Solutions: The League of Women Voters

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For almost 100 years, The League of Women Voters has been enabling people to vote all around the country. They have helped people of all races and backgrounds to vote, providing them with valuable resources and information on voting. 

The League of Women Voters was originally established after women gained the right to vote. LWV was formed to help women take a greater role in voting after winning the right to vote in 1920. As posted on their website, the League was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt during the convention of the National American Woman’s Suffrage. It took women over 72 years to gain the right to vote, and when they did,  they needed nonpartisan education. Women needed to be educated on the political process and learn how to get involved in it. They needed to know learn more about their rights. The League was created to respond to these needs.

The League has “helped 20 million women carry out their responsibilities as voters and encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy,” according to LWV’s website.

One thing that the League is known for is being nonpartisan which means “supporting no opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government.” While the League remains neutral, they are constantly working on vital issues of concern, not just for the women but the public in general.

One of the most recent wins for the League is when they won the case against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In 2011, Pennsylvania adopted a new district plan that was in plain violation of the state Constitution. The League fought for this to be looked into and corrected. On June 15, 2017, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Their reasoning was “that the state’s congressional district map had been subject to an illegal partisan gerrymander in violation of the free expression and associational rights guaranteed by Article 1, Sections 7 and 20 of the Pennsylvania Constitution,” as reported on Ballotpedia.org.  On January 22, 2018, the League of Women Voters had a huge win. The League alleged that the gerrymandering that was adopted in 2011 was illegal and favoring the Republicans over the Democrats. This meant that the court demanded the state lawmakers to draft remedial maps before the 2018 election.

Kate Deriel is a former President of the Havertown, P.a., League of Women Voters and still serves as an active member. Her involvement with LWV spans 38 years. Deriel became involved in the organization because her mother was involved in it when she was growing up in Massachusetts. The elder Deriel didn’t let being a mother stop her from being involved with the League and would bring her daughter to the LWV. Because of this, Kate became very committed to being a part of the organization.

“I have always volunteered for local and national candidates I believed in. I saw the need for nonpartisan information so that I could make up my own mind about the issues. Most people want real information, not something put out by a candidate,” Deriel said. She felt a need she had to fulfill by helping put together nonpartisan voters guides. Deriel described her coworkers as “all smart, committed and patient. All ages and experiences.”

Deriel states that voter suppression has been a key issue of importance for the League over the past few years. Voter suppression comes in different forms but always makes it difficult to register or vote in elections. Some issues of voter suppression include: locations that are inaccessible for handicapped citizens, the threat of needing an ID to vote, and other deterrents to going to the polls.

Deriel has really enjoyed being able to know about the candidates both on paper and through interviews and forums. She also enjoyed working with other LVW members on issues they were combating as well as publicizing their findings to the voters. LVW put together a nonpartisan voter guide which at first came printed, but because of the expenses they transformed to an online version which is now Vote411.org.

Some of the nitty gritty work at LWV includes working with legislatures on issues such as later start times for high school students which Deriel says affects students’ health. Also, along with Vote411 services, they produce a trifold for the Township with contact information for elected and appointed officials and their dates of holding office. These are given out free at the library and community locations.

Peggy Dator who is currently the Vice President for The League of Women Voters in Bucks County, has a funny story as to how she came across this organization. She said she was a bit of a troublemaker in high school and her father was the president of the local community court supervisors. One night after a meeting, her father came home to talk about how much trouble the League was and how they asked so many questions to make sure they knew what was going on. Dator thought, “I want to be a part of that group.” Dator was involved in high school and she joined the League when she was in her mid-20’s. She’s been an active member ever since.

Dator went on to say how the League is completely nonpartisan; they do not support candidates, do not get involved in partisan issues, but they do study the issues and come up with a consensus of ones they find very important to upholding our democracy. They then advocate with the local, state and federal government to work towards the things that are important.

Dator graduated college in 1970, during the height of the war in Vietnam, The Civil Rights Movement, and The Women’s Rights Movement. So, she has been able to experience the kinds of discrimation and issues that women have faced over the years and feels that it’s really important to work with other women on common issues together. She continued by saying that she loves the intelligence of her coworkers and their interest in a better society. 

The League’s new motto is “Making Democracy Work,” and they do this by specifically working on many different issues. The League is extremely interested in gerrymandering and election reform, to name a few. They would like to see changes to make it easier to vote and to have that vote be counted. Different Leagues may focus on different issues depending on its importance to them. Dator explained that they give a great deal of feedback to the state and national organizations on the things that are important to them, as well as a national and state level synthesizing of all their issues.

There are many other issues that the League has focused on such as health care reform, immigration, census and the environment. Health care is a well talked about subject and the League believes that everyone is entitled to a basic level of health care at an affordable cost. Throughout the last 20 years the League has worked to provide millions of Americans with information about the healthcare system and give information on the different plans or policies offered. 

According to the League’s website, for the 2018 election, the League helped over 250,000 people register through online registration and voter engagement activities. The organization has educated over 10 million voters through their debates, their website, forums, and the League’s separate website Vote411.org. More statistics that show the impact the League has had on helping people vote are: they hosted and supported over 15,000 elections and protected over 1.9 million voters from having their votes suppressed. The League does not just focus on women. While it is called the League of Women Voters, they have males on their staff and don’t discriminate against males.The League is a membership organization. They have student memberships, too, which are discounted. The membership dues help support the work of the organization such as getting things printed, posters made and essentially running the League. Individuals interested in joining and becoming involved can go to their website or go to their local league to sign up.

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Youth Voters Unite is a transmedia storytelling project produced by senior Communication majors at Cabrini University. Students in Senior Convergence: Media for Social Justice are reporting this academic year on the voting process and voting justice topics. Their goal is to educate youth voters on the importance of engaging in the political process and claiming their right to shape their own future. 

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