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EDITORIAL NOTE: This guest blog post was written by Marge Easley, past president of the League of Women Voters of Oregon.
On a recent afternoon at the University of Washington Law School, League members from both the Oregon and Washington Leagues attended the Pacific Northwest Regional Hearing of the National Commission on Voting Rights. The April 28th event was organized by the Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights and was one of 21 hearings around the country to collect testimony about instances of voting discrimination and election challenges.
The state Leagues of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington were included in the list of partnering organizations, and volunteers from the Seattle League provided valuable volunteer support. Kappy Eaton (LWVOR) participated in a panel on Oregon’s Election Administration, while I, the past president of LWVOR, and Kim Abel, the president of LWVWA gave additional testimony.
Additionally, National Commissioner Delores Huerta, when she heard that the Oregon League will be submitting a resolution (PDF) at the upcoming LWVUS Convention on reinstating voting rights for ex-felons, asked that the Commissioners be sent a copy of the resolution.
Even though we, as League leaders, consider ourselves to be knowledgeable about voting issues, the hearing was an eye-opening experience to learn about the wide range of voting barriers that still exist, particularly for minorities, ex-felons and the disabled. What was gratifying, however, was hearing about steps currently underway at both the federal and state levels to better educate citizens about their voting rights, to use technology in innovative ways, and to litigate when necessary to effect change.
One of the best parts of the event was the opportunity for League members from neighboring states to share information and to get to know each other a bit better. We were reminded that it pays to work together, and we even tossed around the idea of having a joint event in the near future!