Gayle Saxton - LWVC Convention 2019 notes

Gayle Saxton - LWVC Convention 2019 notes

Friday   May 31   4-5pm

Listening Across our Differences and Building Bridges of Respect in a Polarized America

Session began with an icebreaker worksheet that asked participants to contemplate and discuss with a partner the following 4 questions:

  • What sense of purpose/mission/duty guides you in your life?  What would your best friend say about what makes you “tick”?
  • Has political polarization affected your life and if so, how?
  • What is your vision for how to depolarize politics?
  • What is one idea or activity you’d like to explore either personally or with your League as a result of this session to build bridges across our divides?

Discussion was primarily a statement of the importance of building bridges in a society that is recognized as relational, rather than just collective or individualistic.  Engaging in conversations with people with different views can have enormous rewards … and, rather than be overly anecdotal, a number of resources were provided.  The sources cover a wide range of topical areas, from examples of individuals engaging in difficult conversations to sites that provide contemporary and/or historical facts.

Friday   May 31   9:00-10:00 pm

Electoral Process Concurrence

This presentation was premised on the proposition that the current pluralistic voting system, in which the winner takes all, has resulted in serious difficulties in “making democracy work”.    It can make third party candidate hesitate to run out of fear that they could be a “spoiler” for another candidate.  Additionally, district gerrymandering in an effort to create a voter population that will improve the ability of one party to win that district.  Proposed is a position that the League officially supports:  the “Fair Representation Act”, which will change how votes for representatives are counted, and will result in a system of Proportional Representation.

Note:  The presenter was clearly a subject matter expert.  However, he failed to establish the foundation for his arguments (definitions, explanation as to how the system currently works) to facilitate participants’ understanding of the subject matter.

In this meeting, it was maintained that the US should abandon single-member plurality arrangements and adopt proportional representation (PR). The purpose of PR is to minimize wasted votes and ensure that the parties are represented in proportion to the votes they receive.  PR could combine small districts to create one lager one with at least 5 seats (study has shown 5 seats are enough to override gerrymandering results). 

The basic idea of PR is that instead of each district having a single representative selected by either plurality or a runoff system, you aggregate a bunch of people’s votes and then assign seats to parties in proportion to their popularity.  A number of PR systems exist, ranging from an alternative vote system in which voters may rank candidates, to a party list system in which voters identify party affiliation and the seats are allocated according to the share of votes received by the party.  The combination of districts is also supposed to consider shared interests.

Some suggested reading:


This position was adopted by the Convention delegates.

Saturday   June 1   7:30-8:30 am

Criminal Justice: Balancing Safety and Equity for All

“Justice in America is like faith:  I believe in it, but too often I cannot see it”.  Unknown author.

This caucus combined an icebreaker interactive process and a lecture.  The icebreaker asked that the group break down into 2-3 person groups, and discuss the purpose of criminal justice, is it working, what can be fixed.  It was a good into to get our thinking focused on the topic.

Presenters provided extensive information and data regarding many aspects of incarceration that the LWVC Task Force on Criminal Justice’s proposal is intended to remedy (including some outrageous examples of inappropriate treatment of women).  The proposal does not address criminal justice re: juveniles, because the LWVC has a separate position on juveniles (  The proposal provides a comprehensive position ( that the taskforce believes will be cost-effective, and promote humane, safe and evidence-based law enforcement decisions.  Additional reading material:  and

This position was adopted by the Convention delegates.


Saturday   June 1   4-5:30 pm

Framing your message to advocate and educate

Very interesting session about effective messaging, using numerous excellent examples.  The slide show will be posted on the State LWV site and any one interested in this topic should review it.  

Key points:

  • Frame facts in terms of how the audience will hear them; to whom are you speaking and what do they care about?  The message should match the audience’s values and identity.
  • People act based on morals, values and emotions
  • If you do not frame the debate, it will frame you.
  • Do not assume your audience already understands the issue, or your message
  • Use images:  humans process images about 60,000 times faster than words, and recall images 6 times longer than words
  • Let visuals speak for you (e.g., picture of a pelican with plastic trash around its beak). 
  • Remember that some words mean different things to different people.  For example, if freedom is the value, and the discussion is about guns, for some people freedom means the right to have a gun, and for others guns represent a threat to their freedom.
  • How to structure a message:
    • Frame the problem
    • Frame a solution
    • Generate action
    • Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Saturday   June 1   9:00-10:00 pm

Candidate Forums:  Keeping the Discussion Civil

This was a very good presentation, with numerous hand-outs, all of which will be posted on the LWVC website.  The goal is to help people utilize the power of 1-1 conversations when communicating with others who have different political views.  During such conversations, individuals should:  get to know each other as people; share concerns about the divisions in our community and in our country; explore areas of agreement, and; reflect and discuss the experience. 

Tips to enhance the conversation:  Be curious and open to learning and listening; show respect and suspend judgment; share the airtime; look for common ground an appreciate differences; be authentic and welcome authenticity from others; be purposeful and to the point, and; take responsibility for the quality of your participation.

Improving listening skills is important.   Hints:  stay focused and keep natural eye contact; really listen – don’t think about what you want to say next; and allow for periods of silence.

Sunday   June 2   7:30 – 8:30 am

Equity for Women:  Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Right Amendment is the proposed 27th amendment to the United States Constitution, and is designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex; it seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters.  It states:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The presentation provided a brief history of the women’s equal rights movement, beginning with the early suffrage movement through the present.  The Equal Rights Amendment was sent to the states for ratification on March 22, 1972, after passage in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.  But, as it had done for every amendment since the 18th (Prohibition) – excepting the 19th Amendment – Congress placed a seven-year deadline on the ratification process. This time limit was placed in the proposing clause rather than the text of the ERA itself. 

Twenty-two of the needed 38 states ratified the ERA in the first year.  The pace slowed as opposition grew, with only 12 states ratifying the amendment from 1973-1976.  In 1977, Indiana became the 35th state to ratify.  As the 1979 deadline approached, Congress yielded to public pressure and approved a deadline extension until June 1982. 

As the United States became more conservative, ratification stalled.  The ERA was reintroduced in the House of Representatives in 1982, and has been reintroduced each year thereafter.  In 2017, Nevada ratified the ERA, and in 2018, Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the amendment.   States that have not ratified are:  Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. 

ERA supporters are working hard to achieve the 38th ratification.  When that occurs, supporters expect the opposition to challenge ratification of the ERA due to the fact that the deadline has long passed.  Supporters will argue that the deadline cannot be used to stop passage, since the deadline has no clear constitutional basis.  The Supreme Court is expected to decide the issue. 

Of the thirteen states, ERA supporters are focusing South Carolina, which has a high level of political activity due to the many electoral problems that have become public.  Recommended:  LWVC should approve local Leagues’ adoption of a local League in North Carolina to offer any assistance they request.  The LWVC did support this recommendation at the end of the conference.