A few years ago, at an event for arts and heritage, I ran into a friend of mine active in the Washington Women’s History Consortium and preparing for the Suffrage Centennial. As I listened to her plans for celebrating voting rights for women, it occurred to me that it was time I joined the legacy organization of our former suffragettes, the League of Women Voters.
With two daughters of my own coming of voting age, the work of our league to maintain voting rights, register our citizens, educate and mobilize voters suddenly seemed more important than ever.
I have always told my girls that being born in the United States of America is the equivalent of winning the world lottery. Sure, our nation has its problems, but just the fact that we all have the right to vote is a privilege that should be respected and acknowledged by actually voting. Being a U.S. citizen means you have more rights than most people on Earth. It was time to respect the opportunities my daughters and I have been given. And so, refusing to be dissuaded by the eye-rolls of my family, I joined the League of Women Voters of Thurston County and began volunteering.
I have had people tell me they won’t join the league because it is too liberal. I actually consider myself a moderate Republican – a political philosophy as lost as the 10 tribes of Israel. On occasion, the league is more left of center than I am. But to their credit, all their positions are developed by study groups whose conclusions are based on intensive research and debate. Any member can join and have their views (progressive or conservative) incorporated before reaching a formal consensus. Members develop opinions on a variety of local, state and national issues, with topics ranging from county governance, to privatization, water policy and tax reform.
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The Thurston County LWV chapter doesn’t always arrive at a formal stance and we don’t consistently agree with each other. From the Keystone Pipeline to the future of Capitol Lake, there are disagreements. Regardless, our primary consideration is discussing particular philosophies in a respectful manner. At a time when civility seems to be disappearing (especially in the comments section) the league strives to ensure respectful and civil dialog between ourselves, within society, and at all levels of government.
But most of all, with the rise of PACs and super PACs, the work of the league to educate voters on candidates has become critical. While there are positions on local, state and national issues, voter education about persons running for public office is strictly neutral. The League of Women Voters moderates forums at all levels of government, so at least in one remaining venue, voters hear directly from individuals without editorial interference. It’s the work of the organization I appreciate the most. Providing citizens the information they need to be a knowledgeable voter.
As Congress reignites the debate on issues such as access to contraception, federal and state governments consider rolling back basic environmental protections and money is going to support new voter suppression laws, I believe the efforts of the league remain essential to our democratic society.
March is Women’s History Month. It’s the perfect time for both women and men to become members. Help us form positions, educate voters, register our citizens and generally ensure that our rights to a representative democracy are valued and maintained. Join us at our monthly meetings the fourth Thursday of each month. More information can be found on our website at lwvtc.org or “like” us on Facebook at League of Women Voters of Thurston County. Join us!
Allyson Brooks is a historic archaeologist for the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. She volunteers as a board member of the League of Women Voters of Thurston County, Temple Beth Hatfiloh and the Governor’s Mansion Foundation and Preservation Action. She may be reached at email@example.com.