Advocating for Change: League of Women Voters
October 4, 2017
Posted by: Adi Alouf, Intern
The third in our “Racial Justice: Advocating for Change” series.
The denial of voting rights has historically been used and continues to be used to minimize representation of communities of color. For democracy to flourish, all stakeholders must have the right to participate - and this critically includes the equal access and opportunity to exercise that right.
After the U.S. Civil War, the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, prohibited states from denying a male citizen the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” Nevertheless, in the ensuing decades, various discriminatory practices were used to prevent blacks, particularly those in the South, from exercising their right to vote. Following the events of “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965, where nonviolent civil rights protesters marched from Selma to Montgomery and were met with violent state troopers, voting rights legislation was finally put into motion. This culminated in the Voting Rights Act, which banned the use of literacy tests, provided for federal oversight of voter registration, and authorized the U.S. attorney general to investigate the use of poll taxes in state and local elections. And more recently in 2013, the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act and ended the requirement that states with a history of disenfranchising communities of color must obtain approval from the Department of Justice or a federal judge when they make changes to voting laws.
Surely, voting rights extend beyond the right to cast a vote - and critically encompass equal opportunity and access to participation in the democratic process.
The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association - just six months before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. The League was designed to help women carry out their new responsibilities as voters and influencers of public policy. It is a nonpartisan, multi-issue, grassroots organization, working at the national, state and local levels, to encourage the informed and active participation of all citizens in government and the democratic process. By increasing understanding and awareness of major public policy issues through education and advocacy, the League is able to influence public policy and give a voice to all Americans.
There are more than 800 state and local Leagues, in all 50 states as well in DC, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.
The League of Women Voters of San Francisco (LVWSF) is composed of two parts: First, The Education Fund, a nonprofit educational organization, conducts voter service and citizen education to encourage participation in the democratic process and enable people to seek solutions to public policy issues. The Education Fund also conducts studies of community issues “at all government levels in an unbiased manner.” Second, LVWSF has a membership organization which functions as a nonprofit corporation, taking action following studies and member consensus on ways to address key community issues. Through education and advocacy, the League engages communities in promoting sustainable solutions to pressing public policy issues.