The Vote! Past, Present, Future
The Thurston County LWV, with sponsorships from the Thurston County Chapter of NOW, the YMCA Youth in Government Program, the ZONTA Club of Scouth Puget Sound, and the Thurston County Auditor's Office, held a Community Conversation. This event, which recognized the centennial of Women's Right to Vote, what held on February 29, 2020 at the Olympia Regional Learning Academy.
The event kicked off with a very informative and engaging presentation by Mary Hall, Thurston County Auditor, who talked about how the vote came to be, who got to vote and who didn’t, and what elections currently look like in Washington State and across the nation.
Following the Auditor’s presentation, approximately 30 participants divided up among seven (7) round tables. Each table had a facilitator and a scribe and was asked to address, and record participant’s responses to, three (3) questions. The “conversation” at each table followed established procedures to ensure that everyone had an equal opportunity to speak and felt free to express their viewpoints in a safe environment.
Not all tables were assigned the same questions, except for the final question, which every table was asked to respond to in a “lightening round”. The questions and the number of tables assigned to that question were:
- How do you decide who to vote for or how to vote on issues? (1)
- What sources of information, if any, do you use to help you decide? Are there channels of information that you think are missing? What resources have you found helpful? (1)
- Do you think your vote makes a difference? Why or why not? (1)
- What obstacles to voting do you perceive? (1)
- Other than voting, what do you think are the most effective ways for your voice to be heard? Share your stories. (2)
- How do you discern between fact, fiction or opinion? (2)
- What do you think would motivate more people to vote? (3)
- Which is more important to you — issues or candidates? (2)
- What changes to our current system of voting would make voting easier? (1)
- What issues are important to you in the next few years — in your county? In Washington State? In the nation? (All 7 tables)
To see the responses to the Community Conversations click here.
A series of Forums are being held in connection with the League's Water Study. Forums held in 2019 are reported on below. If you want to get caught up on the Where's the Water forums that were held in 2019, click here for a listing of videos of those programs.
The first of the two 2020 Forums was held on March 5, 2020. The second had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Detail about this forum will be posted once it is rescheduled.
March 5, 2020 -- Where's the Water II: What Are the Impacts of Sea Level Rising in Thurston County?
Unique circumstances resulted in the presenters scheduled for the first portion of this public meeting being unable to attend. Candice Penn, Climate Specialist, Squaxin Island Tribe, and Brian McTeague, G.I.S. Manager, Squaxin Island Tribe were able to join by electronic means. They provided commentary on The Squaxin Island Tribe Sea Level Rise Story Map video presentation. They also answered questions from the audience.
The second portion of the evening's program shifted from the sea to a river. That was the Chehalis River and the ongoing concerns about the devastating floods that occur in this river's flood plane.
Andrea McNamara Doyle, Director of the Department of Ecology newly established Office of Chehalis Basin spoke about the the innovative and ambitious approach to water management being considered. She talked about the efforts involved in developing information about Flood Control on the Chehalis River. An aspect of this work is the consideration of building a dam that would be used only at critical times.
The second speaker on this topic was Lee First, Representative for Twin Harbors Waterkeeper. Her organization is clearly opposed to using a dam as a method to control Chehalis River flood events. She spoke of the competition between development and natural habitat, with the idea that greater weight should be given to nature.
In anticipation of the 2020 Census and subsequent Reapportionment that is the foundation for Congressional and Legislative Redistricting, the League of Women Voters has encouraged Leagues throughout the county to be involved and educate citizens about these important topics. The Washington State League took steps to do so by establishing a grant program to facilitate local League educational events. Thurston County League was privileged to have received one of these Forum in a Box Grants. Those funds were instrumental in enabling the public meeting that is described below.mp
On January 15, 2020 Thurston League members and members of the public gathered at the Olympia Center for a three-hour Census and Redistricting Forum. The aim of this forum was to help people learn what they need to know about these two vital, but infrequent, aspects of our democracy. The presenters focused on how the census works, how the census affects all of us, and what citizens can do to help, as well as the nuts and bolts of redistricting, and why it all matters. The program began with a very informative presentation by Lisa McLean, the Census Coordinator for the State Office of Financial Management. She offered a lively, very informative presentation that laid out the importance of the Census, as well as some of the problems and pitfalls that must be faced to get a complete and accurate count of everyone on April 1, 2020.
Following Lisa's talk, we were told about local efforts to address some of those problems and pitfalls. Sherry Sullivan, a volunteer with the Centro Integral Educativo Latino de Olympia (CIELO), and Lin Crowley, the Census Area Manager for the South Puget Sound chapter of the Asian Pacific-Islander Coalition, both described activities that their organizations are doing to reach people who might be reluctant to participate in the Census.
An appeal for people to sign up to be census takers was then made by Karen Burke who works for the US Census Bureau. Click there to see a video of the 2020 Census program that was taped by Thurston Community Media (TCM).
The focus of the forum then shifted to Redistricting. Alison McCaffree and Dean Foster worked together to provide an entertaining look at this rather complex topic. While they both mainly spoke from the perspective of the Washington State Redistricting Commission, they also shared information about examples of less successful approaches to Redistricting.
The Education Fund Benefit Luncheon, held at the Indian Summers Country Club on October 26, 2019, was a great success.
This is our annual fundraising event, as well as an opportunity to hear inspiring words from a government or community leader, present awards to individuals or organizations who make a difference in our community, and generally celebrate our work.
Given the limited resources of the Commission, Michelle has called on her extensive experience in both public and private settings to work with the 13 Commissioners to make sure they focus their efforts on a limited number of priorities. She told us this is being done through a committee structure related to Economic Opportunity, Economic Security, and Safety. These are the areas where they were active in advocacy during the last legislative session. In addition to looking for opportunities to influence policy related to their priorities, Joint Taskforce for a Centennial Celebration will also be busy in the coming year.
MC Kelsey May Crane presents Keynote Speaker Michelle Gonzalez a copy of the League of Women Voters' textbook, The State We're In: Washington.
A big thank-you for their GOOD WORK goes to the Luncheon Planning Committee, who once again did a fantastic job. Special thanks also go to our Ambassador for the Education Fund, Jill Severn, and the Master of Ceremonies, Kelsey Mae Crane.
On Monday, September 30, 2019, the Thurston County League of Women Voters hosted a public forum for the candidates for Port of Olympia Commissioner. Although we were not able to video tape this event, we are providing links to the websites of the two candidates who will be on the November 5, 2019 General Election ballot.