Episode 58: Fighting for Democracy: The Work of Lucas County League of Women Voters
What happens when you combine the power of women voters with a dedication to inclusivity and advocacy? You get the incredible League of Women Voters, Toledo, Lucas County! We had the pleasure of talking with Anne Fabazac Payne, the organization’s co-president, who shared her insights on the league’s mission and we dove into the new voter restrictions in the state, highlighting hidden barriers like government-issued ID requirements and the need for birth certificates to verify name changes.
00:45 Intro/League Of Women Voter’s Mission
08:21 Barriers To Voting In Ohio
30:10 Education Bills That Worry The League
Ann Fabiszak Payne is currently Co-president of the League of Women Voters of Toledo-Lucas County. Retired registered nurse. Life-long Toledoan.
LWV-TLC is one of the oldest Local Leagues in the State of Ohio. Since 1921, our League has earned a reputation as a highly respected citizens’ organization that researches issues from many points of view and educates the public and decision makers. The League consists of women and men who want to make a difference in our communities, our country, and our world and who care about democracy. We are the original grassroots citizen network. LWV-TLC is a chapter of the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the U.S.
Read full transcript here
[0:00] This is Glass City Humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values, by a humanist. Here is your host, Douglas Berger. Introduction to League of Women Voters Co-President Anne Fabizak Payne
[0:12] What happens when you combine the power of women voters with a dedication to inclusivity and advocacy? You get the incredible League of Women Voters, Toledo-Lucas County. Co-President Anne Fabizak Payne joins us, sharing her insights on the League’s mission and the new voter restrictions in Ohio. Glass City Humanist is an outreach project of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, building community through compassion and reason for a better tomorrow. Our guest today is Anne Fabazak Payne. Introduction to Anne, Co-President of League of Women Voters
[0:48] She is currently the co-president of the League of Women Voters, Toledo-Lucas County. She’s a retired registered nurse and a lifelong Toledoan. The League of Women Voters is one of the oldest local leagues in the state of Ohio. Since 1921, they’ve earned a reputation as highly respected citizens organization that researches issues from many points of view and educates the public and decision makers. Thank you for joining us today, Anne. Thank you for having me. Thank you. The League of Women Voters is known for supporting voting rights. I mean, that’s the whole history of the league. Yes. And also for hosting candidate forums and other discussion group forums for different issues. But the league is much more than that. What else does the league currently do besides the voting rights? We like to, we have an established advocacy agenda. We are a nonpartisan political organization. So we don’t support or work against candidates for parties, but we do have positions on issues.
[2:05] That we’ve come to based on the membership, doing research and discussion and talking about that we want to have a particular position on a particular issue. So we’ve established those at all three levels of the league as many organizations, we’ve local leagues, where I belong, and then there’s a state league, LWV Ohio, and then of course the National League, and each of those levels have positions that have come into being based on research and membership approval or interest. That’s one thing. We, as you mentioned, are interested in helping people understand the electoral process and being involved in democracy.
[2:56] Our whole point is to help people be concerned, educated, and involved voters. And so we do that in a number of ways by registering voters, you know, giving them, helping people get into the system, but being registered and voting is basically your first step. Being active about the issues and understanding the issues is certainly the most important part of.
[3:30] Our responsibilities as citizens. So we publish for every general election, we publish a voter’s guide that’s available on our website. It’s available on vote411.org but with a link, through a link on our website. We publish every year and the new one is out and available, in libraries for free of charge. A booklet that we call They Represent You. It’s a directory of elected public officials in Lucas County. So those are a couple of particular things that that we do, but we also, you know, when we feel necessary to speak out, we speak out as a group, with letters to the editor or testimony at the state house or even locally if there’s something that we feel that we have an agreed upon perspective within our local league that we want to speak out about. So, we hope to be, we want to be, an involved and positive presence in the community. That’s what we try to do. Inclusivity and Positive Presence in the Community
[4:49] And the League has a history leading from the suffrage movement and getting women to vote. But yet you do accept men as members. How important is it for the group to be inclusive? Oh, very important. And we because we we we feel that that we would like to think and we hope we we are doing this well. That we represent, that we are organized in a democratic fashion, you know, that we provide a forum for our members to discuss issues, that we provide educational information by some of our things, our topical Thursdays or issues things. But yes, we want, we think as a broad group, uh as as a broad group nationally by state and locally that, every eligible person should be voting inclusivity.
[5:53] Yes, we we hope that we can appeal to to all Folks that are interested in the same kinds of things that we are interested in, protecting the right to vote encouraging people to exercise that right and encouraging people to to understand what they’re voting for and be educated voters. And one of the issues that the league was known for supporting was getting Toledo to adopt the city manager form of government back in the 1930s. And that was done mainly to address concerns about corruption and not being responsive to the people of the city. Are there any other, are there any local issues currently here in Toledo, in Toledo, Lucas County that the league is working on or looking at. That you can tell us about? There’s many controversial issues, or many issues of interest and importance that are going on. The violence issue, the environmental issue, the lake issue, and we are interested and involved in terms of what our position statements are.
[7:15] We are an organization that is all volunteers. And so we are focused on the things that we can have. Voter Registration and Education Efforts
[7:28] An impact on like helping to register voters, helping the public understand what their candidates might stand for by offering the voter’s guide, helping the public maybe make their own advocacy efforts.
[7:51] Better by using our guide to elected officials. you know, we, and by also having various.
[8:03] Informational programs. As I mentioned a little bit ago, the Topical Thursday program that we had in our general meetings, which are open to members, but anyone who would be interested in finding out more about us could come. We always have a speaker on a topic of concern. You know, as we know, the League of Women Voters, your prime mission is voting rights. And in Ohio, we’ve seen the legislature work harder and harder to try to restrict voting. Can you talk about some of those restrictions and and other issues that we have here in Ohio with voting? Yeah, we just recently, the legislature has changed the way that people are required to identify themselves when they go to vote in person. So either at the early voter time or on election day at their local poll. And ways of identifying yourself may not seem too difficult. They can be, there are hidden barriers, hidden obstructions. In the past, you could use any sort of government issued ID that you had, even a hunting license, or if you were going to a public college, a transcript that showed your name and address. Now, you’re really limited to an unexpired driver’s license.
[9:31] An unexpired state identification, a military ID, and the military ID has to be a US military ID card, an Ohio national ID card, or a US Department of Veterans Affairs ID card. Can’t be a membership to your local VA post, or a U.S. passport or passport card. You know, people seem to think that, well, everybody’s got an Ohio ID. No, not everybody drives. And if your license is suspended, your driver’s license is suspended for some reason.
[10:13] You don’t have it in your possession. And it can be suspended for things like drunk driving, but other things are punishments. Other things that you don’t can be can be be child support or alimony or other kinds of civil infractions other than driving infractions that can result in the punishment of the removal of your driver’s license for a period of time. Difficulties in obtaining an Ohio ID for voting purposes
[10:45] And so then you need to get an Ohio ID. One thing that the state legislature has done that has been good, but it’s not quite enough is that if you are 17 years of age or older, and are using this ID for voting, then you can get it free and that’s great. But in order to get that state ID, you have to prove who you are, that you are a citizen, that you are of a certain age, that you are who you say you are. So you need an official document, a birth certificate. You know, if you’re a person who has changed their name because of marriage and then got divorced, or if your name is different than on your birth certificate, then you would need those papers to verify that. And maybe you have those papers, but likely you may not. Voter ID Laws and Poll Taxes
[11:43] And so then you have to go to the health department usually or whatever government agency has those papers and buy them. And so that charge is a poll tax, essentially, because you need that ID to vote, unless, of course, you have a valid passport. Now, having a valid passport is not a simple thing or a cheap thing either. So that’s not something that would be really readily available. Or if you’ve been in the military and you have a military ID of such. But that is a certain percentage of the citizenry that has that. So there are hidden barriers in these new laws that you think, oh, it’s not a barrier, it’s not a problem. But there are hidden barriers. And so if you don’t have the money to get the paperwork that you need to get the ID, or the time, or whatever, if you’re in a nursing home.
[12:50] You know, and you don’t have an active ID. There are other things, other steps that have to happen in order for this. To occur. Now that’s for in-person voting, but if you do absentee voting on your kitchen table, you can just use either, just use the last four digits of your social security number, which you don’t have to include a picture of your ID or a copy of your ID or anything like that. Not yet, not yet. Not yet, not yet. Exactly. That’s it. What is the next step? I know some states require copies of IDs to be sent with absentee ballots. Exactly, exactly so. Now, maybe this is a good time to mention an organization that, will help you get an ID if you have those problems of locating documents that will help you get the state ID for free. It’s called VoteRiders and they have a website, voteriders.org, and.
[14:03] They will take you to the place to get the ID, they will help you pay for the ID, the documents that you need to get the ID, or even if you have those documents but don’t have transportation, can’t afford a cab or an Uber or off the bus line or whatever, they will even help you do that. And so there’s a phone number and card and, you know, a way to contact them, which you have, I know.
[14:34] So, you know, you might be able to publish that on your… Yeah, we have a link to that website on the Secular Humanist for Western Lake Erie, humanistwle.org on the front page. If you scroll down, there’ll be an icon from the group and it links to their website. That’s very good. And it says, if you need an ID, a state ID, and can’t afford it, go here. Yeah, yeah. That’s just really, that is really a good service. That’s lovely, actually. So those are the kinds of things. and, um… Right now, as you say, we have to be vigilant because things change. Fraudulent Voting Obsession and Gerrymandering Hypocrisy
[15:19] People are obsessed with the notion of, at least, how can I say?
[15:25] They are, at least it seems, obsessed with the notion of fraudulent voting. But I think that is sort of a cover for trying to keep as many people away from the polls as possible. And the idea is not everybody should vote. And that certainly is not the democratic way. Everybody should vote. Right, and yeah, and I have a little story that I wanna add because of, you know, talking about how some of these members of the Ohio legislature are thinking about voting fraud, and saying it’s a big problem, which it’s not.
[16:07] I think 60 people were referred out of 8 million people who voted in the last election in Ohio. Yeah. That’s minuscule, minuscule. And it didn’t affect any of the elections or anything because they got caught. Well, and also, and not to, I don’t mean to intentionally interrupt you, so I wanna hear you. Go ahead, go ahead. But I did an interview on one of the news stations one of the news stations about this information. And I said, because there is no fraud. And then the person after the interview said, well, contacting the Secretary of State’s office, there were 603 cases of fraud in the last election. And I thought, oh no, I should have not said it that way. Because, but there was no explanation. There may have been 603 questionable things, but how many of those people were actually adjudicated? How much of that thing that they considered fraud was actually human error? And how much of it was intentional. Hardly any, as you say, 63 cases in a particular election that had, and I have seen that.
[17:22] That had, you know, no adjudication or three or four people adjudicated. And I’ve seen in the paper, things where, where people who were going to be naturalized citizens, jumped the gun and and registered and voted, and they were forgiven by the Secretary of State and reminded, no, first you take your oath and then you can do it. But that is so wrong. But your story, what’s your story? Well, one of the proponents, one of the person that’s been talking about this most is Theresa Gavirone. She’s a state senator from Bowling Green, District 2, which is just south of Toledo. And in fact, she’s the one that co-authored the voter ID law that restricted that. But an interesting thing about Theresa Gavirone is that she ran for the ninth congressional district in the last election against Marcy Kaptur, or wanted to run against Marcy Kaptur. She eventually lost in the primary to J.R. Majewski. But one of the things that the Republican Party did in the State House was they gerrymandered her district.
[18:43] So that it would go and reach the lake, Senate District Two would reach the lake to Huron, and I think even Sandusky.
[18:53] And so that she would then be in the Ninth District.
[18:59] Technically, Congress people do not have to live in the district they represent. There’s no law saying that they do. However, there is a state law that representatives of the state legislature have to live in the district that they represent. So they gerrymandered her district. She moved to Huron, registered in Erie County to vote, voted in the May primary, May 2022 primary. She didn’t win the primary. So then she moved back to Bowling Green and registered in Wood County to vote and voted in the general election. However, the gerrymandered second district did not become official until the federal court imposed the map on May 28th, 2022. So technically, Theresa Gavirone voted outside her district. And when she did, she technically gave up her seat in the state Senate. And she registered to vote in Erie County under a different name than she used in Wood County, and both registrations were active at the time.
[20:10] You know, wow, and that is just so hypocritical. It’s not even funny. But again, that’s just registration, You know, that’s not you know, she had voted in both places at the same time, That’s voter fraud or could be considered voter fraud. Yeah, Yeah, but it’s just interesting that that a person who is saying oh we gotta have voter id and people should not vote It’s fraud She played the played the game with the system, That is very interesting and I like telling people that story because they just don’t believe it. And if you look at state law, her district where she was living did not exist until after May 28th, and she voted in the primary on May the 3rd. Third. Your story brings up a really important issue for the League of Women Voters and has been, since almost time immemorial, since at least the mid-60s, where we’ve been actively working against gerrymandering, just nationally but certainly in the state of Ohio. And I personally have carried four petitions, five petitions, to get something on the ballot to fix gerrymandering. And we thought we had done it two years ago, well actually four years ago, when we had.
[21:29] Gotten successfully an amendment that would say that had a lot of of caveats or a lot of rules against gerrymandering.
[21:43] And the Supreme Court was supposed to be the final decider. Gerrymandering and its Disheartening Effects on Voting
[21:50] And the legislature simply ignored those rules. So there are continued issues with gerrymandering. You can talk about, as I have been this whole time about citizen activism and citizen information, knowledge, responsibility, voting. Everyone should vote. It should be easy to vote. But if the legislature does redistricting in a gerrymandered way, it doesn’t matter what your vote, when you vote, what you vote. It is very disheartening and discouraging and… You know, it makes, I think, citizens cynical. Connected to that is a bill that is currently in, the legislature about changing the way we do initiative and referendum petitions, especially in regard to constitutional amendments. And our local senator, Senator Gavirone, is the prime sponsor of that bill. It is a wholly partisan bill.
[23:03] And it is saying that in order to have a valid constitutional amendment that would be on the ballot, people collecting signatures on petitions have to win the election by 60% by 60% instead of just the majority, 50% of those elected. Citizen’s Only Method to Correct Legislature Under Threat
[23:29] And there’s a lot of hue and cry about this. That is a totally undemocratic bill. The original bill said that you had to have a certain percentage of signatures in all 88 counties. Counties. The current bill now does say 44 counties, which was the old standard, the typical standard. But this actually prevents citizens from the only method they have at their dispose, that we have at our disposal, to correct the legislature when we disagree with it, it when we cannot correct it by voting the bums out of office, holding their feet to the fire by the ballot. So this is a very…
[24:28] According to our concern in the league, dangerous bill. And we’re working hard against it. And, the complementary bill that is in the legislature is Senate Bill 92, which will allow for a special August election for the citizenry to approve that bill. If it does pass, then it has to be voted on by the citizens. But this General Assembly has just passed a law that there will be no more special August elections because they are too expensive, not enough voter turnout, it’s just a waste of our time, energies, and resources in the state to have this special August election. General Assembly Against Special August Elections for Citizenry
[25:17] But obviously the General Assembly is interested in getting that issue passed and so they’re they’re looking for, they want to pass also that special election amendment for August. Why would they do this at this time? Their argument is so special, special interests, exactly. So special interests who are out of state and have a lot of money will get things on the ballot, like the casino, they use the casino thing, the amendment to self-serving. They had land that they wanted to build casinos on, they pushed this amendment. That was in 2011. And suddenly now. Citizen Initiatives Threaten Ohio Republicans
[26:07] Their hearts are afire to interrupt this egregious use of the initiative, opportunity for citizens. No, this is because people are collecting signatures and the reproductive rights. Amendment to the Constitution. And probably, very likely, people will be putting signatures, in soon, whoever, we don’t know, but probably the gerrymandering issue has not gone away. There certainly will be some citizen action on that soon. So I think those are two issues that the General Assembly is trying to cut off at the pass by trying to get this 60% rule in place. Yeah, and let me add some context to that and why it’s important, especially to somebody like me, a humanist, why it’s important. The legislature, Ohio legislature, has a super majority of Republicans because of the gerrymandering, but because of the initiative ballot issue.
[27:21] They’re afraid of the voters. They’re afraid of the voters changing what they pass, which they can do. We saw that with Senate Bill 5 20 years ago when they tried to prevent union workers from striking, and they did a ballot initiative and had it overturned. So the, So the Republicans do not want to do that. They don’t want to leave anything open that can be overturned. So what they used to do, especially with abortion rights, is they used to put anti-abortion laws in the state budget. And because it was in the state budget, it was not subject to referendum. And they call it the trap laws, they call them trap laws is what they’re called. So they would put in the state budget that a clinic had to have this kind of regulation and state hospitals that receive public money couldn’t enter into agreements for, you know, all this peripheral stuff to make it tough to have abortion clinics open. And they would put it in the budget because then you couldn’t vote on it. The people could not vote on it.
[28:33] And that worked for a time. They see the writing on the wall that abortion rights are popular, you know, there’s no it’s it’s like 59%, 55% something like that So now they know because of Roe v. Wade being overturned and it worked in Kansas They see the writing on the wall that this ballot initiative is probably going to get on the ballot, I’m pretty sure it’s gonna get on the ballot. And so now they are trying to change the rules at the last minute. It’s because they are afraid of the voters and that is dangerous for democracy. Gerrymandering and Lack of Voter Control Endanger Democracy
[29:12] Exactly. That, you know, this very particular issue aside. That is dangerous for democracy because it means that the legislature, which is gerrymandered, which isn’t freely elected, is then has total control over what, over, they can’t be recalled, they can’t, they can’t, their, their actions can’t be corrected by the voters. Voters don’t have, This is the only way in a very gerrymandered state as we live in, the only way the legislature’s, actions can be corrected by the voters.
[29:56] For more information about the topics in this episode, including links used, please visit the episode page at glasscityhumanist.show. And when we were talking earlier before we started recording you were talking about some education bills that are of interest to the league right now. Could you talk about some of those that you’re concerned about? Yes. Yes. I wanted to, there are many education bills in the legislature now, and some of them have to do with students’ rights and privacy, some of them with censorship in a big deal, some of them with how educators are evaluated and how, and of course, you know, the big one about the State Board of Education becoming a cabinet position. League’s Concern about HB10 Education Funding
[30:57] And then funding. And I think the league’s concern right now is the budget, HB10, education funding. What we are hoping will happen or working for happening is to continue the phase in of the fair school funding plan.
[31:20] Couple of years ago, a very large committee made up of educators, legislatures, legislators.
[31:30] Academics, parents, students, was a committee that did a great deal of research about school funding and came up with something that would have satisfied the 27 year old now ruling.
[31:48] Of our state of Ohio that education should be funded by the state government and not relying on property taxes, which creates then poor districts and rich districts. And so the funding should equalize the money available to public schools. And so the plan came to be, There were some adjustments in the plan.
[32:13] By the General Assembly, but they passed it as a trial for two years. And what we’re saying is that now they really need to continue phasing in the school, the fair school planning funding plan, or fully phase it in, which is a more equal funding and creates a more equitable, sustainable formula for funding. Right now what is going on mostly is trying to increase public funds that go to private schools via vouchers. And that is an issue that we, that’s something we take issue with because we believe that public money, tax dollars, ought to support public schools. I mean, it was one of the first things that when the state wrote the Constitution in the very beginning, that they put in, those folks put into the Constitution, that we must support public education. And that is being eroded and has been being eroded over the last couple of decades by folks who don’t believe that public education should. Issue with Public Funds Supporting Private Schools via Vouchers
[33:32] Be something really available, it seems. You know, they talk about public education as funding government schools. These are folks that come from a perspective that the government is always wrong.
[33:45] There is nothing right about government. It should be small. And what government does is is indoctrinate children into.
[33:56] I don’t know, brainwash them and we should actually have a system where children can, choose or families can choose where kids go. And I have no argument with people wanting to have the best possible education they can for their children. But we don’t do that by gutting the the funding that we give to public schools, and share it with private schools. Now the voucher, the new voucher bill that the government is that the governor is for would open up vouchers.
[34:35] To any student in the state, essentially. You didn’t, you wouldn’t even have to be a student who was going to a poor performing public school, however you define that, which again, is a matter of manipulating the definitions and manipulating the words you use to define these schools and manipulating the budget so they cannot be, well, good performing schools. But anyway, you don’t even have to have attended a school like that, which was the original law for vouchers. You don’t even have to have ever attended a public school to get a voucher to go to a private school. And the vouchers will not pay for the entire private education that these schools are asking for. And I have nothing against private schools, but many of them are religious schools. And we have a strong belief, and which is also seeming to be eroded, about the separation of church and state. And also, these bills cover the state, whereas in our 88 counties, many of the more rural counties, 44 to be exact, don’t have access to a private school or a charter school, school, that these kids.
[36:01] And so the public school that these kids have access to is being little by little whittled away in terms of its quality and its budget and its ability to educate students. So that is an issue that we are very much concerned about. The data that exists today shows, at least in Ohio, when they were doing the EdChoice voucher program, that most of the people that took the vouchers could already pay for the private schooling. Yeah. And it was supposed to help minority students, and hardly any of them got them. And like you were saying, the rural areas that are left out, they’re the reason why there was a court case that the school funding formula was was unconstitutional because they had textbooks that were 15 years old at the time. Yes. Because the property values in those areas were so low, they weren’t getting any money to run their school. Yes. Now you wanna take more money away, not to mention they’re thinking about cutting taxes again. You know, I just saw the other day that Ohio has the 45th lowest tax rate in the country. Mississippi and Florida in Competition over Education
[37:27] There’s only 50 states and we’re all the way at the bottom and they still want to cut taxes. Yeah, we’re in competition with Mississippi, maybe, you know? Right, and their schools are not very good and our schools are getting worse. Well, I think, and this of course is the argument that is often used is that public education is, there are two arguments here. Public education isn’t good because of teachers unions, because teachers don’t work. They won’t, you know, they just, they don’t have an interest in the kids or they don’t interested in, I mean, it’s just, they’re interested in striking and pay as though they are making gazillions of dollars here.
[38:17] So there’s that really broad brush of anti-teacher independence and anti-teacher control of their classroom. And the other, and so that trickles down to making public schools illegitimate in some way, that they’re not even trying. And then the other one is that it’s just a viper’s nest of liberal thought, and they’re indoctrinating these kids to hate the US, and it’s like, what? And that leads to a lot of bills in the current legislature that are mostly in committee. They haven’t gotten very far. Those bills that have to do with very specific things.
[39:04] That are taught in schools, you know, and very specific rules about removing DEI considerations. Threats to Democracy in Education
[39:16] For faculty and staff. Where is this coming from? You know, I have my own ideas, but it’s frightening in a sense. I think these are real threats to democracy. Instead of encouraging critical thinking in students.
[39:34] They want to present alternatives that are false, you know, not true alternatives.
[39:42] Okay, and on that note, as we wrap up the interview today, if somebody wants to get involved with your chapter, how would they go about doing that? There, we have a website, it’s LWVToledo, yeah, LWVToledo-LucasCounty.org. That’s our website, and you can join on the website. You can learn more about us. It’s a very interactive and informative website. If you want to know more about education bills, I would urge you to go to honestyinohioeducation.org. That is an organization that we are partnered with, as well as a number of other good government organizations are partnered with, and they are watching. They’re just Ohio. It’s just a homegrown organization. It’s not a national thing. They are watching all of the education bills in the General Assembly. And so if you want more information about these bills, that is a great place to go. Also, lwvohio.org is a great place to go for all sorts of information about issues.
[41:07] That we are involved in or that we’re interested in. And I urge you to do, but please, yes, join us. We need all the help we can get. Join the Effort to Spread Better Information
[41:17] We really are wanting to spread better information, I guess. OK. I really appreciate your time today, and thank you for joining us today, Anne. You’re very welcome. Thank you. Thank you for listening. For more information about the topics in this episode, please visit the episode page at glasscityhumanist.show. Glass City Humanist is an outreach of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie. Surely can be reached at humanistswle.org. Glass City Humanist is hosted, written, and produced by Douglas Berger, and he’s solely responsible for the content. Our theme music is Glass City Jam, composed using the Amplify Studio. See you next time!
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Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley
The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio
This episode by Glass City Humanist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.