Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sidebar: The League: A short history

Published in the Portland Phoenix

APRIL 2004 After six weeks of prep work, Justin Alfond (who later becomes the full-time state director of the League) and local activist Jo Horn host a League kickoff event, a book launch for How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office, edited by two of the national leaders of the League of Young Voters. Fifty-six people attend.

OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 2004 League members help Falmouth Democrat John Brautigam campaign door-to-door against Portland Republican David Elowitch for a Maine House seat representing parts of both towns. Brautigam wins by 55 votes. (See “The Year in Citizen Activism,” by Alex Irvine, December 24, 2004.)

2005 Members get more involved in local issues, including the Portland School Committee’s debate on whether to ban the distribution to students of fliers from discriminatory groups like the Boy Scouts of America, and a proposal to allow Portland high-school students to remove their personal information from records released to the US military for recruiting purposes. Members also help coordinate the college-campus campaign of Maine Won’t Discriminate, successfully defeating an attempt to overturn the state’s gay-rights law.

FEBRUARY 2006 The Portland group changes its name from the League of Pissed Off Voters to the League of Young Voters, with the intent of attracting more members and more grant funding.

MID-2006 National organizations step up funding to the League, for its efforts in connecting with people who are not registered to vote and getting them informed and voting. The Maine Blueprint Project, a coalition of activist organizations, asks if the League will help fight the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a tax-reform bill, on college campuses. League organizers notice that young people — whether college students or not — tend not to know much about TABOR, and launch a widespread campaign to inform voters and oppose the initiative.

NOVEMBER 2006 City Council and School Committee seats in Districts 1 and 2 are filled by first-time candidates, all four of whom are under 35. TABOR fails. The League claims partial credit for each of those results, even though both successful School Committee candidates beat League-endorsed opponents.

JANUARY 2007 A group of Republican legislators introduces a bill to bar college students from voting in the towns where they live while attending college. The League backs a proposal from Portland Democrat Jon Hinck for “instant runoff voting,” a change to the present electoral system that would result in an election’s winner being the person most favored by the largest number of people. Both bills die in committee.

APRIL 4, 2007 The League is honored at the Maine State House, with a proclamation by the governor as well as resolutions by both houses of the Legislature.

INTO THE FUTURE League representatives may be included in discussions of youth issues with state legislators, nightlife policies with Portland city councilors, and other consultative groups. And the League will work to publicize the requirement that landlords disclose apartments’ energy-efficiency data to prospective tenants.