National women’s organization leader advocates electoral process reform

Kay Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States, discussed the need for reform in the electoral process in a lecture at the Hinckley Institute of Politics Wednesday.

“Democracy is at risk today,” she said in her lecture, “Grassroots and Effective Government.”

“We think years of government ‘Band-Aid’ solutions have damaged crucial elements of the electoral system,” she said.

Democracy is at risk when long lines and a faulty process prevent people from voting and prevent good elections from being held, she said.

Maxwell said that polling places have too few volunteers, and the staff is commonly under-trained.

“They do a remarkable job, but the system is failing them as it is voters,” she said.

The organization’s first of three top agendas is to promote reform in election administration. It needs to be run by more professionals, Maxwell said.

“It’s not rocket science-it’s basic management,” she said.

Money is also a factor in reforming the administration.

“You get what you pay for, and we’re paying for our miserly approach to the electoral system,” she said.

This includes the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, including two key elements that protect the rights of minorities to participate in the process.

The second agenda is to stop unethical redistricting.

“Voting districts exist where the outcome of an election is already known before a single ballot is cast,” she said.

Gerrymandering threatens our democracy. The people are locked out when decisions are made not by the electorate, but by the politicians manipulating the electorate, Maxwell said.

The third agenda is to decrease the power of lobbyists and special interest groups.

“He who pays the piper calls the tune,” she said.

There are politicians who have tried to increase the size of contributions lobbyists can make and create more loopholes for contributions, Maxwell warned.

At the end of her comments, Maxwell encouraged U students to volunteer during elections and for women to join the league.

“I think people volunteering at the voting polls is very crucial,” said Sara Jane Niederhauser, sophomore in communication. “People need to get out and help, and that’s something young people can do. Her comments on this really stuck out to me.”

Zoraya Gappmaier, junior in political science, said it was interesting that all the things Maxwell said needed to be fixed should never have been broken.

“The reforms (she suggested) were so standard and basic,” she said. “That’s really sad.”

The League of Women Voters is a bi-partisan educational organization and advocacy group that emerged from the suffrage movement after women were granted the right to vote.

[email protected]