In the US, voting is considered an unalienable right. It’s written into our constitution and our state laws. Yet the idea that that right applies to everyone is still relatively new.
In 1789 only 6% of our population had the right to vote. Over the next 100 years, that right was fought for, and slowly won, by African Americans, Native Americans, non-land-owning men, and immigrants who became citizens. By 1887, all of those groups could vote, but women still could not.
Modern times depict the suffragettes as bold, exciting, even glamorous. What we skim over is that it could also be violent. In the late 1800s the women’s suffrage movement advocated, protested, and even resorted to acts of violence or vandalism in an attempt to gain what is now considered our right.
Women were arrested, attacked, and even force-fed during a hunger strike. Some suffragettes learned jiu jitsu,forming a secret society known as the “Bodyguard” to protect some of their more public members.
The movement persevered, and finally in 1920, women could vote alongside men. However, the right to vote gave women a say in our government, but it didn’t necessarily give them the knowledge or insight to make decisions that would further equality.
The League of Women Voters was created in response to this new need. Our voting population had doubled, but these new women voters hadn’t necessarily been keeping up on politics. LWV rectified that by providing education for women, and lobbying for women’s issues.
Over time, the group has grown and is now politically active on many fronts. But certain core tenets remain: LWV is nonpartisan and has a heavy focus on voter education (and voter registration!). The league publishes VOTE411.org, a voter’s guide, before all national and state elections to empower voters, increase participation, and defend democracy.
The Delaware chapter of LWV works hard to get the word out, and to convince people of the importance of voting. It’s a struggle on several fronts: against apathy, and to overcome a lack of resources. Like many other nonprofits, LWV DE is almost entirely volunteer-run. Many volunteers work on league projects in the evenings after working all day, and many are filling in roles that they may not have experience or expertise with.
To work around these limits, the league actively works to recruit new members with new areas of knowledge. LWV DE goes after grants and sponsors to acquire funding, but they’ve also become quite good at finding free or inexpensive resources.
We spoke to LWV board member Kim Wells about her role in coordinating the Delaware VOTE411. She gave us the following advice:
Are you a Delaware resident? Visit www.VOTE411.org for information before the general election on November 6th.
Your Vote. Your Voice.