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  • Appoint Commissioners to Elections Panel

    Washington, DC -- Major civil rights and voting rights organizations have called on President Obama to act quickly in appointing new commissioners to the Election Assistance Commission, which is charged with improving the administration of the nation’s elections. 

    “We call on the President to step up to this challenge,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States.

    “These essential positions have been empty for an unacceptably long time,” according to the groups, which make up the Voting Rights Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.   “Failing to appoint commissioners … risks reducing the voting and civil rights of our citizens -- rights for which many have given their lives,” they said. 

    Due to two vacancies on the four-member commission, the EAC has been unable to take any official action since January.  One of those slots has been empty for nearly two years.   With one commissioner serving an expired term, the President must make three appointments, which will be subject to Senate confirmation.

    “As we rapidly approach the 2012 elections, the EAC needs a full complement of commissioners,” the groups said.  Organizations joining the letter to the President include the American Association of People with Disabilities, Common Cause, Demos, Fair Elections Legal Network, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of Women Voters of the United States, National Urban League, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Project Vote, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

    “The Commission is charged with developing standards for voting systems, and this precedent-setting work has been recognized by nations around the world.  The EAC’s certification program is helping state and local governments to save money,” the organizations said in their letter.

    “The Commission plays a major role in collecting accurate and comparable election data. With our nation’s complex and diversified election administration system, central data collection is essential if we are going to improve our citizens’ trust and confidence in election results,” they maintained.

    “The EAC has played a central role in improving the accessibility of voting for the country’s more than 37 million voters with disabilities.  We still have a way to go … to make voting accessible.  The EAC’s leadership is essential to continuing the effort to offer all Americans the right to vote privately and independently,” the groups said.

    “The Commission develops and fosters the training and organization of our nation’s more than 8,000 election administrators.  Through its many working committees and convening of robust dialog among advocates, manufacturers and administrators, the Commission is improving the administration of elections.  The EAC’s award-winning web page has become the ‘go to’ site for election administrators, advocates, and academics,” the letter said.

    In urging the President to fulfill his responsibility to appoint commissioners, the organizations said that the “EAC does valuable work to ensure the reliability and trustworthiness of our nation’s election systems.”

    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages.

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  • “American people deserve better,” says League of Women Voters

    Washington, DC -- The League of Women Voters today urged members of the U.S. House of Representatives to oppose the move expected this week to eliminate the public financing system for presidential elections.

    Pointing to the lack of hearings or other committee action on the legislation to repeal the presidential system, Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the nonpartisan citizens’ organization said, “The rush to the floor, without following the normal procedures of the House, is deeply disturbing. The American people deserve better than this.”

    The League also called attention to the relatively small cost of the public financing system for both the primary and general elections for president. “Certainly the elimination of the system cannot be seen as a meaningful reduction in federal spending or the debt,” according to MacNamara.

    MacNamara went on to say that the, “presidential public financing for both primary and general election campaigns has served America well since 1976. It has not only allowed candidates to raise the funds needed to wage competitive campaigns, it has substantially reduced corruption and the appearance of corruption in the executive branch over that time period. It has given average citizens and small donors a critically important role to play in funding presidential campaigns and provided more meaningful choices to voters. And it has done all of this at remarkably small cost.”

    “The presidential public financing system needs to be repaired, not repealed, in order to continue serving the interests of the American people and protecting against corruption. The system only began to decline when campaign costs outstripped the public financing provided to participating candidates and frontloading changes in the presidential nominating process occurred. A modernized system would provide presidential candidates with a viable alternative to finance their campaigns focused on average citizens and small donors, as opposed to being dependent on big donors, bundlers, lobbyists, and corporate and other outside spenders.”

    “The issues surrounding the funding of presidential campaigns deserve careful consideration. They should be the subject of hearings and thoughtful deliberation.

    “The health and integrity of our democracy demand more responsible action from the House of Representatives,” she concluded.

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    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

  • Washington, DC – "The League of Women Voters joins with all Americans in expressing our shock and dismay at the tragic shootings in Tucson last weekend. We express our deep sorrow to the families of the victims, and offer our sincere hopes for the recovery of Representative Giffords and the other survivors. We applaud the courage of the individuals, thinking they were just out for a Saturday conversation, who took immediate action to help the injured and end the rampage.

    "What can we make of this madness, this senseless act of violence?  And terrible though this event was for all of us now, what might the long term effects be?  Will it make public figures - politicians, media figures, celebrities - more mindful of the potentially harmful impact of their angry words - or will everyone continue to put their own agendas first, without regard to the climate they create?  Will it make the public more trusting of the patriotic motivations of their elected leaders - or will respect for them be further diminished?  Will it make our elected leaders more willing to reach out to meet and hear from their constituents directly - or will it reinforce the growing gap between voters and those they put in office?  Will it allow Americans to feel comfortable and welcome in the public space - or will they conclude that it is safer to stay home and drop out of the conversation?  It is clearly time for each of us to consider these issues, individually and as a community.

    "For 90 years, the League has worked to facilitate the civil exchange of different points of view, to bridge the gap between the voters and the elected, and to help improve the functioning of government.  We hope that moving forward our nation will come together to foster and strengthen the very essence of our representative democracy: 'government of the people, by the people, for the people.'"

     

    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages.

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  • Citizen and Reform Groups Call on Speaker-designee Boehner and Majority Leader-designee Cantor to Announce Their Support for Office Of Congressional Ethics and Their Opposition to any Efforts to Weaken or Undermine the Office

    Joint Statement of Groups

    Our organizations today call on House Speaker-designee John Boehner and House Majority Leader-designee Eric Cantor to announce their support for continuing the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and their opposition to any efforts to weaken or undermine the Office in the next Congress.

    We also urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who provided the leadership in the last Congress to establish the OCE, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to continue their support for the Office.

    The organizations include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, CREW, Democracy 21, Judicial Watch, League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, Taxpayers for Common Sense and U.S.PIRG

    The creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics in 2008 was the most important improvement in the House ethics enforcement process since the House Ethics Committee was established in 1966. The independent OCE has done precisely what it was set up to do: help ensure that potential ethics violations are reviewed by the House Ethics Committee and provide transparency for the House ethics enforcement process. The OCE has performed its job credibly and effectively.

    Congressional ethics is not a partisan issue. Over the years, individual House Democrats and Republicans alike have been involved in serious ethics problems.

    The OCE was established following the complete breakdown of ethics enforcement in the House in 2005 and 2006, symbolized by the failure of the House Ethics Committee to take any action regarding the Jack Abramoff scandals, the worst House lobbying and ethics scandals in decades. The OCE also followed the 10 year ethics truce between House Democrats and Republicans that all but eliminated effective enforcement of the House ethics rules during that period.

    There is nothing in the recent election to indicate that citizens have any interest in going back to this failed ethics enforcement process.

    The OCE must continue with its authority and powers intact and without any weakening or undermining changes. The House resolution introduced by Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) in this Congress, for example, would for all practical purposes put the OCE out of business and must be rejected.

    The OCE must be able to function independently and effectively in the next Congress as it has been able to do in this Congress.

    The OCE has served citizens, the country and the House as an institution well and it is an essential element of the House ethics enforcement process. It would be a grave mistake for the new House, with more than 100 new members, to backtrack on congressional ethics.

    We urge the House Republican leadership to make publicly clear that they will continue the Office of Congressional Ethics in the next Congress and will oppose any efforts to weaken or undermine the Office.

  • "You can’t fire the cop and then say you’re against crime," says League of Women Voters

    Washington, DC – The League of Women Voters today called on Speaker-elect John Boehner to retain the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) in the upcoming 112th Congress and to maintain the OCE’s duties, powers and structure.

    "The retention of the OCE -- or its demise -- will signal the direction the new leadership will be taking the House of Representatives on ethics issues," according to Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League.

    "We are deeply concerned that many in Congress, apparently wishing to return to a time when there was no meaningful ethics enforcement in the House of Representatives, have called for steps that would substantially weaken the OCE," she said.

    "You can’t fire the cop and then say you’re against crime," according to MacNamara.

    In the 2010 elections, "the American people did not vote for less ethics and more corruption," MacNamara said. "The retention of a strong and effective Office of Congressional Ethics is essential to regaining the public’s trust."

    The League congratulated Representative Boehner, the incoming Speaker, as well Representative Pelosi, the current Speaker, for the quality of their appointments to the governing board of the OCE. Each appointed half of the independent board’s current members. "Under their leadership, the OCE has functioned effectively, but fairly, in investigating possible ethics violations and reporting its findings to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct or the public, as appropriate," MacNamara said.

    The League urged that the OCE not be weakened in any way. The group said that the OCE must retain its independent, bipartisan leadership structure, the ability to issue public reports, begin investigations on its own initiative, and hire and supervise an independent staff. The League also called for strengthening the OCE by ensuring that it has access to subpoena power.

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    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

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