Sheri Lambert from the LWVBWC Healthcare Issues Team provides an overview of the highlights of the 2022 LWVUS National Convention:
The National Convention of the League of Women Voters was the perfect place to be when the Supreme Court decision bringing down Roe was announced. I was thankful to be among more than 800 like-minded Leaguers who participated virtually.
This was the 55th LWVUS National Convention and the first hybrid convention with more than 1000 members from all 50 states joining both virtually and in-person in Denver, Colorado.
In her opening remarks, LWVUS board president Dr. Deborah Ann Turner reflected on her experiences as an obstetrician/gynecologist, and the League’s dedication to reproductive justice. She said:
We hold the power to create a more perfect democracy. Women’s rights are human rights, and we will continue to fight until the right to abortion is restored….This is the work that the League of Women Voters does…We fight for our freedom. And that’s why we are here today at Convention.
Friday evening, convention attendees joined Denver activists in marching to the Colorado State Capitol Building and rallying for abortion justice.
The following resolution was submitted by the LWVWA and approved almost unanimously:
Be it resolved that the LWVUS, supports the rights of women and those who can get pregnant to self-determination related to, and including, but not limited to bodily autonomy, privacy, reproductive health, and lifestyle choice.
The convention focused on Making Democracy Work, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Delegates had the opportunity to attend dozens of workshops and caucuses throughout the convention on topics as varied as mis- and dis-information, activating young voters, healthcare, building civic capacity, election security, digital equity, and conflict management. At a meeting about the benefits of creating tension, it was noted that tension pushes us into action in the way that tension on the mast of a sail pushes the sailboat along. Without tension we go nowhere.
Thoughtful action was a focus throughout the convention. On Thursday, June 23, a panel of women leaders in the voting rights and social justice movements spoke to the ways in which women can power democracy. Later, in her keynote address, MSNBC political analyst Joy Reid reflected on the essential nature of our work. Here's the YouTube video.
I was thrilled that the concurrence with the New York LWV update to our national healthcare position passed 868-8! The inequities in our healthcare system were made obvious during the pandemic, and with the passage of this, we are now able to support states’ attempts to build their own universal healthcare systems. This is meaningful for several states, including Washington, which are studying this now. (Whole Washington has initiated signature gathering on petitions to place I-1471 on the ballot in 2023. Initiative 1471 would establish the Washington Health Trust, the entity that will fund a state single payer plan. A single payer plan would bring healthcare equity.)
Also passed with large margins were resolutions that support immigration reform; the use of climate emergency language rather than simply climate change; a national popular vote and eliminating the Electoral College; criminal justice reform; District of Columbia (DC) statehood; and support for more investigation for missing and indigenous murders and violence prevention.
Emergency resolutions were introduced and passed on abortion services and Supreme Court reform. The ERA was added to the LWVUS program and the issue was elevated in priority.
One of my favorite speakers was Matt Leighninger. His book Public Participation for 21st Century Democracy speaks to citizen involvement. Democracy is messy. People participate at different levels-- from “thin” engagement, which may take the form of donations or signing petitions; to “thick” engagement, which engages citizens on a more personal level, listening to others and building bridges. Conventional engagement is top down. This needs to change, engaging people by communicating in small groups, getting to know each other, and sharing stories. Young people are a real asset and often overlooked.
Leighninger suggested that at LWV forums we ask the audiences to fact-check the candidate’s information and check on inconsistencies. He suggested partnerships with schools, more civics education, improving media journalism, activating youth councils, and using high school interns for local reporting and helping with messaging. Leighninger emphasized the importance of researching sources. He was inspirational. To encourage everyone to be involved he called on us: “Don’t just stand there - RUN.”
Dr. Turner closed the convention by announcing the League's next "moonshot" goal: abolition of the Electoral College. The League has long supported this goal due to the college's racist history and many shortcomings. The next two years will determine the course of our nation; as Dr. Turner said, we will "keep on keeping on."
A LWVUS goal is to help grow capacity at the state level and to help local leagues. Local league structures are changing so let’s take advantage of that and not just stand there but Run. I found the convention inspiring and, wow, what a week to be there.
Sheri Lambert, LWVBWC Healthcare Issues Group