E-Catalyst February 2021

Greetings all,

We hope that you are all doing well and that some of you have already been able to receive vaccinations.

We want to remind you that we have changed our calendar of dues.  Membership is now yearly from January 1 to December 31.  Please remember to pay your dues.  If you’d prefer to pay by check, make it out to: 

League of Women Voters Northfield – Cannon Falls
Addressed to: LWV Treasurer, P.O. Box 527, Northfield MN 55057.

If you have questions about what you owe, please email us (pjohnson2@udayton.edu or adrienne.falcon1@gmail.com.) 

Keeping everything functioning has been a task.  We are thankful for those who have stepped forward to join the Board and help with projects. We continue to highlight new board members in this issue of the newsletter.  

The Program Planning Meeting on February 1, 2021 was very productive.  Thanks to all who attended.  In this newsletter, we focus on plans for the upcoming year.  We hope some of you will volunteer to help with one or more of these projects

New Board Members

 Helene Haapala  writes: “I’ve been proudly and actively involved with the Northfield-Cannon Falls League of Women Voters for about 15 years.  I stay involved because “the League” works on many issues important to me personally such as community engagement, voter education and involvement.  Currently I’m working with some amazing students as we first educate ourselves and others in our community about what the local police procedures are. And then to get more information on how all in our community perceive and experience interactions with law enforcement.  “The League” is all about trying to empower and increase citizen participation in our communities.” 

Program Planning

The Program Planning meeting focused on redistricting, policing practices, voter services, and observer corps possibilities in Rice County.   Reports were also received related to work at the State level on climate change and firearms safety.

Redistricting: During the Program Planning Meeting we shared the importance of redistricting to the LWV on both the national and state level. At the National Level the League’s position is to promote transparent and accountable redistricting processes and to end hyper-partisan practices that don’t benefit constituents. On the state level the LWVMN has launched People Powered Fair Maps with significant resources for helping local leagues lobby for fair maps and has been lobbying the state legislature to promote changing the law to allow for an independent non-partisan commission to control the redistricting process instead of the legislature. With the lobbying process underway, the LWVMN recommends local leagues to work locally to make positive change on county and city level. This includes recommendations to connect with other civic and community organizations and helping to educate local residents and elected officials. Though county and city redistricting will not begin until early 2022, the LWVMN recommends laying the foundation now to have the most impact. During our breakout, participants inquired into the process on the county/city level — city council and county commissioners draw and vote on boundaries. The recommendation was to focus on driving principles for “fair” maps and also to explore the possibility of encouraging non-partisan committees drawing the maps for both county and city.

Police: The Police Committee continues to advance its efforts researching and providing input on police policies for the city of Northfield. In addition at the Program Planning Meeting, members approved conducting a formal study to develop or concur with positions around policing for our local community and to share them with other efforts in the state. 

To support our study, we have already gathered over 200 survey responses and are in the process of translating our survey to Spanish to better gather information on the whole community of Northfield. We are also interested in gathering more responses from families and are planning to meet with Northfield School leaders to talk about policing and police issues. Two Carleton students have been doing research on mental health and police options and policies as part of their public health course which will contribute to our study.

Looking ahead, the City of Northfield’s task force has just presented their recommendations for police policies to the City Council (February 16th). The new policies can be found in the agenda and the meeting can be observed at https://northfield.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx

Our committee plans to review these policies and meet with the police chief about them and options for improved handling of mental health crises. 

Six of us attended (online) the City Council meeting and we are pleased to see the increased transparency around policies and look forward to reviewing the entire set of policies being available on line later this spring and identifying next steps in our advocacy efforts.

Also as an FYI, the City is considering moving forward and adopting body cameras. If you are interested in this issue, the City Council debated this during their February 9th work session and you can find a link to the video and agenda at the same site. That work will be continuing this spring.

If you are interested in getting involved in this work we welcome you, please contact Adrienne Falcon (president@lwvnorthfieldmn.org)

Voter Services: The voting service program planning group called for increased research and education related to election administration to help reinforce voter confidence, research on the occurrence of felon disenfranchisement in Rice County, and brainstormed ways to keep young people engaged in political processes. Minnesota excelled during the 2020 election in working to ensure voters could register and vote in a safe and secure manner. While many people were able to register to vote online and then vote by mail, the process still incurred a degree of anxiety. Although online and mail registration and voting has the potential to improve democracy by allowing more people to participate, the impersonal nature of the process may alienate voters and reduce their trust in electoral systems. The voter service committee proposes further research to help cast light and confidence on both in-person and remote voting systems. How successful were the local 2020 election administration efforts? What were the rates of ballot rejection? Did voters who chose to vote absentee for the first time successfully navigate the processes? The working group recommended further research on the in-person voting experiences across Northfield and Cannon Falls. Are wait times and voting experiences equivalent at all local polling places, or are there disparities in experience? Are all polling places accessible? Related these calls for increased research and education about the election administration integrity, concerns were expressed about state-level efforts to make voting harder with voter identification laws. Participants also discussed the issue of restoring the vote/felon disenfranchisement and recommended research to identify the extent and nature of felon disenfranchisement in Rice County. Finally, recognizing the wonderful activity of young people in the 2020 election, the group members talked about how to keep young people civically engaged and continually involved in the democratic process. 

Observer Corps for Rice County Government: Many of us do not really know what the county does. This group discussed how LWVNCF might observe government decisions in Rice County. Should we have an observer corps to begin attending county commission board meetings, and taking on a bigger role in county issues, like mental health, redistricting, sheriff dept, and climate issues? It was agreed that a good place to start was to follow the work of the County Commission.  Jane McWilliams is taking the lead in organizing observation of the work of the Commission.  If you are interested in joining this work, please contact Jane at jmcwilli45@gmail.com or Pat Johnson pjohnson2@udayton.edu.

In addition, a student from Carleton who is interested in the redistricting process at the County level was connected with the redistricting group.

Letter Writing: While we did not have a group focus on letter writing at the Program Planning Meeting, we continue to post opportunities for letter writing on the LWVNCF webpage and send these out through email. If you have not already done so, please contact your representatives about the following issues:

  • For the People Act – This legislation will put power back into the hands of American voters by making voting easier and more accessible and by modernizing future elections.

If you would like to help organize materials on a specific topic, please contact Pat Johnson (pjohnson2@udayton.edu). If you are interested in attending a Zoom or Facebook discussion on a topic, please let Pat know that as well.

State Issues

Climate Issues: A new LWVMN task force is being formed on energy and climate. This group will emphasize communicating with local leagues on a climate change position and partnering with other MN climate organizations. Climate and transportation is an especially important issue. Clean water is also important. We need a strong position and statement on climate change in MN. Kathleen Doran-Norton is working on this issue at the State level.  Contact her for more information or if you are interested in helping with this work. (kdorannorton@gmail.com)

Firearms Study Update from Mary Lewis: COVID has had an impact on the League’s Firearms Study Update Committee.  We had hoped, originally, to have our report completed by now, and although some sections were completed in draft form before we took a hiatus, we began meeting regularly again in January and hope to have the report finished and ready for local leagues by September.  Our drafts will be complete by June and will undergo editing during the summer.  We will hold a workshop in August via Zoom for representatives of local leagues, which will give them a chance to have input on the materials they will be using in their local meetings.

The final report will include a section on the impact of the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, which reversed precedent.  In the past, federal courts, including the Supreme Court, had interpreted the Second Amendment as a collective right – the right of the people to form a militia, which translated in practical terms as state guard units.  The Heller decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, judged the Second Amendment to be an individual right, but acknowledged that it is not an unlimited right, leaving the door open for some regulation (places firearms could be prohibited, types of weapons that are legal to sell, etc.).

We have designed a questionnaire for law enforcement leaders around the state and are in the process of conducting those interviews to see how serious the issue of gun violence is judged to be by police chiefs (primarily) and some sheriffs in their own jurisdictions.  (We would like to reach many more police chiefs around the state and would welcome volunteers willing to extend our reach to more of them.  The questionnaire has twenty questions and the time commitment involved would be about an hour: setting up the appointment, emailing the questionnaire, and then discussing the answers over the phone or Zoom. The completed questionnaires are being collated by Marti Micks.)

The study will include a section on significant firearms legislation that has passed, both at the federal and state level, since our original LWVMN 1990 Focus on Firearms. It will also include a short section on new technologies with greater lethality.

There will be a section on the overlap between firearms and the growth in domestic terrorist organizations – now judged to be a much more serious threat to national security than foreign terrorism.  

We have yet to determine how to address the spike in gun sales that accompanied the spread of COVID and the protests that followed George Floyd’s killing, with the not-surprising increase in gun violence and deaths.  The new guns purchased added to the existing stockpile of more than 420 million firearms already owned by Americans – more than enough for every man, woman, and child in the country

Besides welcoming volunteers to extend the reach of our questionnaire to law enforcement, we would be grateful for at least one League member to help Mary Lewis continue her research on changes in current state and national firearms legislation.



MNHS invites LWVMN members to a free, virtual preview of the Extraordinary Women exhibit. This event offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look with Minnesota historian and author Annette Atkins and MNHS Senior Exhibit Developer Kate Roberts.

You can look forward to an engaging conversation about some of Minnesota’s many extraordinary women, their stories, and how they made history.

If you have any questions about the Zoom registration, please contact the LWVMN state office for assistance.

LWVMN Events Calendar – This is a partial listing of events, please go to the LWVMN League Calendar for more events. 

National Issues

The LWV national Healthcare Reform Network invites you and any interested members from your state to explore the possibility of forming an “LWV Rural Affairs Caucus.”  

The “rural caucus” we envision would be modeled on a NYS-level rural caucus established last year — to share experiences and ideas for doing League work in a rural environment, and to offer input and guidance to our state LWV boards about how best to support rural Leagues. Our initial state caucus focus includes healthcare reform in the rural context because the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted our communities, making healthcare reform even more urgent. We also worked on the census together, sharing best practices and resources, such as setting up mobile hotspots for Internet access.  A national rural caucus, once formed, will set its own priorities. 

Please let us know whether you are interested in participating in such a caucus (and getting information and advocacy options from the LWV Rural Affairs Caucus, as they are developed) and/or if you might be interested in helping organize the caucus.  You can respond by completing a very brief webform to indicate your level of interest and to offer any comments or concerns — or by replying to one of us by email.

To entice you to complete the form, we offer to send you 

  • a summary version of the responses offered by rural LWV members 
  • an invitation to an organizing meeting for rural LWV members nationally (by Zoom) to decide next steps

We wish you all good health and hope to see you all in person in the coming year.

Adrienne Falcon and Pat Johnson, co-presidentspresident@lwvnorthfieldmn.org