Author Archives: Sondra Cosgrove

About Sondra Cosgrove

Executive Director Vote Nevada

January 18, 2021 Update

Vote Nevada Supporters,

I wanted to provide some important updates. 

I spent some time today thinking about Dr. King’s legacy of selflessly giving to his community and our collective history. Under the continuing pandemic conditions, many of us are following his example by allocating more time to community service to address immediate emergency conditions and to cope with the long path of recovery ahead.  We have a bit to go before we leave this chapter of history behind, but I know we can make it if we do it together.

Please be sure to reach out to your health care provider if you need mental health help. Our brains need some extra TLC right now.

The legislative session starts on February 1st, but the Legislative Commission and the Legislative Commission Budget Subcommittee start meeting tomorrow.  These important pre-session hearings will indicate where the greatest need is for each of our public agencies.  Because these hearings will set the tone for the rest of the session, I will be watching.

If you would also like to watch either the live hearings or the hearing recordings once each post, you can do so from the Events page on the legislative website: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Calendar/A/

I am offering two more training workshops, via Zoom, to prepare for the session:

Effective Legislative Communication Strategies on January 30th, via Zoom, 9-11 am.

RSVP here: https://actionnetwork.org/events/vote-nevada-effective-legislative-communication-strategies/

Training on using the new version of NELIS on the legislative website on February 6th, via Zoom, 10-Noon am.

RSVP here: https://actionnetwork.org/events/vote-nevada-supercharge-your-legislative-advocacy-with-nelis-training/

And our February monthly meeting will focus on how we can better support our veteran community on February 27th, via Zoom, 9-11 am.

RSVP here: https://actionnetwork.org/events/vote-nevada-veteran-services-whats-missing/

Sondra

Vote Nevada: Checking In

Vote Nevada Supporters,

This has certainly been a difficult week.  We started with a well-run, highly-engaged demonstration of democracy in Georgia, but then we experienced another tragedy in the form of a devastating attack against one of our civic institutions.  Our nation and communities are strong, but the weight on our mental health, which is already overtaxed by the pandemic, felt particularly heavy this week.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing a mental health need, please contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness for support and help: https://naminevada.org/

Mental illness is no different than any other ailment, you have a right to treatment, so please reach out for help if you need it.

Some other resources for this week, include:

A webinar on economic opportunity in 2021 hosted by the Vegas Chamber of Commerce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlekT1DUU8c&feature=youtu.be

New education information on redistricting and using the Representable program to draw communities of interest maps: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMtKvNHC_zo3Q4o6kH04VlI4eaNPAfnB-

If you are interested in contributing a community of interest map, you can watch a Zoom training session and find the Vote Nevada account link for Representable here: https://vote-nevada-blog.org/redistricting-resources/

I was on a KNPR panel on 1/8 to discuss what Nevada can expect from the new administration and Congress in 2021, you can listen to the recording here: https://knpr.org/knpr/2021-01/dc-riot-new-president-and-senate-what-can-nevada-expect

There are ways to address needs outside of workforce development, such as mental health reforms, so do not worry too much about what panel members say about the legislative session.  We have many opportunities to work on our issues.

Related to this, Vote Nevada will soon offer opportunities to join our Advisory Board as committee chairs.  Joining the Advisory Board will include leadership training and issue advocacy guidance and support.  As soon as we have this opportunity finalized, I will send out process guidelines and forms.

We have monthly Zoom meetings planned for the 4th Saturday of each month, except for this month.  You can RSVP for our January 16th Advocacy During a Budget Crisis, via Zoom, 9-11 am, here: https://actionnetwork.org/events/legislative-advocacy-during-a-budget-crisis/

Save the dates for our upcoming Zoom meetings:

February 27th, 9-11 am: Veteran Services: What’s Missing?

March 27th, 9-11 am: Providing Access to High Paying Jobs

April 24th, 9-11 am: Why are the birds starving? Gathering Evidence of Climate Change in the Desert

May 22nd, 9-11 am: Redistricting Software Training

June 26th, 9-11 am: The Status of Mental Health Care Reform

July 24, 9-11 am: Election Reforms: Ranked Choice Voting and Open Primary Systems

Stay in touch through our social media accounts:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VoteNevada21

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VoteNevada21

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/votenevada/

Blog: https://vote-nevada-blog.org/

Let’s take care of each other,

Sondra Cosgrove

Executive Director Vote Nevada

Vote Nevada Pre-Legislative Update: Pandemic Conditions Call for Unconventional Strategies

Vote Nevada Supporter:

If you remember the painfully slow recovery after the Great Recession, what we are hearing now about the upcoming legislative session sounds very familiar.  Legislative leadership has announced that due to the pandemic-caused revenue collapse to not expect bills with fiscal notes or any “heavy lift” policy reforms. 

For me and I am sure for some of you, this message triggers the usual frustration that comes with the snail’s pace of reform inherent in our normal biennial legislative sessions, while also compounding a COVID sense of panic as we face 120 days of bad news.

We must do something to help our most vulnerable community members who simply have no time left to waste.  Doing nothing is simply not an option, but what options are available?  

We can certainly track and advocate for all bills that specifically address our issues this legislative session.  To not lose time, however, we must also break down what we would like to accomplish into smaller, individual components and identify all bills that advance any part of our outcomes.  This will require a deeper than usual analysis of legislation as we search for individual trees in a very crowded forest; but if we are determined to make progress, reading every word of every bill is a necessary strategy.

If we engage in this way, determination will hopefully lead to collective creativity.  By identifying our desired outcomes down to their very essence, we may also find alternative modes of transmission to arrive at those outcomes. 

We could possibly overcome our dilemma by finding news methods for traveling from point A to point B.  Legislative bills might be the most efficient method, yet they are not the only means to get from here to there; we have a wide range of public agencies, governing boards, commissions, councils, and private organizations that could also help.

For instance, we desperately need more mental health and social services available for children, especially now under distance learning conditions.  A natural reaction would be, “We do not have funding to address this very real problem.”  Well, do any other governing bodies or agencies already have capacity to address this issue?  Is Nevada’s Health and Human Services agency already gathering data?  Are Nevada’s school districts, county commissions, or city governments looking at solutions?

Are there other ways to pay for these services?  What about Medicaid, federal grants, and private money?

We do have a free community college plan, it is the Nevada Promise program, which ties the federal Pell Grant to community college tuition rates.  But we need to ensure more of our students know about the Nevada Promise program and careers in behavioral and mental health. 

Our Nevada System of Higher Education Regents oversee the Nevada Promise program as well as workforce development initiatives.   So, possibly we could work with the Higher Education Regents, our school boards, and the State Board of Education, in addition to the legislature, to advance this mental health goal.

To make these types of strategies work, however, we will all need to put our heads together to share information.  To help kick things off, I have broken down our goals into components.  And I have added a new tab on our legislative tracking spreadsheet to include out-of-the-box ideas, resources, and pathways.

If you would like to contribute to the spreadsheet, please become a Vote Nevada supporter by emailing: info@vote-nevada.org

Vote Nevada is focusing on assisting anyone living under these conditions:

1.      Mental illness

2.      Domestic violence

3.      Addiction

4.      Homelessness

5.      Trafficking

To improve the well-being of those impacted by these conditions, we must address some root problems.  We can creatively craft solution opportunities for these root problems by weaving together programs and resources:

1.      Workforce development opportunities that include:

a.      Skills training, certificates, and degrees

b.      Access to the trades

c.      Completion timelines between one weekend to two years

d.      Stackable skills that allow trainees to start working quickly

e.      Access to financial aid and affordable higher education

2.      Holistic support services that include access to affordable and reliable:

a.      Housing

b.      Healthy food

c.      Broadband internet service

d.      Technology

e.      Transportation

f.       Childcare

g.      Health care

h.      Mental health care

3.      Advisers who can provide:

a.      Assistance in accessing programs and services

b.      Rapid guidance and answers to questions

4.      Connections to:

a.      Employers who hire based on training and degree completion

b.      Paid internships

c.      Mentoring

d.      Training for writing resumes

e.      Training in industry-specific communication

f.       Training in interviewing  

g.      Training in time management

h.      Assistance with a range of life skills

5.      Social recognition that includes:

a.      Competent and compassionate treatment

b.      The right to live without mortal fear

c.      Self-determination

6.      Legislative and governing decisions based on:

a.      Competent use of data

b.      Modern and easily accessible databases

c.      Identifying sources of collaboration

d.      Transparent implementation of laws and programs

e.      Assessment and evaluation opportunities

f.       Regular and transparent evaluations

g.      Public input per the Open Meeting Law

If you know any agencies and/or organizations already providing these resources or services, please add them to our Solutions Opportunities tab on the spreadsheet. 

We will get there together,

Sondra

Welcome to Vote Nevada

Visit our website: https://vote-nevada.org/

In this new era of virtual tools and capabilities, now is exactly the right time to create a more inclusive and state-focused working group. Unlike other civic-engagement organizations, Vote Nevada is completely dedicated to Nevada and under no obligation to align with positions set by outsiders.  Instead, we hope Vote Nevada will develop organically and over time into what Nevadans need to make our state a better place.

Consequently, Vote Nevada’s structure is a little different from other organizations.  We have a small governing board to exercise fiduciary responsibility for maintaining compliance with all laws as well as an advisory board for community members who are interested in shaping our direction. Based on the needs of our supporters we will also create committees to work on projects or issues. 

An additional way Vote Nevada will be different from other civic engagement groups will be our approach to issue advocacy.  Our governing board will adopt a set of issues that supporters may help to advance and we will have a process to assist community members research and prepare advocacy materials for their own issues.

Two issues that have been adopted by our governing board to date are mental and behavioral health workforce development and redistricting reform.

As these issues will be heard during the upcoming legislative session, we will be offering advocacy training, redistricting software training, and mental and behavioral health information sessions soon. If you are interested in these two issues, please indicate so on the survey at the end of this message.

Embedded in all we do will be an emphasis on community education.

We sincerely hope Vote Nevada will reflect the needs of Nevadans, from leadership mentoring to workshops on running for office or managing a ballot question, to community outreach on diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

While our 501c3 status will require some legal restrictions, if we can accommodate our supporters’ civic engagement and community improvement needs in any way, we will try.

I will be adding more detailed information to our website and blog this weekend and will send another email as soon as that information is available.

In the meantime, please accept our invitation to a holiday party on December 19th 11 to 1 pm, via Zoom, RSVP: https://actionnetwork.org/events/vote-nevada-holiday-party/

Survey: https://forms.gle/RBfrrRjbqjLvz3Z8A

Sondra Cosgrove

LWVSN & LWVNN Status

League Supporters,

Today the LWVUS removed recognition from LWVNV, so our state organization no longer exists.  The letter informing our LWVNV Board of this action provided no information on the status of local leagues.  We, therefore, have no information about what this action means for LWVSN or LWVNN.  This continues the communication problems we have had with the LWVUS Board since this summer.

Our LWVNV Board will meet today to discuss our next steps.  Many of our board members will be leaving League to start a new nonprofit called Vote Nevada.  This new organization will be Nevada-specific and will only be accountable to Nevadans. 

If you would like to continue with your membership in League, the LWVUS Board sent you a separate email inviting you to discuss the future of League in Nevada.   Please attend that meeting.

If you would like to become a Vote Nevada supporter, please email sondra.cosgrove@gmail.com to let us know that we can add your email to our new list.


Sondra

Why is the League of Women Voters US disbanding the League of Women Voters of Nevada?

League Supporters,

The League of Women Voter US has decided that I am an unfit state and local president and if League of Women Voters of Nevada and of Southern Nevada are to continue, I must subject myself to censorship of my political speech and associations.

If I reject these offensive dictates, the LWVUS will disband the League as an organization in Nevada.  While this pains me, I must reject the charges and remedies and have decided to speak out rather than continue negotiating with an organization that refuses to act in good faith.

I began attending League of Women Voters of Southern Nevada meetings regularly about twelve years ago due to the organization’s academic foundation.  Instead of advancing partisan positions, the League arrived at positions through processes very similar to what we use in academia.

Meticulous research, sound argument construction, and strict rules for determining the reliability of evidence were all the hallmarks of the League’s approach to civic engagement.  The organization consistently stayed true to these processes and stood its ground when pressured from the outside.

This is also why I was happy to accept an offer to join the LWVSN Board and then eventually to become its president. I subsequently agreed to be president of the state-wide League of Women Voters of Nevada (LWVNV) as well.

Unfortunately, the LVWUS is drifting from this foundation and appears to be aligning with partisan partners.

This started in September of 2019, when the LWVUS announced its People Powered Fair Maps campaign to enact redistricting reform in all 50 states.   The LWVNV decided to run a ballot initiative to add an independent redistricting commission to our state’s constitution.  We received grant funding from the LWVUS as well as financial and legal support from RepresentUS and strategy help from RedRock Strategies, a local consulting company.  

In the past, LWVNV has partnered with Democratic organizations and consultants to stop voter ID legislation and to pass an automatic voter registration ballot question and in those instances no one in LWVUS commented on our coalition partnerships.

A reverend in the progressive community and an attorney associated with our Governor sued to stop our ballot initiative.  In response we agreed to change our ballot initiative’s summary statement to meet the plaintiff’s complaints, yet the attorney and his client refused to follow the judge’s order.  Instead, they frivolously appealed the case, after prevailing, to the Nevada Supreme Court. Yes, they appealed the case after winning. 

In that appeal’s briefing documents, the attorney stated in plain language that our ballot initiative should be stopped because the Democrats have a right to draw friendly redistricting maps. To be very clear, the courts have never ruled that either political party has a right to gerrymander.

The pandemic lockdown made it impossible to gather signatures to qualify our ballot initiative through the normal means and the Governor refused to issue an emergency order to allow us to use electronic signatures.  We use electronic signatures in Nevada for voter registration and the Attorney General’s office was fine with the Secretary of State’s office adding electronic signatures as a method for curing mail-in ballots for our primary.  Yet the Attorney General’s Office and the Governor’s Office argued that the electronic signature process is open to fraud and so was not acceptable for our purpose.

Ultimately, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the appeal against the lower court ruling lacked merit and it was dismissed, but by that point we had allocated all our resources for litigation and our time had run out.  Due to this use of the legal system to stop voting on our redistricting reform ballot question, I co-authored and authored two editorials presenting the facts of the matter.  This included criticism of the Democratic Party because using frivolous lawsuits to stop a direct democracy process is wrong.

LWVUS reprimanded me and told me someone had complained about me.  I was told that my redistricting coalition partners were not acceptable and my friendship with our Republican Secretary of State was a problem.  If I wanted to continue as the President of the LWVNV and the LWVSN, the LWVUS Board demanded that I submit all my communications as president to the LWVUS Board for review and that I follow political directives from the LWVUS newly hired political organizers. 

I was told that my Fair Maps coalition demonstrated that I have a bias against communities of color, so I will be required to work with LWVUS approved coalition partners in the future.  No Republican groups are included.

I have repeatedly requested to know the identity of the person or persons who complained about my conduct, but the LWVUS Board refuses to reveal that information.  This denial of basic due process rights is unacceptable. I have a right to know my accuser(s) and to directly address their accusations.  My right to defend myself has been denied.

Our three LWVNV Boards agree that it is unacceptable to have my political speech censored and I will not be told I cannot join in coalitions with certain partners.  I am a tenured college professor who values free speech and I work with groups in both political parties as well as with many individuals who are nonpartisan.

As for my criticism of Democratic leaders, I am following the LWVUS Policy on nonpartisan action:

https://www.lwv.org/league-management/policies-guidelines/nonpartisan-policy

The LWVUS uses this policy, yet denies me the power to also claim its authority.

For context, the LWVUS Board regularly issues press releases critical of the Republicans.  Just this month they called Republicans in Texas unAmerican.  Yet the LWVUS Board asserts they are within the policy because they do not use the words Republican Party; yet, in argument construction, action and agency remain, even in the passive voice.  Every action has an actor regardless of whether the actor is included in a sentence.

https://www.lwv.org/newsroom/press-releases/lwv-intervenes-protect-more-120000-voters-texas-drive-thru-polling

Further, why was Texas the target of LWVUS attention in this election, but not New York?

Ultimately, if I refuse to accept restrictions on my political speech and on my political associations, the LWVUS Board will disband the League of Women Voters chapters in Nevada.  But, my integrity is on the line, so I have no choice but to reject these undemocratic dictates and the LWVNV Boards support me.

This is a sad moment, but not an unusual historical occurrence.  Women’s history is full of splits and acrimony when one group decides to affirm the status quo and rejects all other viewpoints.

If you have questions, please ask me directly.

sondra.cosgrove@gmail.com

Sondra

Secretary of State Announces Completion of 2020 General Election Canvass

Post Date:11/24/2020 10:35 AM

Secretary of State Banner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer A. Russell
(775) 684-5793
SOSPIO@sos.nv.gov

(Carson City, NV; November 24, 2020) – Secretary of State Cegavske announces that the official canvass of the 2020 general election has been completed and the Governor’s office has been notified to prepare the Certificates of Election.

“I’d like to thank Nevada’s election officials for their dedication to providing a transparent and fair election” said Secretary Cegavske. “I am also thankful to the Supreme Court for allowing us the use of their chambers today and to the Justices for taking the time to participate in the canvass.”

The meeting of the Presidential Electors is scheduled for December 14, 2020.

Training: Legislative Advocacy During a Budget Crisis

SAVE THE DATE

Join the League of Women Voters of Southern Nevada on January 16th, 9-11 am, via Zoom, for our 2021 legislative advocacy training. We all know that money will be in short supply in the upcoming session, so we’ve invited Ellen Spiegel to share her experience and strategies for effective advocacy during a budget crisis.

RSVP: https://actionnetwork.org/events/legislative-advocacy-during-a-budget-crisis

Secretary of State Cegavske Issues Statement Regarding Post-Election Certification Process

Post Date:11/17/2020 10:06 AM

Secretary of State Banner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer A. Russell
(775) 684-5793
SOSPIO@sos.nv.gov

(Carson City, NV; November 17, 2020) – Secretary of State Cegavske issues the following statement regarding Nevada’s post-election certification process:

“I have not spoken with Senator Lindsey Graham or any other members of Congress regarding the 2020 general election in Nevada or my role in the post-election certification process.  Under Nevada law (NRS 293.395), the Secretary of State plays only a ministerial role in the process of certifying election returns.  Nevada’s election returns are certified by the county commissioners in each of Nevada’s seventeen counties.  The returns are then summarized in an abstract of votes, at which point the abstracts of votes are certified by the seventeen county election officials and transmitted to my office.  I then present the abstracts to the members of the Nevada Supreme Court who canvass the votes for federal, statewide, and legislative offices.  At no point do I, as Secretary of State, have the authority to certify or not certify election results.  Ultimately, it is the Governor who declares the outcomes and issues certificates of election.”

 ###

LWVN Post-Election Update

League Supporters,

Now that the general election is done, I would like to express my gratitude to all our election officers and poll workers.  Despite our pandemic conditions and emergency changes, we made it through with flying colors.  In the coming days, we will hopefully receive this election’s data to determine if we need to make any tweaks in the 2021 legislative session.  But for now, let’s celebrate!

As we pivot toward the 2021 legislative session, if you are interested in pre-session preparations, which will begin soon, please let us know by completing this form: https://forms.gle/hPCT8exLN44PYJeH6

The Legislative Counsel Bureau has purchased redistricting software that includes a public map-drawing tool, so I reached out to Dr. Sam Wang at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project for assistance. He has introduced us to some Princeton graduate students who have agreed to work with us to offer trainings, via Zoom, on using this public tool.  We will offer these trainings from mid-January to mid-February. You can sign-up for the trainings here: https://forms.gle/hPCT8exLN44PYJeH6

Additionally, Dr. Wang put me in contact with Princeton undergraduates who have created a free software tool that allows anyone to use Census data to create “communities of interest” maps.  This will allow Nevadans to self-identify their own neighborhoods as communities of interest on maps that we will share with legislators.  We can start offering training on using this software, which is called Representable, in December.  You can review the program here: https://representable.org/

You can view a demonstration of the program here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l55X2BaFJz0

If you are interested in Representable training, please let us know here: https://forms.gle/SwGVeheN5RUW1Cqw7

Lastly, we are very excited to announce a civic engagement partnership with the Las Vegas Aces basketball team.  Our first partnership event will be December 19, 2020, 11 am to 1 pm, via Zoom.

The League of Women Voters of Southern Nevada is hosting a Holiday Party on December 19th and our special guest is Aces player Carolyn Swords.  During our first hour we will be looking forward to the year to come, including legislative opportunities, as well as looking back at our successes from the year past. 

We will then chat with Carolyn about this partnership and a book the Aces players read in the lead-up to this election.  The book is Democracy in One Book or Less.  Anyone who would like to read the book beforehand, which is not necessary, can find it on Amazon in many different formats: https://www.amazon.com/Democracy-One-Book-Less-Doesnt/dp/0062879367

If you can join us for this Holiday Party, the public is invited to attend, please RSVP: https://actionnetwork.org/events/lwvsn-holiday-party/

Please stay safe and secure,

Sondra