Just shy of 1,000 women including more than a handful of men attended this Convention in the elaborate and historic Chicago Hilton on Michigan Ave in beautiful downtown Chicago. The convention was a full three days of non-stop discussion, presentations and more. We will try to give you a glimmer of what it was like.
On Thursday morning before the convention officially started many Leaguers boarded the First Lady of Chicago cruise ship for a very informative Architectural River Cruise on the Chicago River. Chicago is renowned for her architecture ( even more so than her gangsters!) and we learned many interesting facts: such as how the engineers in the city reversed the direction of the river, it was important as a trade route, and the many unique buildings on the river have a fascinating history.
Convention registration was a breeze, and at 2pm a salon of six rooms accommodated all attendees in a two- hour interactive training provided by Wellstone Action to train us in mobilizing skills for the upcoming elections of 2018 and then 2020
At 7pm Thursday, the convention officially opened in the Hilton’s Grand Ballroom. Each state league president held up a sign with the state name on it, and we all gathered with our state fellow leaguers. Nick Stephanopoulos and Ruth Greenwood, experts in the field of redistricting inspired us with a talk on their redistricting work and involvement in the historical US Supreme Court case Gill v. Whitford.
Caucuses ran from 8:45 to 9:30 pm. No rest for the wicked – when you go to LWVUS Convention, they keep you busy. Our contingent split up to attend different caucus sessions on topics such as Immigration, Open Primaries, abolishing the Electoral College, Carbon Pricing to address climate change, GOTV strategies, and Proportional Representation. These caucuses were presented by Leagues from around the country.
Bright and early Friday morning (7:30 am) we were back in caucus meetings with varied topics: National Popular Vote, Federal Land and Water Conservation, Voter Registration, more Redistricting, and Gun Safety. This was followed by the Opening Plenary Session, and those of us new to a national convention got to experience 1,000 leaguers conducting business. It was lively, frenetic, rousing, and business got done. But first we heard from Ashley Allison, The Leadership Conference Executive Vice President for Campaign & Programs who spoke to us about Fighting for Democracy in Uncertain Times.
After a lunch break, we were back in the Grand Ballroom for our second plenary where the program for 2018-20, which had been previously presented and discussed, was voted on. We also reaffirmed relevant position statements. . This session included a panel discussion called Election Day: Are We Ready? with panelists Thomas Hicks, US Election Assistance Commission, Sarah Johnson, Associate Director, The Carter Center, and Terry Ao Minnis, Director of Census and Voting Programs, Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago.
That evening began with a hilarious performance by a Second City troop of actors.
The evening caucuses followed at 8:45-9:30: Social Media, United Nations, Voting Methods, Fundraising, Youth Empowerment, and more. Take away: the LWV is attracting some young, vivacious and enthusiastic members who are actively engaging. It was heartwarming.
There was another plenary session that was abbreviated so League members could attend the Rally for Families Belong Together with 10,000 “woke” Chicagoans. It was HOT and HUMID and yet they marched!
Another all-attendee training occurred in the afternoon focused on using the Diversity, Equity and inclusion (DEI) lens to strengthen social impact and collaboration.
At the Saturday night banquet, we were treated to a talk by Elaine Weiss, author of our Larimer Leagues ALL League Read, The Women’s Hour, a riveting recollection of the 1920 decision in Tennessee when women won the right to vote. Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters was also one of the “chief” suffragettes spearheading the campaign for franchise for women.
Sunday morning concluded with early morning caucuses: Civility, Lowering Voting Age, LWV and Girl Scouts, 501(c)3 vs 501(c)4, and Healthcare. Carrie Davis, Democracy Program Director of The Joyce Foundation gave a rousing talk titled Showcasing Our Strength: Telling Our Collective Story. The final plenary addressed budget, bylaws, election of officers, and discussion and voting on resolutions. It is important to understand that Program is an action plan and Resolutions are value statements of resolve. The Resolutions and Program drew spirited and passionate discussion. The Delegation adopted the following Programs:
The Campaign for Making Democracy Work®, which includes a free, fair, and accessible electoral system for all eligible votes by focusing on Voting Rights, Improving Elections and advocacy for the National Popular Vote Compact, Campaign Finance/Money in Politics and Redistricting. The following Resolutions passed by acclamation are:
Support for the ERA, Climate Science, Carbon Emission Pricing and Reproductive Choice. A Gun Safety resolution was submitted after the deadline, but the LWVUS President allowed delegates to vote and pass it overwhelmingly. Another that was approves was support for the Elimination of the Electoral College.
And then we were done and off to our home leagues motivated with ideas. This is just a brief overview – there will be an opportunity in August to meet with the delegates to ask questions and hear more details about the caucuses and convention. Watch for it in the August League Lines. All the speakers were amazing, and the talks are available on the LWVUS website – worth a listen.
The LWVLC attendees were Jane Everham, Jane Hamburger, Linda Mahan, Marge Norskog, Linda Thomas, and Anne Thompson.
P.S. The 2020 Convention will celebrate 100 years of the League of Women Voters, women’s suffrage and Carrie Chapman Catt. It will take place in Washington DC and promises to be quite an event. Mark your calendars for June 2020.