Lansing, Michigan on October 17, 2017.
The group gathered at the Lansing Center where all participants received a Planned Parenthood Pink T-shirt with the slogan ' Stand Up Fight Back'. The result was a sea of pink throughout the day.
The day had both morning and afternoon breakout sessions, which covered several topics from Reproductive Justice, Sex Ed Laws, Mothering Justice, and Best Practices for Teaching Sex Ed in Michigan. Before lunch, several Democratic leaders joined the group. Together we marched to the Capitol and made our voices known. A few protesters stood along the March route, but no incidents were noted.
The morning breakout session: 'Funding Forward: How State and Federal Budgets Impact Our World', led by Jenny Kline of the Michigan League for Public Policy. Jenny delivered a brief explanation of the parameters of Michigan's budget. She also gave attendees ideas on how to engage in budget advocacy in order to create sustainable changes. Jenny stated that when constituents speak to their Senators or Representatives about the Michigan Budget, they are usually very surprised. Jenny stressed that any state budget should act as a tool for racial and ethnic equity and address: economic security, health, community safety and education. Jenny was clear that a state budget is personal and that it impacts everyone's everyday life.
Since 2010, there has been a major tax shift in Michigan with taxes increasing for individuals and decreasing for businesses resulting in such outcomes as major cuts to K-12, the Flint and Detroit water crisis, a 70% cut in child care assistance, major failings in infrastructure, and skyrocketing costs in higher education. She presented several examples of how proactive actions can save the state money:
Preventative Road maintenance saves 1.5 million per lane mile
Every $1 spent on childcare or family planning will save the state $7 in the future
Cuts in reentry programs has caused a 735% increase in the recidivism rate of formerly incarcerated individuals.
Jenny made her case that Michigan should be investing in its people first and corporations second.
The afternoon breakout session was led by Sharon Dolente, a Voting Rights Strategist for ACLU
Michigan. Sharon led attendees through exercises, which made clear how Michigan stacks up, compared to other states in terms of access to the ballot and voter turnout. Sharon cited the effectiveness of 6 key strategies, which have an impact on voter turnout: 1) Online Voter Registration, 2) Automatic Voter Registration, 3) Equal Access to Ballot Before Election Day, 4) Voter Registration Deadline Less than 30 Days Before an Election, 5) Pre-Registration of 16 and 17 Year Old’s, and 6) Election Day Registration.
Michigan employs none of these strategies, which, in combination with crippling gerrymandering, keeps voter turnout low and the legislature red. Of all of the voting strategies, Online Voter Registration has proven the most effective voting strategy nationwide to increase voter turnout. Currently Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, and West Virginia have Online Voter Registration. Thirteen states have Election Day Registration, the 2nd most effective strategy. Sharon urged participants to learn more about the ACLU's 'Let People Vote' Campaign and get involved.
Connecting with young women was a great part of the day and helped us feel hopeful about the future.