On Feb. 14, the League of Women Voters will celebrate its 100th birthday. Born from the women’s suffrage movement, early members worked hard for the right to vote in the states that had not yet passed the amendment. The suffragists passed the torch to a new generation of women who became a vital force in American politics. League members were some of those fortunate recipients.
With 20 million new eligible voters added to the electorate in a single day, Aug. 26, 1920, League members knew their work was just beginning. Their mission — help these women get informed about candidates and issues, help them carry out their new right to vote, and hold the government accountable to its people.
But the 19th Amendment did not extend voting rights to all women. It left in place the barriers in some parts of the country that kept citizens of color from having an equal voice. So, League members and other concerned citizens continued their efforts to ensure the right to vote for all of our people. It took another 45 years to protect the right to vote when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Regrettably, in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled on the Voting Rights Act in Shelby vs. Holder and undermined the act. The result was that many states weakened their election laws so that segments of our society were prevented from voting.
The League again is working to ensure voting rights for all of our citizens. We support HB 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act. HB 4 passed the House of Representatives but is stalled in the Senate.
Through the years, members of the League of Women Voters (both women and men) worked at the local, state, and national levels on many issues — representative government, natural resources, health care, social policies and others. Leagues all over the country provide information about candidates and host candidates’ meetings. The League of Women Voters of the Huntington Area also works with The Herald-Dispatch to publish candidates’ answers to questions. This year the Q-and-A’s will be published in The Herald-Dispatch’s Elections tabloid on April 26.
For decades, League members have successfully promoted political responsibility through informed and active participation in government; their goal has been to “make democracy work.” During our centennial birthday year, the dreams of League members are still alive.