March is Women’s History Month, and this year also marks the 95th anniversary of the League of Women Voters. The League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County joins nearly 800 local and state League chapters in honoring this milestone for the national organization.
Ninety-five years after the League’s founding, we are proud of the progress it has made in making democracy work. The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920, six months before the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in federal elections was ratified.
The League began as a “mighty political experiment” designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It soon became clear that men, too, could benefit from the League’s efforts to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government.
From the beginning, the League has been dedicated to improving the voting process, promoting voter participation, and protecting the right to vote for all citizens.
That work continues today. The barriers to the right to vote look very different than they did in 1920, but they remain threats to voter participation all the same. The League works tirelessly to ensure that voters are not denied their rights. We support expanded early voting and online voter registration, and we challenge all efforts to limit the ability of voters to exercise their basic right to vote. We oppose voter photo ID laws, barriers to voter registration, and efforts to limit polling places or voting times to discourage voting. We work to modernize and streamline the voting process. We work to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act.
To guarantee that each citizen’s vote has value, we support independent redistricting to ensure voting districts are not drawn to benefit or disadvantage one party or constituency over another. We support campaign finance reform and the regulation of big money in elections so that voters can have confidence in the integrity of our democratic process and be assured that our elections are fair, free and accessible.
The League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County is more than 50 years old. Since 1962, we have provided voter service and educational programs to enable voters to make informed decisions at election time and to educate the public on issues important to the wellbeing of our communities.
Our candidate forums and pros and cons on ballot measures provide an opportunity for voters to get unbiased information as they prepare to vote. Beginning this year, we have a new initiative — an effort to promote civil discourse at public meetings and in political discussion. Like many of our fellow citizens, we are unsettled by the closed-mindedness and even anger we sometimes see in public discourse.
We are concerned that we aren’t listening to each other, that we aren’t coming together to solve our common problems and that the ability of our public institutions to serve our communities is being undermined as a result.
We believe that by adhering to basic rules of civil discourse, we can improve our government and society and be more effective in addressing our problems. We are committed to encouraging communication that is characterized by mutual respect, fairness and attentive listening in which all participants have a right to speak and a right to be heard. You will soon see us at public meetings urging calm, polite and respectful speech and behavior. Like the national League, the League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County is alive and well, giving our all to make democracy work. Expect to see more voter service, educational programs, and advocacy on the issues we care about — all of it presented in a nonpartisan, dispassionate and resolutely civil way.