For this blog post, I will be covering a “digital event” while currently residing in Utrecht, the Netherlands. I will explore the works done by the League of Women Voters, with an emphasis to the Georgia chapter of their organization.
To fully understand the agendas, work, and impacts of the League of Women Voters of Georgia (LWVGA), it is important to recognize the organization’s roots, as well as how it represents a national movement that has been in place since 1920. As an extension of the national organization, the LWVGA promotes the same ideas. Fundamental to this is the educating of both men and women regarding all democratic processes. The organization began based on the suffrage movement and women being granted the right to vote in the 19th Amendment but having been formed months prior to the Constitutional change, it has never directed its efforts to one gender. In a very real sense, the history of both the League of Women Voters and the LWVGA reflects groups largely composed of women, but in place to address voting and democratic issues obviously meaningful to all. At the same time, however, within this is a unique tradition in itself, and one resonating powerfully in today’s tense political and social climates; namely, the organizational origins are founded in the belief that empowerment of women is vital for an evolving and responsible democratic republic. Consequently, what most defines the LWVGA today is a trajectory of such empowerment, and a commitment to informing the public of pressing major issues and encouraging active democratic participation in communities and the state.
Currently, the work engaged in by the LWVGA is, not unexpectedly, varied. Interestingly, the organization asserts that its nature is strictly bipartisan, and no party defines its principles and efforts. It is uninterested in supporting Republican, Democratic, or Independent parties, but it will take a position based on investigation of an issue. For example, the group has used its resources to examine in-depth matters related to the criminal justice system and, upon responsibly considering all relevant factors, issues a statement in 2019 affirming its commitment to revising that system, and primarily in urging legislators and elected officials to promote alternatives to incarceration. Here, as with other initiatives, the LWVGA lobbies as a “grassroots” organization. Ethically, it is unwilling to use funds to promote its causes, apart from spending as needed to distribute educational materials and hold meetings in which the public is able to interact. The efforts go to combining its voice with the supportive public and presenting a unified stance, clearly expressing what these groups believe should be addressed. For example, part of its criminal justice statement relates to the need to replace largely ineffective, if not damaging, incarceration for DUI offenders with treatment options. The lobbying aspect then lies in ensuring that relevant parties receive these positions, just as the LWVGA follows up on responses and repeated calls for action from legislators.
Other efforts currently underway include an emphasis on election processes themselves. Likely motivated by the controversies and allegations of fraud, as well as established evidence of obstacles to voting, in the 2018 GA Midterm elections. Here, the LWVGA is unequivocal. It calls upon all state officers to better train election personnel, expand the number of voting locations and opportunities in voter registration, greater efficiency in the handling of absentee ballots, and an ultimate state commitment to enforcing all laws in place protecting the integrity of voting. Without question, the issues raised by the Midterms fuels this effort, but it is also one promoted nationally, and apart from the LWV. Turning to health care, the LWVGA emphatically supports changes in the constitutions of the current Boards of Health. It is insisting on adding members with a documented interest in promoting care for the poor and with a willingness to address the social conditions making health care so difficult for those without means. As with its urgent recommendations for education and criminal justice reform, the LWVGA does not present specific strategies. This is not a weakness or neglect, however; rather, it underscores the organization’s purpose in presenting what the public seeks and trusting to experienced officials to do their jobs in developing solutions.
Finally, the role and the messaging of the LWVGA exist on multiple levels. In practical terms, it offers the public valuable resources, as in the 2017-2019 Citizen’s Handbook. As of this writing, it is being updated and will be freely available for download within a few weeks, and this reality alone reinforces the LWVG role as educational. The Handbook provides citizens with all the information they require as to upcoming elections, voting locations, and contacting state and local agencies. Also underscoring the commitment to both address modern realities and urge voter participation is the LWVGA Facebook page, in which interaction with the public generates engagement and provides the organization with input. It is evident that the organization is more dedicated than ever to encourage public participation in democratic processes at least arguably eroded. There is no escaping the political and social conflicts currently gripping the nation, which may be as extreme as when women first fought for the right to vote. As such, it is vital that both men and women commit to exercising their rights to promote justice. This is the fundamental message of the LWVGA, as it is also a continuation of the tradition of empowerment for all citizens set in motion a century ago.
Photo from the https://www.lwvcga.org/league-centennial-goals/