Dr. carolyn V. Brown, who has been serving Alaska as a medical doctor and community activist since 1965, moved to Juneau and got involved in the League of Women Voters a decade ago, quickly taking on leadership roles in the organization. In August of 2012, Brown was elected to the national organization’s eight-member board. A reception was held in Brown’s honor Friday evening in the Lt. Governor’s office.
At the time of the announcement in August, Brown was traveling, and there is a lot more travel on the itinerary for the two-year term. The responsibilities associated with her national role have meant Brown has stepped back from leadership locally and handed off the Peratrovich Project to her husband, Dr. George Brown, with the help of Marie Olson and Cheryl Jebe. Brown has also significantly decreased her offerings as a medical doctor. Leadership in the League at a national level is something she takes very seriously.
“It is an incredible privilege to be a person to sit on the national board of the League of Women Voters.” Brown said to the crowd of mostly women who had gathered to honor her.
The League is made up of 120,000 members and donors in the U.S. with a presence in all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.
In Alaska there are chapters in Juneau, Fairbanks, Kenai-Soldotna and Anchorage; Brown said that while that may not seem like much, “We’re a very lean, mean machine.”
The League, despite its name, is open to men and women alike, Brown said, “In 1973, the League said, ‘Yep, the boys can join’ and we certainly encourage men to join — my favorite husband is one of them.”
The biggest issues for the League are voting and citizen education.
“When we talk about voting, we’re talking about registering people to vote, educating them about the voting process, talking about the barriers to voting,” Brown said, “A fair election is in chads, chips, pieces of paper, machines that don’t work, things that go clunk in the night — we have an awful lot of work to do.”
She also talked about accountability for elected officials and why people chose not to vote.
Brown shared a personal anecdote about the choice to vote; while working the polls in 2012, said she was disappointed to find a colleague hadn’t voted. The woman said she “didn’t know the issues.”
“I’m so excited about it, and especially since you see a lot of older people coming in, who have been voting since three years before God, and we saw so many young people who came in and said ‘I want to register to vote’ and we had people come in the last day, just before the election and they could vote and they were so excited.” Brown said, speculating, “I think they don’t vote — maybe they don’t now, and whose job is that? Maybe ours. Or they don’t care, and why don’t they care? Or they don’t believe. So, each of us have a significant job to educate, and to let them know they can care, because if they don’t care about what they’re going to vote for, somebody else will care.”
The other hot topic for the evening was the partisanship that has torn the U.S. asunder. She said it’s something the League is serious about addressing.
In addition to talking about what the League plans to accomplish, Brown pointed out a few notable accomplishments of the last year (the history of accomplishments of the nearly-100-year-old organization can be found online at lwv.org ), including the Vote 411 project — vote411.org — a tool that allows a citizen to enter his or her address to get information about voting in your district, with an option to view candidate information on their regular or mobile site, or to have the information emailed. Brown said more than 400,000 voters had used it for the 2012 election.
Another key issue is campaign finance reform.
“I was very pleased not long ago to receive from Sen. Murkowski her proposal ... for legislation which she has not yet introduced — her proposal for campaign finance reform as a bipartisan (bill) with Sen. Wyden from Oregon.”
The six-page outline Brown provided at the reception summarized legislation to improve transparency and public understanding of spending in federal elections in the aftermath of the Citizens United decision. Brown sought Sen. Begich’s response to the legislation and the response was that the senator “Welcomes Sen. Murkowski’s new efforts on this issue.”
Brown sits on five committees at the League’s national level and is responsible for five states: Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan and Texas.
For more information on the League, visit lwv.org , or for information on Juneau’s chapter, visit juneaulwv.org.
• Contact Neighbors editor Melissa Griffiths at 523-2272 or at email@example.com.