

"The League looks forward to reaching a diverse new audience of listeners across the country," said Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. "The Labor community has a strong record in elections and we embrace the opportunity to have thoughtful discussions about issues that impact American voters."

The Union Edge is a 4 hour daily live radio program out of Pittsburgh, PA, syndicated on 33 stations nationwide, and available by webstream, mobile apps, and podcast. You can download the free app at http://www.theunionedge.com.

"We are excited to partner with the League of Women Voters for their strong commitment to voter engagement, voter protection and education," said Charles Showalter, host and founder of The Union Edge. "Union members are Democrats, Republicans and Independents; all should have the unimpeded chance to vote their conscience. As a non-partisan organization, the League always brings a fresh perspective on the critical issues facing working people across the country."

The League segments will start January 3rd and air every first and third Tuesday of the month at 1:30pm ET/ 10:30 am PT.

Pearl S. Buck Festival of Trees

The Bucks County League of Women Voters is again particpating at the Pearl S. Buck Festival of Trees. Please attend and see our Christmas display.

Voter Registration at Naturalization Ceremony

Bucks County League Registers Voters at Naturalization Ceremony

The League of Women Voters of Bucks County helped to welcome 46 new citizens from 21countries at the Bucks County Naturalization Ceremony held at Pennsbury Manor on July 28, 2016.

Following the ceremony, the LWV registered 15 new voters from 6 Pennsylvania counties, answered questions about voting and online registration, and encouraged everyone to pledge to vote. Twenty-four new citizens and family members completed pledge cards and agreed to receive voting reminders through the GOTV collaboration project of Bucks County LWV, AAUW and BCWAC.

Prior to participating in Naturalization Ceremonies, permission was secured in writing from the presiding judge, Cynthia M. Rufe. Peggy Dator also coordinated the event with Douglas Miller, site administrator with the PA Historical and Museum Commission. Mr. Miller was thrilled with the LWV's willingness to lend a hand to the participant's first action as a new citizen + voter registration.

The ceremony was presided by three judges from the US District Court of Pennsylvania - Cynthia Rufe, Mitchell Goldberg, and Linda K Caracappa. Other speakers included Grace Deon, President of Bucks County Bar Association, and Dr. Deepika Chhabri, who was chosen to represent the new citizens. The speakers all related stories from their own families about how the immigrant experience impacted them. Douglas Miller welcomed the group to Pennsbury Manor.

Many thanks to the following who volunteered at the event: Connie Borichesvsky, Arthur Cohn, Peggy Dator, Judy Franlin, Hiltrud Koehler, Corryn Kronnagel, Kathy Horwatt, Doreen Stratton, Pat Savadove, Celia Sharp, and Andy Warren.

Gerrymandering - An Important Issue

The Founding Fathers did not envision "legislating" as a permanent career choice. They also recognized that compromise and incremental change were the outcomes of healthy debate and a democratic process. Our Constitution was a model of compromise. Some of these original measures are now recognized as odious, but without them the thirteen weak colonies would not have survived to form our nation of today. As do most states, Pennsylvania places the adjustment of its voting districts in the hands of State Legislators.

While the PA Legislature mandates representation from both parties within the redistricting process, effective control of results remains in the hands of the incumbent majority. Sophisticated tools analyze demographics and voting patterns, allowing the redistricting teams to carefully orchestrate district lines. The overall results generally work to the advantage of incumbents or favored members.

When incumbents are protected by gerrymandering, their only fear is that of the party primary. Therefore, the primary serves as the actual "election" in most cases. While the 2016 Primaries nationally attracted nearly 30% of registered voters to the polls, normal Primary turnout in recent election years is generally around 10% for each party + almost certainly the most enthusiastic members. This pattern generally favors the more distinctly conservative or liberal candidate. (See: the recent defeat of Eric Cantor).

The greater the difference between points of view, the less constructive dialogue will occur in the legislature. We in the League have heard that in the PA Legislature there is no longer a sense of "camaraderie" among members. It has been widely reported that our U.S. Legislators return to their districts every weekend, thus reinforcing political positions and eliminating opportunities to form social friendships with their peers. Without "human" interaction, opinions harden, open discussion and compromise are lost, little gets done and gridlock occurs.

An even greater problem can arise if the legislative imbalance becomes too great. Special interests are easily tempted to sweep in and use their influence with the majority (it's cheaper) in an effort to shape legislation to their liking. Influence comes in the form of "educational" information or "fact finding opportunities" or "campaign contributions." Sometimes the lobbyists simply write the bills for the legislators,

When we vote, we want our elections to be fair, our votes to count and our voices to be

heard. When politicians meet behind closed doors and draw voting maps that directly benefit themselves, they manipulate the outcome of elections to keep themselves and their party in power.

Partisan redistricting is a conflict of interest that allows legislators to choose their voters, rather than voters choosing their legislators. It also allows wealthy special interests far too much power in deciding who can run and what policies and budgets our representatives will support. The good news is that there are some Pennsylvania legislators committed to restoring the voices of voters and a fast-growing movement of people willing to take action in support of reform.

If you think every vote should count, then you need to learn more about Gerrymandering, how it impacts our policy and economy, and what you can do to help change this. Join us on September 14, at the Northampton Library, 7:00. Our speaker will be Carol Kuniholm, co-chair of Fair Districts PA and election reform specialist for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. She believes informed, engaged voters working together can restore government of, by and for the people.

By Judith Franlin

Updated 2016 Legislative Guide Available

The Bucks County League of Women Voters' Legislative Guide has been updated and is now available for download, at various sponsored events and at various area libraries.

The league wishes to thank the First National Bank & Trust Company of Newtown for their continued support of the printing of this guide.

Pipeline Awareness and Education Project

Bucks County League of Women Voters Participates in Pipeline Awareness and Education Project

The League of Women Voters of Bucks County (LWVBC) is participating with three* other regional League chapters in a program funded by a Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Accidentally digging or damaging underground pipelines is the leading cause of those pipeline incidents which result in death or injury.

The primary subject areas of our educational effort include:

  • Public awareness of the extent of the regional pipeline network
  • Information to help both adults and children identify pipeline locations
  • Improvement in recognition of potential dangerous pipeline conditions; warning signs include smells, sounds, bubbles in water or wet areas, etc.
  • Promotion of the Pennsylvania One-Call system as a prerequisite to safe digging or excavation

Our LWVBC has offered a well-attended Forum to the public which included representatives from pipeline carriers, local utilities, PA One-Call and the Pennsylvania Riverkeeper. We will also continue to host smaller public education programs and classes for young people. Additionally, we have provided reference materials to our Bucks County Library system and prepared displays which offer free information, educational brochures and awareness reminders to the public.

  • Lehigh, Northampton, Berks

Voter Photo ID Law - Court Decision

On April 28, 2014, the League of Women Voters of Bucks County sent a letter to Ms. Deena Dean, Director of Bucks County Board of Elections regarding Act 18, also known as Voter Photo ID Law. To see a copy of this letter, please click here.

Agricultural Presentation

The League of Women Voters Bucks County hosted Russell Redding, the Dean of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, at Delaware Valley College for an informative session on agricultural issues.

Dean Redding discussed the current state of the farm community in Bucks County; the challenges facing agriculture today and the impact of the Farm Bill on farmers in PA.

Dean of the School of Agriculture since 2011, Dean Redding served as Pennsylvania's Secretary of Agriculture where he led the Department of Agriculture in all aspects of program implementation, administration, policy development, advocacy and federal farm policy development. A member of the Department's leadership team since 1995, he served as deputy secretary prior to his role as secretary. Over the years he has served agricultural interests representing Pennsylvania in both Washington and Harrisburg in various positions. He grew up on a farm in Adams County and operated a dairy farm there for a number of years.

The presentation was a prelude to the Agriculture study scheduled by the National League of Women Voters in 2014. Mr. Redding's current role as Chair of the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture uniquely positions him to help the Bucks County League in this study which will be focusing on current technology issues in agriculture and current agriculture finance issues including agriculture consolidation, crop subsidies and the federal agricultural regulatory process.

Dean Redding's presentation is available for viewing through the link below:

Presentation

Immigration Issues in Bucks County

Bucks County League of Women Voters presented a public program on Immigration Issues in Bucks County on October 8, 2013. The Peace and Justice Committee of the Bux-Mont Unitarian Universal Fellowship co-sponsored the program.

Speaker Amanda Bergson-Shilock addressed "Immigration Issues and Pending Legislation in the Pennsylvania Legislature and the U.S. Congress."

Ms. Bergson-Shilock is the Director of Programs and Outreach of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.

Information that was presented at the meeting is available for viewing:

Immigration in Bucks County: Data Snapshot

Imprint Project's Information on Immigration Reform

Guest Opinion/Op Ed

GUEST OPINION/OP ED

Contact: Nancy Morrill, 215-860-1449 npmorrill@bcwac.org, Judy Franlin, 215-862-1275 j.franlin@verizon.net

August 26, 2013

WHAT HAPPENED ON AUGUST 26, 1920, AND WHY THE HARD-WON RIGHT TO VOTE IS NOW IN JEOPARDY FOR SOME

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment, which stated that "the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex," was added to the Constitution. Women on that day joined African-Americans whose right to vote also could not be denied "by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude" when the 15th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

Women and African+Americans obtained these constitutional guarantees after long, pain-filled struggles. In 1878, a woman's suffrage amendment was defeated in Congress. Between then and 1920, women used tactics like marches and picketing to gain the right to vote. They were often arrested and imprisoned, sometimes being brutalized and force-fed by their jailers.

Although African-Americans gained the Constitutional right to vote in 1870, they were systematically denied the right to register and vote in many states through the use of discriminatory tools like "literacy tests" and poll taxes. Beginning in the 1950s, these citizens demanded equal access to democracy, using marches and peaceful demonstrations, often suffering physical violence and even deaths. But, they held fast to the words Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." In 1965, Congress responded to this glaring injustice and passed the Voting Rights Act. It included a provision requiring that jurisdictions which had used discriminatory tactics to suppress the vote would need to receive pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before implementing any changes in election laws.

But today, the right to vote is being impacted by two recent events: 1) a Supreme Court decision rendering the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 inoperable, and 2) changes in election laws in 38 states, including Pennsylvania, which require the presentation of a specific type of Photo ID in order to vote. Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and Virginia passed these Photo ID laws but had been stopped from putting them into effect because the Department of Justice found them discriminatory and disenfranchising. However, following the Supreme Court's decision, Texas, North Carolina, Alabama and many other states are rushing to put Photo ID requirements in place.

Pennsylvania passed a Photo ID law in March 2012, but because Pennsylvania had not been a state with a history of racial discrimination, the Department of Justice could not stop the law from taking effect. In response the ACLU, in partnership with the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and other minority-rights groups, filed a lawsuit to prevent the Photo ID law from going into effect. The Pennsylvania Court, after hearing testimony about the difficulties of acquiring a required Photo ID in time to vote in the November election, decided to issue a temporary injunction.

This July, the ACLU and its partners went to court to get a permanent injunction, arguing that the Photo ID law violates Article 1, Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution: "Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the suffrage." (As of writing, no decision has been issued.)

Right now, "the free exercise of the suffrage" has been hampered for women, the elderly, the poor, the disabled, African-Americans and other minority groups in both cities and rural areas in States all over the country. The United States Congress needs to respond again as they did in 1965: right these wrongs by legislating new criteria that will ensure that no State or jurisdiction can disenfranchise any American voter.

At the beginning of our democracy, only property-holding white men could vote. The expansion of suffrage, slow in coming and bought at great cost, has pointed us toward true democracy. Now our Senators and Representatives need to hear from you. Congress must pass a strong law, applicable in every State, which will ensure that our country lives up to its highest ideals. Please contact your U.S. legislators today.

Nancy Morrill and Judy Franlin

Nancy Morrill, a long-time volunteer, chairs the Bucks County Women's Advocacy Coalition of 32 organizations and over 100 individuals speaking with one voice about women's economic self-sufficiency.

Judy Franlin, President of the League of Women Voters of Bucks County, is now retired from a career in business, but remains active as a volunteer in New Hope, where she resides.