“If you have [a] passion, which I do in politics, then it’s not a job, it’s wonderful,” says Sandy Kraus, the volunteer state public affairs (SPA) chair for the National Council of Jewish Women’s Seattle section.
NCJW, a national women’s political advocacy organization, has surprisingly deep local roots. The Seattle chapter was formed in 1900 by “Mrs. Bailey Gatzert” (Babette) with Dollie Degginger elected president. NCJW also founded the immigrant-aid organization Settlement House, which became the now-independent Neighborhood House.
An SPA chair is the liaison between local NCJW members and the national office, which provides information about political issues. Sandy communicates with members through regular emails, urging them to write to newspapers and contact state and local officials about their concerns. She was appointed to that job almost 10 years ago after serving as president of the Seattle section and then as a national commissioner.
Reducing gun violence is a hot button issue for NCJW, as are women’s reproductive rights, she says. “Issues that relate to children’s welfare, domestic violence, safety for families,” and welfare reform are topics that “speak to our mission of helping women, children, and families,” Sandy says.
Sandy also keeps tabs on local politics and reports to the national office. She and other NCJW members serve on political coalitions with similar interests, and she sits on the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s government affairs committee.
With no paid staff currently, volunteers handle all the work for the Seattle section, which serves the whole state.
Newly retired from a project management job at the City of Seattle, Sandy is looking forward to traveling more with her husband. In addition to her political activism, the Pittsburgh native organizes and runs the monthly birthday parties at the Caroline Kline Galland home, for which she’s always looking for entertainment. If you’d like to volunteer or have ideas, please contact her at 206-232-2591. There’s more NCJW information at
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Attorney Marc Mayo at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Photo courtesy Marc Mayo)
The third presidential debate pushed Marc Mayo over the edge.
As an attorney, Marc had been recruited by a friend to be an election observer, but he hadn’t made a decision about it.
After watching Mitt Romney in the debate, “I decided that I can’t let this guy win.” Having been a prosecutor, Marc says, “I can tell, usually, when someone’s lying and…he was lying through his teeth.”
Marc volunteered for the Obama campaign’s Organizing for America, and after training was sent to Palm Beach and Broward Counties in Florida.
There, his duties included poll watching, where he witnessed the much-reported long lines of voters waiting to cast ballots — the result of reduced polling hours, removal of Sunday voting, and complicated ballot initiatives. Observers, who are required to be attorneys, and voters stood in the sun for hours. Marc wasn’t complaining about the weather, a welcome relief from winter, but many voters were elderly or infirm.
What impressed him most was “the willingness of people to stand in line.” He expected many to give up, but most voters waited patiently in the heat. “I think there was a backlash,” against reduced voting opportunities, he said. “People said, ‘you’re not going to stop me from voting.’” Marc notes that post-election research shows that up to 50,000 people may have been discouraged from voting by the lines.
In addition to addressing legal issues and documenting problems, volunteers helped “with cheerleading [and] helping people stay in line,” which sometimes involved getting chairs or water for voters.
Marc also observed ballot counting in the election commissioner’s office, where “I saw the actual ‘hanging chad’ room,” he says. Because of a printing error, about 30,000 Palm Beach County ballots had to be re-marked by election workers. One employee would complete a fresh ballot and another would verify it. A Democrat and a Republican volunteer observed workers, “making sure they were acting in an ethical and legal manner.” Observers couldn’t talk to the workers or each other.
Of hundreds of ballots, Marc only saw two errors. “It’s very secure” and “very tedious,” he says, and he has new respect for election workers. And he says he won’t vote for write-in candidates again. It creates “a lot of extra work.”
Marc, who has worked for the criminal division of the Seattle City Attorney’s office since 1990, says, “it was really fascinating, I’m glad I did it…I would do it again.”