The Voter, October 2016 news from the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County

"It is so important for people to understand, to know that people suffered, struggled. Some people bled, and some died, for
the right to participate."

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was jailed 40 times during the civil rights movement

Your ballot makes a difference but you have to register to vote: that's the key message and the title of a recent opinion piece urging people to sign up for the basic right to choose the elected officials who make decisions that affect our everyday lives.

Special thanks to League members Annette Holcomb and Carole Hanaway, who worked together to write and submit this guest editorial, and to The Bellingham Herald
for publishing it.
Tools to help you get the most from forums and debates

At every level of government, candidates participate in debates to help voters understand who they are and what they stand for. Whether you already know who you want to vote for or are totally undecided, watching alone or hosting/attending a debate-watching party, here are tips and other information to make sure you get the most out of the debate-watching experience.

These documents and others are available here: League of Women Voters Debate-Watching Kit.

2016 Presidential Debates

The schedule below was set and announced by the
Commission on Presidential Debates 
September 26, 2016:
First presidential debate

October 4, 2016:
Vice-presidential debate
October 9, 2016:
Second presidential debate
October 19, 2016:
Third presidential debate


Want to find out where the candidates stand? Compare candidates on the issues? Find out who is running in your district? Visit the League of Women Voters'
Vote411 page to find candidates running to represent YOU in 2016. 


Community event of special
interest to League members

Deborah Jiang-Stein

A View From Inside
Jill Bernstein, Co-Chair of the 
Incarceration Prevention 
and Reduction Task Force 
and past president of LWVBWC
will interview 
Deborah Jiang-Stein

Thursday, October 13, 2016 
6:30 – 8:00 p.m. 
Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship 
1207 Ellsworth St, Bellingham, WA 

Deborah Jiang-Stein is 
author of the memoir 
(Beacon Press) 
and founder of 
the unPrison Project, 
a nonprofit serving 
incarcerated women
and girls: 


Rebecca Johnson, Co-President
Judy Hopkinson, Co-President
Allison Aurand, Vice-President
Susan Mancuso, Secretary
Donna Williams, Treasurer
Riley Abel
Kirsten Barron
 Jean Carmean
Amy Cloud
Caroline Correa
Janice Keller
Joy Monjure

Election Forums 2016:
Feel the energy, ask questions, share the experience
By Jill Bernstein 

Saturday October 15th kicks off a big week for our local League.  We have three election forums scheduled and they should all be interesting, exciting and informative. While you can watch the forums on BTV10 or listen on KAVZ and KMRE, there is no substitute for being there in person: feel the energy, ask your questions of the candidates, and share the experience with your League friends.

Join us for the Oct. 15 after party
After the first forum we will be gathering upstairs at Brandywine Kitchen for a no-host lunch. Join us for this ‘after-party’ featuring food, smart conversation and League friends; a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

This is a special event to help welcome our newest members to the League. If you have a friend who is a new member, give them a call and have them join you at lunch. If you are a new member, be sure to join us -- we can't wait to get to know you better. Let us know if you can join us by sending an email to Jill Bernstein at


Co-Presidents' Message:

League is about all of us  

Our League works hard to educate voters in Whatcom County and promote participation in the democratic process.  Not only do we offer voter education as our primary endeavor, but we also model citizen awareness and participation in government.  Each of us plays a part.  

This election year has brought a striking lack of respect for (and by) candidates in the presidential race.  But that disrespect need not poison the entirety of our political landscape.  With effort, we can push back against the breakdown in civility here in Whatcom County.

In our election forums, we carry out our mission not just by meticulously screening questions for fairness and carefully moderating time allotments for speakers, but also by listening respectfully to those with whom we disagree - before, during, and after the forum.  

Whatcom County citizens have come to expect civil discourse and respect for differences at the League’s election forums both from the moderators and from the audience. Come to the forums in person, and let’s help Whatcom County experience the best of democracy. 

Our League’s efforts also extend beyond our county.  Through our volunteer time and our dues, we collaborate with the state and national League to strengthen the democratic process at all levels of government. Here is a news release describing recent League work at the national level that illustrates the power of that collaboration:

Voters, League Prevail in Federal Voting Rights Case
Washington, DC: The League of Women Voters has just won a major federal voting rights case. A federal appeals court blocked the illegal action of Brian Newby, U.S. Election Assistance Commission executive director, who earlier this year unilaterally allowed Alabama, Georgia and Kansas to require voters to produce difficult-to-obtain proof of citizenship documentation when completing the federal mail voter registration form. This action has illegally kept voters from the polls, caused confusion, and threatened the lawful voter registration efforts of the League and other groups.

“With just weeks to go before a critical presidential election, we are grateful to the court of appeals for stopping this thinly veiled discrimination in its tracks,” said Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “We should be making voting easier, not harder. All eligible Americans deserve the opportunity to register and vote without obstacles.”

Aren’t you proud to be a member of the League?  

Judy Hopkinson and Rebecca Johnson


What is the difference between an
initiative and a referendum?

Here’s a helpful way to remember the difference between initiatives and referenda, provided by Kathy Sakahara, Vice President–Advocacy, League of Women Voters of Washington. 

Because the people can initiate legislation, we call this constitutional power the power of initiative. A related power is the power of referendum. The referendum power is used when the legislature refers a law or a proposed law to the people for a vote. 

There are two types of initiatives: 

An Initiative to the People is placed on the November ballot through the collection of signatures. To qualify, an initiative must have valid signatures from 8 percent of the number of voters who voted in the most recent election for governor.  In 2016 246,372 signatures are required. 
An Initiative to the Legislature must also have the same number of signatures, but the next step is different: This type of initiative gets submitted to the legislature at the next regular session in January. 

The legislature can: 

  • Adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law. 
  • Reject or refuse to act on the initiative, which then moves it to the ballot in the next state general election. 
  • Approve an alternative, in which case both the original proposal and the alternative are placed on the ballot at the next state general election. 

There are two types of referenda:

A referendum measure is a law passed by the legislature but referred to the voters because enough citizens signed a petition to review the law. The number of signers must be at least 4 percent of the number of people who voted in the most recent election for governor. 
A referendum bill is a law proposed by the legislature but referred to the voters to determine whether the voters agree that the law should be passed.


WES Continuing the Conversation:
Work continues on equity and inclusion 

On September 23, the Women’s Economic Security Continuing Conversation (WESCC) group met with Dr. Greg Baker, Superintendent of the Bellingham Public Schools to discuss the Bellingham Promise. Dr. Baker shared his experience in working on issues of equity and inclusion in schools in Alaska, Spokane WA and Cambridge MA before coming to Bellingham. In Bellingham, Baker worked to develop a strategic plan that would bring diverse elements of the community together to ensure that all of Bellingham’s children are empowered to develop a passion within themselves and achieve a fulfilling and productive life.  From that work, the Bellingham Promise emerged. 

In the months ahead, WESCC will hear from other individuals and organizations working to enhance equity and inclusiveness in our community. We will meet twice in October at the Whatcom Center for Philanthropy conference room from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.:

October 11 -  Work session: We will adopt a purpose statement and develop a calendar for meetings.

October 18 -  Speaker: Melissa Morin, Whatcom County Health Department. She will discuss relationships between health and other social determinants like income, education, race/ethnicity and gender.  

Submitted by Kay Ingram, WESCC Convener

Healthcare Committee:
Affordable Care Act studies and programs

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has funded hundreds of studies and programs to reduce costs and improve care. To address the problem of avoidable hospital readmissions, the ACA created the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, which adjusts payments for hospitals with higher than expected 30-day readmission rates for targeted clinical conditions such as heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia. Funds were made available for “follow up" of patients after discharge from the hospital. Cumulatively since 2010, the HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation estimates that Medicare beneficiaries have avoided 565,000 readmissions resulting in improved patient care and significant savings.

The Healthcare Committee continues to monitor healthcare issues, legislation and policies. The next meeting is 10 a.m. October 17 at the downtown Community Food Co-op, 1220 N. Forest Street at Holly Street. Joining us will be Susan Eidenschink, who is a LWVWA healthcare lobby team member from the Tacoma Pierce County League of Women Voters. She will describe how the lobbying effort is done and key upcoming health care issues.

Submitted by Karl Kleeman, Healthcare Committee co-chair
The Voter - October 2016 
League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County
Telephone: (360) 734-2366
Mailing address: P.O. Box 4041, Bellingham, WA 98227
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