By Charles Mann, Upstate Action Alliance
Shared in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, 11-04-2021
Congratulations to all the winning candidates in Tuesday’s elections across the county. The City of Spartanburg, with the election of Jerome Rice as Mayor, now has a minority-majority City Council. Rice, Janie Salley, Erica Brown and Ruth Littlejohn now comprise that majority. Also, the City Council has more women than ever before with Salley, Brown, Littlejohn and Meghan Smith. With Rice as Mayor, the City now has its second Black Mayor in its history.
Again, congratulations to all the new and previously elected public servants. With that said, let’s take a closer look at the numbers.
As the founding member of The Upstate Action Alliance I am asking …. "Why did so few citizens participate in our holiest, most scared democratic activity?" The principle of "One Person – One Vote." The principle that that our elders and ancestors died for. The principle of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The principle that people marched for.
As a voting rights organization, we are truly perplexed as to why citizens refuse to exercise this constitutional right and obligation.
While we celebrate the winners of our public discourse, we must also be concerned, gravely concerned, about voter disengagement. This lack of turnout and engagement is allowing a few to determine the fate of the many. In other words, 20,000 voters elected public office holders who will create public policy for over 327,000 residents.
Is this what you want? Is this what our democracy has come to? Have we become so callous, so “I don’t care”, so “my vote does not count”… that we are handing over our future to so few?
Are we better than this? I truly hope so.
I am reminded of a statement from my son. "When people don’t vote, their lives don’t change. When people vote, their lives don’t change. So why should people vote?” Is this what has led our community to a 10% voter turnout? If so, we have a lot of work ahead.
While my organization and I are dismayed at the extremely low voter turnout, we are energized and committed to get more of our citizens willing to take 15 minutes out of their day on Election Day to select their representatives. Our community and our country deserve 15 minutes of your time, once a year, to show up and make a choice.
Too many people have died for our right to vote. It is a dishonor to their lives, their commitment and their dreams for a better tomorrow for us not to show up. And there are so many people trying to make it harder for you to vote. Let me ask you this... If your vote does not count, why are so many people working so hard to take your vote away… to dilute your vote… to minimize your vote? Your vote is important. Your vote matters.
All elections matter.
So, join us to make a 10% voter turnout in our community an aberration. A mistake. Let’s work to make our community, a community that matters. A community that votes.
By Charles Mann, Upstate Action Alliance
Shared in Spartanburg Herald Journal - 2021-04-11
Now is the time to start evaluating Spartanburg's community servants, thinking about elections
This year you will be asked to vote in local municipal elections for Mayor, City Council, School Board and Water Commissioner. Now is the time to start evaluating our potential community servants!!! In all, local elections will occur in 13 Municipalities in the county, including the City of Spartanburg.
The Upstate Action Alliance, a non-profit voter education, voter registration and voter turnout organization, is asking every registered voter and concerned citizen to participate in primaries, runoffs, and general elections. While the General Election is November 2, 2021, a lot will be happening on the candidate front between now and then.
Voters in each of the 13 municipalities will have the opportunity to select who serves their community for the next electoral term. These are the people who will decide how to allocate your local tax dollars, which industries get tax incentives, how much money gets spent on road repair and construction, how county health dollars are spent, what development gets approved for housing, how dollars are spent for local police, and so many other items that touch your lives each and every day.
The Upstate Action Alliance (UAA) believes we, as voters, should select the best persons possible to serve our communities. We believe you should consider their skills, past community involvement, and, of course, their character.
The UAA wants each of us to be proactive in deciding who should serve our community. It is time for us to not accept empty promises, but to tell those who want to serve, what we WANT. So, after researching what other communities have done to select their community servants, we would like to propose candidates possess the following:
It seems simple, but it is key to the character of any public office holder. And it should be evident in their actions and their intellectual approach to the issues in the community.
A public officer holder is a REPRESENTATIVE OF ALL THE PEOPLE, not just a champion of special interest groups. A good candidate is one that has and displays a balanced view of our community. For example, a good candidate/servant understands the value of the new housing development, but requires builders provide sufficient affordable housing in their developments. Or someone may support vital street infrastructure while understanding the need for alternative transportation.
Committed to the Job
Doing the job RIGHT requires a community servant to dedicate time and energy. This includes, first, being responsive to their constituents, not just to some, but to all. Commitment also includes attending meetings, reading volumes of materials, and speaking up on community issues when they arise.
A good community servant should serve the public interest, plain and simple. If the person is agenda driven, power-hungry, or captive to special interests, this person may NOT perform their duties with integrity for the overall community now and in the future.
Does this person have the experience in their work or civic life that lends itself to the position? Does the person have the knowledge and the intellectual curiosity to be an effective community servant? Is this person really ready and prepared to take on the important and significant issues facing our community?
Above all, this community servant must have the personal traits and qualifications to deserve the support and vote of the electing public. Can this person WIN an election? Can this person raise the necessary funds to finance a campaign?
A good community servant is one who can communicate ideas and concepts clearly and concisely to their constituents, other colleagues, and the community-at-large. These skills must be both written and oral. Additionally, Covid has taught us that community servants must be technologically savvy. Does this person understand the need and requirement to function in a technologically changed environment? In today’s world, community servants must be able to operate beyond basic email.
Our community servants should also be AGILE LEARNERS, FLEXIBLE, and GREAT LISTENERS.
As voters, if potential candidates cannot meet the above requirements, should they deserve your support…your contribution…your VOTE?
Our community, like others, is facing tough issues every day. We deserve to have community servants who are up to the task to create a better community for all of us and for our children’s children.
Founding Member, Upstate Action Alliance
13th - A Focus on Mass Incarceration & Voting Suppression
By Charles Mann & Becky Slayton
The League of Women Voters has a nationwide focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), not only in our Leagues, but also in our society. With that in mind, we established our DEI Movie Club as a venue to consider our systems and interactions from a variety of perspectives.
Our first movie was 13th, named since its focus is the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. We watched the movie then met online on March 2nd for a lively discussion. If you weren't able to join us, we've recapped a bit below and you can watch 13th online.
We'd love to hear your thoughts in our private Facebook group: LWV Spartanburg County, SC. If you're a member, just search for us on Facebook and ask to join! Not a member yet? It's easy to join. Check out our membership page.
Film Facts about 13th
Calls to Action
Stay tuned for future DEI Movie Club events and join the conversation about this and other topics in our private Facebook group: LWV Spartanburg County, SC, or in the comments below.
Some Relevant Links:
By Christe McCoy-Lawrence, Co-President, LWV of South Carolina
The SC General Assembly allows everyone to vote absentee in the June primary!
We are tremendously pleased that today, May 12, the House and Senate accepted a free conference report on S.635 that extends excused absentee voting to all voters in the June primary and any runoffs for the June primary.
After several failed attempts to extend absentee voting through other measures today, late in the day both House and Senate accepted a report by the committee designated to work out differences between House and Senate versions of S.635, a bill originally intended to authorize "Drivers for a Cure" license plates.
The crucial language is:
"SECTION 2. A. A qualified elector must be permitted to vote by absentee ballot in an election if the qualified elector's place of residence or polling place is located in an area subject to a state of emergency declared by the Governor and there are fewer than forty-six days remaining until the date of the election."
The amended bill also authorizes election managers to begin the process of examining return-addressed envelopes of absentee ballots on the day before the election, which will help to alleviate time pressures brought both by the new voting system and by the vastly expanded pool of those voting absentee by mail in this election.
No one should underestimate the dedication and persistence of our legislators and their staff attorneys in making this happen for the voters of South Carolina. Conference committee members who worked out this solution were representatives Gary Simrill, Todd Rutherford, and Gary Clary and senators Brad Hutto, Chip Campsen, and Shane Massey. However, it took the willingness of all to bring this to completion in the very short time available. We hope that League members will be quick to thank their legislators for doing the right thing for SC voters during this dangerous pandemic.
The full text of the bill is at https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/bills/635.htm.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Our members, our local Leagues, are greatly to be acknowledged for the work done to make this happen!
To request your absentee ballot by mail, complete the online application or call your local election commission. This permits the use of "State of Emergency" (reason 18) to qualify citizens for absentee voting whether or not any of the other reasons apply.
By Karen Mitchell, LWVS President, 2019-2020
You want to help move our democracy forward. You keep thinking, “What else can I do?”
What if you decided to be a POLL WORKER? You would help people to vote and get paid for doing it. YOU ARE NEEDED.
We will be using a different voting machine beginning in the November 5th elections. Why not attend the training and learn how they work? Then you will be ready to work at the polling places. After that, you’ll be ready to help with these elections in 2020:
Our local Voter Registration and Election Office needs trained poll workers (called managers most of the time). You get paid $135.00. You can do some online training and/or in person training. This will be probably be done sometime from mid-September to mid-October this year.
Working the polls is a long, tiring day, no two ways about it, from 7am to 7 pm. The reward is that YOU have done one more thing to help our democracy work!
Having worked as a poll manager, let me say that it feels good to have helped democracy work. You see and meet all sorts of people, all of whom want to vote and be heard. Help them make it happen - Be A Poll Manager.
Call 864-596-2549 to get more information from the Voter Registration office.
By Keziah Washington
Today’s youth have a major responsibility that is being ignored and taken for granted: voting. Many people today are not taking the time to watch the news or figure out who is representing them. With all of the technology available lately, being informed about the society we live in is even easier than ever. Knowing this, the fact that we, as American citizens, don’t care enough to put in the small amount of effort needed to check voting polls and listen to the people who represent us is simply sad and very unacceptable.
Though it may not seem like it, voting affects everyone, no matter what. Wouldn’t you like to have a say in the laws that you have to follow or the decisions made about problems in the community we live in? These things can change your life in as little as a second and it doesn’t matter if you like it or not because, by not voting, you are preventing yourself from having a say in how you live. No one wants all of their decisions made for them without being able to give reasonable insight to those making the rules for them.
When was the last time you watched the news? For many people, the answer to this question will be “I don’t remember” or “It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to pay attention to the news.” This is a huge problem in society today. The feeling of wanting to be involved and informed has withered away. Some find the news to be pointless, sitting only for a few moments and being the most unentertained they have ever been. Others simply think the world is too cruel and don’t want to sit through news about the sad things happening around them. These reasons are common in everyone around us, but they still are no valid reason to remain uninformed.
As I stated, today’s technology offers multiple ways of staying connected and informed. Even so, we still choose to stay disconnected with our representatives and political issues. What is the reason for this? Could it be as simple an answer as laziness? Maybe. There has been a decline in voter participation* and it needs to be resolved. We aren’t benefiting from sitting at home. We have to go out and put in the effort to make a difference in our everyday lives.
If we do not make an effort to vote, we will eventually lose our voice completely. This can be prevented if we, as US citizens, take the time to get informed and care about what happens in politics. Teens are the main source of this change since they will be the ones who are voting for what happens in the future. Knowing this, teens need to become more consistent in watching the news and paying attention to the people who represent us. If teenagers take the time to do this, it would make a huge difference.
*For data related to civic health and voter participation, visit Spartanburg Community Indicators Project’s Civic Health web page.
By Linda Powers Bilanchone,
Past-President, League of Women Voters of Spartanburg County
On Saturday, May 11, from 8:30 am to noon, the League of Women Voters of Spartanburg County is offering a free workshop on how to run for an elected office or get appointed to an appointed office. The workshop, “Ready..Set...RUN!!!” will take place at the downtown campus of Spartanburg Community College, 220 East Kennedy Street, Spartanburg; it is non-partisan and open to the public.
Democracy is about the people’s choice. Elections are about the people’s choice. But how can the people choose if there is only one candidate for an office?
When you think of the League of Women Voters, you probably think of members finding a variety of ways to get people registered to vote and then another effort to get them out to vote on election day. Yes, that is what we do year in and year out. However, registering and voting is only meaningful when the voter has a choice! And, of course, the choice comes when two or more candidates offer for the same office. Then the voter has a choice!
If we are to honor the notion of choice, then we must find more candidates to run for office. So, another way to make democracy work is to urge citizens to consider running for office – local, state and national. People choose from a variety of ways to be of service to their community. One very significant way that is often overlooked is running for public office. I say running for public office because that is the only way you can win! And even if you don’t win, you have given the voting public a choice and that is very, very important. And, you might find that it is an enjoyable way to be of service. The truth is that you don’t always have to run for office; you can be appointed and for many future elected officials, being an appointed official is the way they get started. The City of Spartanburg has a number of boards and commissions to which you can be appointed; the County of Spartanburg also has boards and commissions to which you can be appointed --- and they deal with a variety of different subjects --- human relations, building regulations, historic preservation. You name it! I bet you can find something you would enjoy doing. You can go to the city’s website or the county’s website to see what might be available. And, by available, I mean that you will find that not all seats on every board are filled; the City Council or County Council has not been able to find anyone to fill that position. Maybe it could be you. It might be just as simple as letting your City Council representative or County Council representative know that you would like to serve.
Now, running for an elected position is admittedly a bigger commitment. You will probably have to raise some money and put together a team to help you educate the voters in your district about who you are and what you intend to do as an elected official. But that doesn’t need to be extensive or expensive – especially in a local race – and it is entirely within the range of possibility. In fact, it can be enjoyable. If you enjoy talking to your neighbors and friends, you will probably enjoy campaigning – especially, if you can find a good and trusted friend who will “run” the campaign for you leaving you free to interact with potential voters.
Furthermore, being in appointed or elected office is a continuing education for you. You have an opportunity to learn about the subject matter that your board handles; you learn about how the local government works; you might even get interested enough to run for a higher office! Of course, with most boards and commissions, there is no salary for those who serve, but sometimes there are trips to other places to learn new ways of doing things or a small expense stipend. And, surprisingly, there are salaries in some cases --- City of Spartanburg Commission of Public Works and the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District board are examples of boards with salaries; school boards are an example of boards without salaries.
The League’s workshop on May 11 includes a presentation on opportunities for appointment and how to run for office as well as a keynote address by Hope Blackley of Congressman Timmons’ office. Come on out; this is an opportunity for you to help give people a choice in our elections!
This FREE workshop is non-partisan and open to the public, but to be sure necessary materials are on hand for you please register at EventBrite.
On November 11, 2016, a fountain at Spartanburg Water in downtown Spartanburg, SC, was dedicated to long-time LWVS member Linda Powers Bilanchone to commemorate her 24 years of service as a Commissioner of Public Works. She shared the thoughts below on that occasion.
Women Hold Up Half the Sky
An old Chinese proverb asserts that women hold up half the sky and that truth has motivated women around the world to tackle the struggle to claim their place in decision-making and leadership. American women have struggled to be represented in the chambers and halls and small, undistinguished meeting rooms where governance decisions are made and our community’s future is decided. For Spartanburg women, that began with the Spartanburg Women’s Political Caucus in the 1980s. We met and plotted and planned and ASKED women to run for office. Sewer Commissioner Barbara Barnes and I met in the Caucus. Then in the 1990s, there were the Daughters of Susan B. Anthony who met and celebrated the success of elected and appointed women.
Some of us took the quest statewide by establishing and serving as leaders of the South Carolina Advocates for Women on Boards and Commissions. I have two strong memories of those years.
The LWVS Blog is authored by members of the League of Women Voters of Spartanburg County with a central editor.