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Stories From Around the State
Date: 6 PM-8 PM, August 7, 2012
Location: University of South Carolina School of Law Auditorium, Columbia, South Carolina
Event: Reception and Public Forum
Partners: South Carolina Women Lawyers Association
The League of Women Voters of South Carolina culminated its two-year project focusing on the state judicial system's diversity and independence with a public forum entitled "The State of the Judiciary in South Carolina: From Research to Reality." The forum was held on Tuesday, August 7 at the University of South Carolina School of Law Auditorium. Speakers included Senator Larry Martin, new Judiciary Committee Chair and Judicial Merit Selection Commission Vice Chair; Representative Leon Howard, past Chair, South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus; Judge Carolyn Matthews, President of the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association; Robert Wilcox, University of South Carolina Law School Dean; Alice Paylor, South Carolina Bar Association President-Elect; and Charleston School of Law Professor John Simpkins, who presented his research on the state of judicial diversity in South Carolina. The forum was moderated by Charleston School of Law Professor Constance Anastopoulo. The program was free and open to the public, and free CLEs for South Carolina attorneys were available.
By: Cynthia Padera
By: Cynthia Padera
On Law Day, May 1, 2012, the League of Women Voters of Spartanburg County, South Carolina, announced the conclusion of their judicial diversity media competition for area high school students, "PICTURE THIS: The 5 W's of Judicial Diversity — Who? What? When? Where? Why?"
"We wanted to give students the chance to learn about the importance of judicial diversity, so we asked them to explore visually the notion that a diverse judiciary is important to South Carolina because it instills in citizens confidence that the courts are fair and impartial," said Linda Bilanchone, chair of the project for the League of Spartanburg County.
All entries are available on the contest Facebook page. The winning students were featured in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal (online and print editions) during the week of May 28. Ceremonies were held concurrently at the students’ high schools, where they and their principals were presented engraved iPads.Carder Jones, The Scholars Academy/Dorman High School
The finalists for the Strengthening Democracy Power the Vote Award successfully mobilized their grassroots network to promote change in their state or community around priority issues. Leagues showed their commitment to democracy through their voter outreach, education and advocacy.
We received so many excellent applications this year and we want to thank and commend all Leagues for their outstanding and innovative program work. The finalists stood out for their efforts in this award area. Please read about their projects below and use the grid to rank them in order of your favorite project.
Winners will be announced at the 2012 Convention at the Banquet on June 11, 2012.
The LWV of Minnesota has made defeating Voter ID laws their main priority. In 2011 a voter ID bill passed the Legislature and was vetoed by the Governor of Minnesota. The Minnesota Legislature passed a ballot measure to amend the constitution to bypass the veto and this now goes to the citizens of Minnesota to vote on in November. Sixty percent of the population supports the proposal, so the LWV of Minnesota and the 39 local Leagues have been working to educate the public on the real impact of Voter ID. They produced a video to tell the story of voters who would be prevented from voting if this amendment passes titled: “Democracy for All? The Barriers of Voter ID.” Watch the Video on their Website.
The Leagues in Minnesota are utilizing various avenues to spread the word, including leading a voting rights coalition that includes more than 50 non-profit organizations that have signed on to the Protect Our Vote Campaign to defeat the amendment and become part of a trained speakers bureau throughout the state. They are using social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to release 2-minute video clips about the project to expand their network, engage new groups in effort and educate the public to defeat the amendment.
The League of Women Voters of Mobile, AL began its Vote 18 project in March 2010. For the past two years they have worked in the inner city schools to provide voter education to youth and with Welfare-to-Work employment readiness programs to reach additional first-time voters. LWV of Mobile held over 100 different sessions and had more than 2,000 people participate in sessions to help with their voter registration form submissions.
The League also created a “Power the Vote” PSA with student input and voices for use in schools. Students participation was key to having peer voices reach other young people in the community to reinforce the message of “Power the Vote”. The League actively used Facebook and www.Vote411.org to inform voters and were visible in the media by writing Op-Ed articles for the general public titled “Don’t Vote in the Dark”. The Vote 18 project and other voter education work has created energy and buzz in the community for the League which has helped increased its membership numbers and grow its leadership ranks. Find additional information on their website.
The League of Women Voters of Texas’ project “Promote Texas Voting” works to increase voter participation in the state of Texas; which had the lowest voter turnout of all the states in 2010. The League held seminars in 2011 entitled “Engaging Youth Voters” which included a contest at area High Schools to create a nonpartisan PSA. They also created a comic book that explained Texas voting in English and Spanish for distribution this summer (2012). Leagues in Texas are partnering with organizations such as NAACP, MALDEF, LULAC, youth groups and Texans with Disabilities to increase voting in underrepresented communities. They are providing voter education information through Vote411 and the distribution of Voter Guides in both English and Spanish.
The League has been very active in advocating to protect voter rights through efforts to oppose a photo ID requirements and unfair redistricting maps. They have actively opposed Photo ID requirements at the state legislative levels and experienced an initial victory when the federal Department of Justice refused to pre-clear this requirement. They have also been involved in redistricting litigation and have seen court ordered interim maps including some positive changes. Find additional information on their website.
The LWV of South Carolina’s “Save All Votes” voter campaign was kicked off in the spring of 2009 and continues successfully serve South Carolinians whose voting rights are at risk from legislative attempts to enact barriers to voting. The League is focusing on those who are elderly, low-income, disabled, minorities, immigrants and students. LWV of South Carolina has created and organized a partnership of non-profit organizations and community groups whose constituencies include these populations. The partnership’s diverse make-up has enabled a greater outreach effort. They have a very high participation level among SC local Leagues, coalition partners and community groups.
The League is partnering with other organizations to reach a high level of attention to the issues. They have been conducting Statehouse press conferences, writing op-eds and letters to the editor in addition to interviews on radio and TV talk shows. The groups are distributing informational documents and using social media like Facebook to inform and mobilize the public. The League has been averaging one invitation a week from diverse civic groups to attend their meetings and speak on voting rights. Find additional information on their website.member abstract:Vote here for your favorite Strengthening Democracy project!
Professor John Simpkins, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Diversity Initiatives at Charleston School of Law, has agreed to research the state of diversity in South Carolina for our ongoing “Quest for a More Diverse Judiciary” campaign. This project is intended to complement the research completed for our campaign in Kansas by Professor Jeffrey Jackson of Washburn University School of Law.
Initial findings will be shared this summer at a public event (TBA) hosted by the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.
Professor Simpkins is co-founder of the Center for a Better South and a Senior Associate at the Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics, and Public Leadership at Furman University. He also serves as a political analyst with WYFF Channel 4 in Greenville and WCBD Channel 2 in Charleston. He has published essays on South Africa, Southern politics, and African-American culture in the New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, The State, and The Oxford American. Professor Simpkins has observed or served as a consultant in constitution-building processes in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda. He currently serves as a member of the African Network of the International Association of Constitutional Law as well as the American Bar Association Task Force on International Electoral Standards. He serves as a board member of the Center for Heirs Property Preservation, Trident United Way, the South Carolina Aquarium, the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, and the Lowcountry Housing Trust. He also is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Prof. Simpkins received an A.B. in Government from Harvard College and a J.D. and LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from Duke University School of Law.