Making Democracy Work


Two Elections on the Horizon: Your Chance to Be Involved

Believe it or not we are already planning for the upcoming elections. This primary season is a great time for those who have been thinking about volunteering for Voter Service activities to jump into the action. We have a fairly easy schedule for the June primary, to be followed by a jam-packed schedule for November. This means in the spring we have time for training and the ability to partner experienced members with new volunteers.

The June Primary will feature county and state level races, and at least five state ballot measures. Thanks to the passage of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), Oakland races will be deferred until November. We will do some voter education for RCV in the primary and put all our resources into teaching its use for the general election.

Below is a description of the kinds of volunteer opportunities available:

Speakers Bureau The Speakers Bureau needs YOUR help! We have two elections coming up this year and in order to present our neutral pros and cons on all the state and local ballot measures, as well as educating our audiences about the new system of ranked choice voting for local candidates, we need as many interested members as possible to volunteer. You will receive as much training as you need and will be paired with an experienced speaker until you are comfortable on your own; our audiences are always very appreciative and every former speaker has agreed it's been a very enjoyable experience. Please contact Judy Merrill at or 510-654-9600 for further information or to volunteer.

Voter Registration LWVO needs to be prepared to register new voters prior to the June Primary. Registration can mean partnering with other Community Based organizations, having a presence at community events or staffing a table at select locations throughout the city. Ranked Choice Voting is a reality for the November General Election. It will require extensive voter education. If you have an interest and time to help, please contact Allene Warren at 510 562-3945 or

Easy Voter Distribution We are not planning to distribute Easy Voter Guides for the June election. Copies can be obtained through LWVC. We will be emailing and calling traditional recipients to notify them of the changes. Please call Judi Bank at 510-531-5449 or to help with calling the past recipients. There will be a distribution of Easy Voter Guides for the November election.

Voter Registration Affidavits Box Watchers The ROV affidavit program has some vacancies for "box watchers." A box watcher visits a site where there is a box of Voter Registration Applications ("affidavits") available to the public to assure there is an adequate number of affidavits and to make sure they are visible. Monthly site visits and distributions of affidavits are reported to Peter Bank. If you can help with one or more of the vacancies listed below, contact Peter Bank 510-531-5449 or

VACANT DMV Coliseum 501 85 Ave
VACANT Brookfield/Jenkins Comm Ctr 9175 Edes
VACANT First American Title 6232 LaSalle
VACANT Fidelity Title 6200 LaSalle
VACANT Old Republic Title 6201 Antioch
VACANT Chicago Title 6210 Medau Pl

Candidate Forums For the primary election, we expect to have at least one interesting contest for one of the Alameda County Supervisor Districts. If you are interested in helping with our forums as a time keeper, questions sorter, moderator, or general helper, please give Mary Weinstein a call at 510-238-9240 or

Co-President's Letter

By Katherine Gavzy

This morning (as I write this) two of our fifty-year members became celebrities: Lorraine Force and Barbara Ruffner were interviewed by David Newhouse of the Oakland Tribune for a story to be published in connection with the League's 90th anniversary. He asked them each about their reasons for joining the League, what they considered to be the League's purpose and role in American life, how they thought things had changed since our founding 90 years ago, or even since they joined 50 years ago. Lorraine told of joining in Hawaii and keeping her membership active through moves around California. Barbara spoke of her grandmother, who had been a suffragist (NOT a "suffragette," she pointed out, since the "ette" ending implied something cute or trivial, and these were very serious women). As I listened to them, I recognized the two main qualities of League that had been my own reasons for joining 25 years ago : passion and knowledge. They both emphasized that we are in League because we care passionately about democracy, about the quality of civic life, and about keeping voters both involved and informed. They also pointed out that we always study issues thoroughly before taking any action. I hope that Mr. Newhouse's article will correctly reflect these core principles.

After speaking with Lorraine and Barbara, Mr. Newhouse asked your Co-President Suzanne Loosen and myself what thoughts Lorraine and Barbara inspired in us. Suzanne said that she decided to join the Oakland League after attending several City Council and Committee meetings and noticing that everyone kept turning to a few people present for information and judgement on the issues under discussion, and that those people were all LWVO members. "I want to be with those guys," she told herself. I told him that I joined in Pasadena, where I was in awe of a 95 year old member who had marched with the "suffragettes." She was thoroughly informed about everything, extremely opinionated but always in a reasoned manner, and any outside speakers who came to the Pasadena League were in fear of her incisive questions. "I want to be like her when I'm 95," I told myself. For Suzanne and me as well, it was passion and knowledge that attracted us to the League and passion and knowledge that keep us here. I hope it is the same for all of you, and that these two qualities will continue to attract new members and keep the League strong and vital for at least another 90 years.

A Star and a Fellow

Nikki Harris has long been active in LWV Oakland--serving on the Board and chairing several committees--and also in the wider League. She serves in the Bay Area League (which is made up of representatives from 21 local chapters) and has been involved at the State and National levels. Recently Nikki has received recognition for her energetic efforts. The Bay Area League created a special award which it presented to her on Bay Area League Day January 30, honoring her as a League Star for her involvement at the local, Bay Area, State, and National levels. Meanwhile, the National LWV has named her one of 12 Ruth S. Shur Fellows. These Fellows, selected from throughout the nation, will receive training and become coaches in the Membership Recruitment Iniative and provide leadership training to local Leagues.

Congratulations, Nikki, and thank you for your engagement in the work of the League.

LWVO's 19th Annual All-City Luncheon Coming Soon to Jack London Square

The planning work for our April 28th Luncheon is off and running. Building on the success of last year's Luncheon, we expect this to be a great and enjoyable event for the League and the Oakland community. We are especially excited about the program : "Oakland's Two Tonys," in which new Chief of Police Anthony Batts and new Superintendent of Schools Tony Smith will discuss their visions for the city's future, moderated by KCET anchor Belva Davis.

Like last year's luncheon, this luncheon will be held in the Pavilion of Scott's Seafood restaurant at Jack London Square, overlooking the Port of Oakland. Scott's offers a no-host bar and subsidized parking at a number of convenient sites. Improved menu choices will be available, but the single ticket price for LWVO members will remain at $60 ($75 for non-members).

Before that, YOU ARE INVITED TO A MAILING PARTY! Nearly three thousand invitations to purchase tickets will be mailed out to LWVO members and the larger community in March, and we need the hands-on help of our volunteers to make this happen. All LWVO members (and any friends you want to bring) are invited to get together Wednesday March 17th, from 10 AM "until it's done." We will assemble and stuff envelopes, enjoy refreshments and each other's company. Come for the day or drop in and do what you can, all are welcome. As always, we will be in the Commons Room at Swans Market Co-Housing, 930 Clay Street. For directions and entry instructions, please RSVP to Bea Rudney, tel.531-8287, email, or contact the LWVO office : 834-7640, email

You can also help out at the luncheon itself: on the day of the event, members are needed to staff the registration tables, set out signage, decorate the luncheon tables, greet guests, etc. Fun to do, takes very little time, and you will have a part in making the luncheon a success. If you want to volunteer, please contact Bea Rudney, tel.531-8287, email, or contact the LWVO office: 834-7640, email We will note down your interest, and specific tasks will be assigned shortly before the event.

HOT TOPICS 50/50 BY 2020: Pipe Dream or Reality?

Women, as you know, comprise about 50% of the U.S. population, but only 17% of the US Congress.The U.S. ranks 84th in the world, behind Mexico, China and Pakistan, in the number of women in elected office. Lacking an "Old Boy Network" for guidance, women have turned to new networks to learn the ropes and win the votes. Join us for a rousing discussion of how such organizations as Emerge California and The 2012 Project are making a difference in the political landscape.

Guest Speaker/Facilitator is Barbara Ellis, well-known campaign and community organizer with AJE Partners. Professionally Barbara organizes around local community issues, tracks legislation, and is an advocate for clients in local and state matters. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Emerge California, dedicated to recruiting, training and helping elect Democratic women to public office.

Monday, March 22, 6:30-8pm
Redwood Heights Community Center
3883 Aliso Avenue (off Redwood Road just below Highway 13)

Campaign to pass California Fair Elections Act Gathers Steam

LWV California is a co-sponsor of the California Fair Elections Act, to be presented to voters on the June ballot as Prop. 15. The California Fair Elections Act was put on the ballot after the legislature passed and Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 583, authored by Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-East Bay) and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign. We will continue to notify our LWVO members of local rallies and campaign-organizing events: look for email blasts and VOTER articles to come.

If it passes, Prop. 15 will establish a pilot project in 2014 and 2018 to provide voluntary public financing for candidates running for Secretary of State who qualify and comply with strict spending prohibitions. Candidates who opt for public financing will receive enough public funds to compete with candidates backed by corporate or special interest funds. The Secretary of State makes an ideal test for public funding at little cost and will show how it will open up the political process for statewide elections in California. It will assure voters that the elected official guarding the integrity of elections has no need to raise private campaign contributions. CFEA is patterned after the successful Clean Money systems now working in Arizona, Maine and Connecticut. The State League says, "We strongly support the California Fair Elections Act so that elected officials can focus on governing instead of fundraising."

Here are the answers to some questions about how the system would work:

How does a Secretary of State candidate qualify for Fair Elections funding?
Candidates must show a broad base of public support by gathering 7,500 $5 contributions and signatures from registered California voters. Then they must reject private fundraising and agree to limit spending to the amount provided by the public.

What restrictions are placed on Fair Elections candidates?
Candidates who qualify for Fair Elections funding must agree to strict spending limits. Once qualified, they are prohibited from raising or spending any money beyond what they receive from the fund.

How much funding does a qualified Secretary of State candidate receive?
Qualified major party candidates become eligible to receive $1,000,000 in Fair Elections funds for the Secretary of State primary campaign. Upon winning their primary, a qualified candidate would receive an additional $1,300,000 for the general election. This is about the same as winning candidates spent in the 2006 election.

Who pays? Will it affect my taxes?
With the California Fair Elections Act, no taxpayer dollars will go to candidates. The California Fair Elections act is funded primarily by a $350 annual registration fee on lobbyists, lobbying firms, and lobbyist employers. Currently lobbyists only pay $12.50 per year in California, among the lowest the nation. Californians who support fair elections can also make voluntary contributions on their state income tax return.

What effect will the recent US Supreme Court ruling on campaign financing ("Citizens United v Federal Election Commission") have on the California Fair Elections Act?
California has never put any restrictions at all on what corporations can spend on campaigns. The Citizens United case only starts to make Federal law as bad as California's. Corporations already can and do spend massive amounts to influence state elections here. The Citizens United ruling will have no impact on California's ability to implement Prop 15's voluntary system of public financing for Secretary of State candidates. The Supreme Court has consistently upheld public financing provisions like those contained in Prop 15.

What if a Fair Elections candidate is outspent by a privately funded candidate?
The California Fair Elections Act provides "Fair Fight" matching funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis when a candidate is outspent by privately funded candidates, up to four times the initial allocation, so candidates who opt in to the Fair Elections system can be competitive even in the most highly contested races.

What if outside groups attack a Fair Elections candidate or support their opponent?
The California Fair Elections Act provides matching funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis within 24 hours when independent expenditures by outside groups attack a Fair Elections candidate or support one of their opponents, up to four times the initial allocation amount, allowing them to respond.

What about third party or independent candidates?
Qualified independent and third-party candidates are eligible for partial funding. They can receive full funding in the general election if they show they have a broad enough base of support by gathering twice the normal number of $5 contributions and signatures.

What will prevent fringe candidates from getting public money?
The California Fair Elections Act sets a high threshold of public support that must be met in order for a candidate to receive public funding. Each qualifying candidate must gather thousands of $5 contributions and signatures to be eligible. The same kind of requirements have stopped fringe candidates from receiving public funds in other states.

Does the California Fair Elections act put any restrictions on candidates who opt not to participate?
No. Candidates who chose not to participate will have no more spending restrictions at all than under current law. Candidates and independent expenditures are required to disclose spending more quickly when pitted against a Fair Election candidate.

Will wealthy self-funded people be stopped from spending their own money to run for office?
No. The California Fair Elections Act respects every citizen's right to run for office and fund their campaign with their own money. The California Fair Elections Act doesn't stop anybody from spending money on their own campaign if they don't take public funding.

What effect does Fair Elections have on negative advertising?
Fair Elections doesn't place any restrictions on the content of political speech, but negative advertising has actually decreased in states that have Fair Elections systems.

What about last minute campaign attacks on Fair Elections Candidates?
The California Fair Elections Act allows Fair Elections candidates to respond to last minute attacks because they receive matching funds within 24 hours.

What about debates?
Fair Elections candidates are required to engage in at least one debate in a contested primary and two debates in a contested general election.

How are Fair Elections working out in states that already implemented them ?
Arizona and Maine implemented Fair Elections in 2000, where Fair Elections funding is used by the majority of candidates from both major parties. In states that use Fair Elections, voter turnout has improved because voters know they really matter.

"Making Democracy Work" Awards: Nominations Requested

All LWVO members and friends are encouraged to send us your nominations for individuals or organizations to receive a "Making Democracy Work" award at our All-City Luncheon this April. You can request a form from the LWVO office, or download it from the Web site. You may also want to pass it on to anyone else in the community who you think may have knowledge of deserving awardees.

As always, we want to honor those who have envisioned ways to improve Oakland and have mobilized others to work with them to effect change that benefited the broader community.

Please send your completed nomination form by Friday March 26th

  • by email to:
  • by fax to: (510) 834-7640
  • or by mail to League of Women Voters, 1305 Franklin Street, Suite 311, Oakland CA 94612-3222

Click here to see and print the nomination form

League Members Respond

Again League Members have responded to appeals for donations. Our sincere thanks to those members who responded to our end of year requests for funds: Phyllis Brown, Candis Cousins, Gretchen Hayes, Dr.Talmage King, Anita Munk, Lise Pearlman, Bette Roberts-Collins, Yolanda Schonbrun, Mary Strauss, Helen Tepperman, Sandra Threlfall, and Sandra Venning.

Contributing to the Education Fund were Judi Bank, Nancy Blackman, Nikki Harris, Helen Hutchison, Judy Merrill, Beverly Solo, Fumi Sugihara, Susan Veit, Gertrude Young, and George Zane.