Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy.

Issues and Advocacy

Sally Robinson, VP for Issues and Advocacy, Sally.s.robinson@gmail.com

Erica Smitka, Deputy Director, Erica@lwvny.org

New York State Equal Rights Amendment

Currently 26 states have a state level ERA, including sex as a protected class in the state constitution—New York State does not. The good news is that we worked on the passage of a statewide ERA constitutional amendment in last legislative session and it passed! In the wake of the overturning of Roe v Wade, a special session was held in June and the Legislature passed the New York State’s Equal Rights Amendment. However, in order for it to be codified in our constitution it must be passed a second time by a separately elected legislature and then voted on by the public. We will need to work to pass it again this session and then ensure that voters are educated and prepared to vote yes when it goes on the ballot in 2024.

The NYS ERA is unique! In addition to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, disability, age, or sex, it will also include pregnancy outcomes, reproductive health care and autonomy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. This would ensure that access to reproductive rights and LGBTQIA+ rights would also be protected in the state constitution.

The League has been advocating for the ERA for decades and will now fight for a state ERA. While we hope that second passage of this bill will happen early in the 2023 legislative session, we will need to be prepared if it doesn’t. We will also need to be prepared to launch a voter education campaign.

We are creating a LWVNYS ERA Advocacy Taskforce, which will include one representative from each League who will join monthly meetings and be kept in the loop on all things ERA. This appointee will be responsible for relaying important updates to their League, coordinating lobbying efforts and being the point person for their League. If you are interested in being the Advocate from your local League, contact your local League President.  

A townhall on the new ERA will be held by NYCLU today, December 6th, at 5:30pm. Click here to sign up for the townhall.

Let New York Vote Annual Priority Meeting

This year the State League was a part of the organizing committee for the Let New York Vote Annual Priority meeting, held on November 17, 2022. The committee voted on 2023 priorities and agreed on advocating for the following: the constitutional amendment process for no-excuse absentee and same-day registration, ending felony disenfranchisement, the NYVRA database bill, board of elections reform, youth voting rights, voting in jails, and a plain language ballot initiative.

Preparing for State Convention 2023

Program Planning for State Convention 2023

As it does every year in which there is a state convention, the State League will send all local Leagues information on how to help develop a State Program, i.e. suggesting of new issues to be selected for concentrated study, which positions need to be updated, and whether any existing positions should be dropped for 2023-2025. This information will go out to local Leagues later this week. This can be done at a Board meeting but we urge Leagues to seek as much member input as possible in developing their response. The response is due to the State League by March 1 in order to be considered by state Board and then at Convention. Full details will be contained in a separate State Program Planning package. If you are interested in participating, contact your local League President.


Election Protection Education

In October, the State League launched an education campaign in which we provided local Leagues and members with materials that detail how NYS runs secure, reliable, and fair elections. These materials can be used as talking points with local news outlets, delivered to county board of elections, and distributed to voters who might have questions about how it all works. This campaign was fairly successful and received great feedback from boards of elections commissioners. We also had a number of letters to the editor on this topic printed in papers around the state.

Election Monitoring

This year the League of Women Voters of New York State took part in the Election Protection effort (1-866-OUR-VOTE) run by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Common Cause. During early voting and on election day we were in the command center working to escalate issues called in from voters across the state to ensure everyone had equal access to the ballot this year.

This year is the first year the State League recruited local Leagues to participate in a post-election ballot canvassing observation led by the Lawyers Committee and Common Cause. Volunteers observed the canvassing of ballots to look for inconsistencies and report any sort of disruption at canvassing sites. Volunteers from the League were recruited from the following counties: Kings County, Suffolk County, Orange County, Ulster County, Dutchess County, Putnam County, Rockland County, Onondaga County, Tompkins County. These counties were chosen either because they had seen an uptick in election denialism organizations or had contentious races this season. 

Vassar College Lawsuit Win

The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF), The League of Women Voters (LWV) of the

Mid-Hudson Region & New York State, county-based Dutchess Student Voting Coalition, and

the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) celebrated a significant victory for Vassar College students. The November lawsuit win guaranteed that an accessible polling place would be added on campus on Election Day in November. The Honorable Christie L. D’Alessio of the Supreme Court of the State of New York granted the entire petition of a lawsuit filed just two days prior, which argued that the Dutchess County Board of Elections (BOE) was in violation of state law. Judge D’Alessio’s decision effectively orders the Dutchess County BOE to situate a polling place at Vassar College immediately.

Bigger Better Bottle Bill

LWVNYS is working in coalition on passage of the Bigger Better Bottle Bill during the next legislative session. See Erica Smitka’s comments in a recent article: https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/ny-state-of-politics/2022/11/21/why-advocates-want-to-expand-new-york-s-bottle-deposit-law

Medical Aid in Dying, Barb Thomas, Issue Specialist, bkoeppicust@gmail.com

Leagues across NYS have been strategizing with Compassion & Choices to create interest and enthusiasm for passage of a NYS Medical Aid in Dying law. The proposed law is modeled on the successful pioneering Oregon law, and would allow a physician to prescribe medication to end the life of a mentally competent adult, who is terminally ill & within 6 months of death, who requests and is able to ingest the medication.

Since we adopted our position in favor of Death with Dignity in March of 2018, the League has testified and participated in lobbying efforts but the legislation has not come to the floor of either house of the legislature. This year C&C has decided to create events in all the regions of NYS to get people talking and advocating with their legislators. Local Leagues and individual League members are encouraged to participate in this Winter Tour.

In the North Country the St. Lawrence MAL hosted Legalizing Medical Aid in Dying in New York: A Community Conversation at the Canton Unitarian Universalist Church. Kudos to Kathy Stein for pulling this off, and to Donna Seymour for interviewing the C&C campaign coordinator on her NCPR program, North Country Matters. There were similar community conversations in Saranac Lake and Plattsburg, and a press conference including former Assemblywoman Janet Duprey at the Olympic Ski Village.

Compassion & Choices New York has posted the local events on their website. They’ll be adding events through January. Click here for details on the tour stops! The tour will wind up in Albany at the start of the legislative session and the four Capital District Leagues are co-sponsoring a zoom program, Religious Medical Systems and Bodily Autonomy: A Community Conversation.

The tour will culminate in a big rally in the Well of the Legilsative Office Building (LOB), followed by visits to legislators, on Tuesday, January 17. Be there if you can! And wear your League buttons!


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