Making Democracy Work

Mary Houska honored by state-level LWV

Mary Houska was honored by the State level of the League of Women Voters for her work to keep all voters in our community educated and informed, increasing our community's understanding of the effects of public policy issues. The award was presented at the annual Making Democracy Work spring awards event held at Richmond, Saturday, March 22.

Helping voters make informed choices

Since joining the League in 2000, Houska was among the leaders as the Montgomery County League used electronic, social, and print media to help voters make informed choices. League forums, which have been regularly held in the community, are professionally video-taped and available on local access television as well as through links (using YouTube) on the League's active website.

Protecting voting procedures

Her leadership has promoted protection of voting procedures. For example, when members saw that the local Registrar's office had made serious mistakes in four successive elections in the 2000s, the League publicly criticized the County Board of Elections and communicated with the State Board of Elections about the specific issues including, for example, late mailing of absentee ballots. The League was supported editorially by the regional newspaper, the Roanoke Times.

The League was active in successful efforts to shift elections from May to November in two towns.

Leading the effort for verifiable voting machines

Houska was among the leaders in efforts to demand verifiable voting machines. When technology experts noted that the machines Virginia had put into use could be "hacked"--that the machines could be corrupted, changing election results--she was a leader in seeking a solution. The Montgomery County League held forums on DREs, the voting machines, with participants including the Secretary of the State Board of Elections, two local General Assembly Delegates, and several Registrars. Following League bi-partisan procedures, Houska took the issue to a workshop at the 2006 LWV-US Convention, convincing the national League to change its position on computer voting machines. These actions and actions by others convinced the Virginia General Assembly to change the state laws on voting machines, requiring verifiable-style Optical Scan Voting Machines. Many local precincts used the new machines in the 2013 election and Montgomery County will be completely converted to them in four years.

Professor Emerita of Economics at Hollins University

She is professor Emerita of Economics at Hollins University where she served four three-year terms as Economics Department chair and two terms as chair of Russian Studies. She served as a pro bono consultant to many county and regional boards. She was the first woman to give professional testimony before the State Corporation Commission and was one of two economists, nationally, to research the economics of eastern coal mining and present those results to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House of Representatives. This work contributed to the regulation of surface mining in the United States. Her background includes a degree in economics from Simmons College and a Ph.D. from M.I.T.

Personal

Married, she and her husband Chuck have three children, all contributing to society as professionals.

Local members attend the awards luncheon

Members of the Montgomery County League joined Mary at the awards luncheon in Richmond on March 22.