League of Women Voters organizes Speak Up Schools
By Kaye Hult
As part of a push by the League of Women Voters of Washington (LWVWA) to encourage and empower people to testify at open meetings held by the Washington State Commission on Redistricting later in 2021, the League of Women Voters Spokane Area will host two Speak Up Schools Feb. 15 and 20 on Zoom.
"Redistricting—redrawing district lines for legislative and congressional districts—occurs every 10 years following the Census," said April May, organizer for the Spokane Speak Up Schools.
"This process impacts all voters by determining who they can vote for to represent them in their state and national governments," she said.
"In the past, public testimony at these hearings has not been effective at compelling commissioners to take action," she continued. "The LWV would like to change this in 2021 to ensure all voices are heard regarding this critical state action."
The Speak Up Schools will help individuals prepare to find their own voice to speak up before the redistricting commission, said April.
The first session for the Spokane area is from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday, Feb. 15. Alison McCaffree, the issue team chair for LWV of Washington and creator of the Speak Up Schools, will teach "Redistricting 101" to help participants understand why their speaking up will make a difference.
She will be joined by Vicky Dalton, Spokane County auditor and LWV member, who will talk about redistricting in the past, giving real-world examples. There will be time for people to interact in breakout sessions.
For the second session from 1 to 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, the training is on testimony and testifying. Participants will come away with skills that will allow them to speak about their own convictions in their own voices. Coaches will be there to answer their questions.
Follow-up coaching is also available, April said. People will have the chance to come back and practice what they have come to say.
"As part of its mission to 'Empower Voters: Defend Democracy,' the League strongly supports active civic engagement," she said. "It believes the skills gained in this training will provide long-term benefit to the public when they testify to different municipal and state government committees and commissions," she added.
Those attending the schools will learn effective ways to speak in front of large audiences, how to present themselves well. The skills will stand them in good stead in a variety of situations beyond their speaking out about redistricting, she said.
April used herself as an example.
"I've been an introvert and have not been comfortable speaking in front of large groups," she said. "I can use these skills in my professional field of health."
April, who was born and grew up in Spokane, earned a bachelor's degree in 2016 at Eastern Washington University. Her major was informatics, which relates to the use of electronic medical records. She helps medical providers communicate with end users. She describes herself as a translator because the two groups use different languages.
April had trouble with the presidential election process in 2016. She came away feeling the need to get involved, but not knowing how. She looked on Google for ideas, which was when she discovered the League of Women Voters of the Spokane Area. She had never heard of them before.
"The thing that attracted me to LWV is that they are nonpartisan," she said. "I wasn't signing up for a team, I was signing up for improved policy and government for everyone.
"National politics has turned us against each other," she continued. "We are all complicated, we are not good or bad, Republican or Democratic, going to heaven or hell. All of us can be any of these things and have possibilities throughout our lives.
"I have personal views about different actions of politicians, but the work of the league resonates with Providence Health Care's promise: "Know me, care for me, ease my way."
"I believe that. Knowing people allows us to care for them and make it easier for them. It makes me passionate to care for others," April said.
"The core value of the league is the care and concern for others," she said pointing out that the LWV works to make sure all have a voice and there's acceptance of diversity and inclusion.
"I believe in that. Knowing people allows us to care for them and make it easier for them. Even from my childhood, I was always looking out for others," April said.
She joined the LWV because it is a nonpartisan, grassroots civic organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. It works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
The Speak Up Schools of LWV of Washington are their answer to the nationwide redistricting campaign of the LWV of the United States, called People Powered Fair Maps. It focuses on creating fair voting districts in all 50 states.
The goals of the Speak Up Schools in Washington are to put on 10 to 15 Speak Up Schools all over the state between February and April 2021, to have more than 2,000 people testify to the state Redistricting Commission during the public meetings in mid-2021, and to hold the 2021 Redistricting Commission accountable to the people of Washington by publicly documenting the desires of the residents of the state for voting districts that represent them.
LWV membership is open to people 16 years and older of all gender identities. With 100 years of experience, the League is one of America's oldest and most trusted civic nonprofit organizations, April said.
The league is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in principle and in practice. Diversity, equity and inclusion are central to the organization's current and future success in engaging individuals, households, communities and policy makers in "creating a more perfect democracy," she said.
A Speak Up School was held Jan. 27 in Yakima. In addition, a "Redistricting 101 Overview" is planned by the Kitsap County LWV at 10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 27. Other sessions are being held in Western Washington. Spokane registration is at www.lwvspokane.org.
For information, call 638-6192 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, February, 2021