Not wanting to put my head in a hornet’s nest, but simply wanting to raise a straightforward issue, here I go. I’m a great admirer of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters in the United States, one of the world’s great organizations for educating voters so they can make informed choices when they go to the polls.
In researching voter education organizations around the world, I learned about the World Movement for Democracy that is based in Washington, D. C. Their byline is “Confronting the Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century” and they have a broad-based program of international communications, assemblies, networking, projects, and resources. Their overall goals are to:
- Strengthen democracy where it is weak
- Defend democracy where it is longstanding
- Support the efforts of pro-democracy groups in non-democratic countries.
Admittedly, democracy has been given a bad name and has been damaged by political gridlock, paralysis, and government shutdowns in the United States, with little or no relief in sight unless voters make more informed choices.
But among the World Movement for Democracy’s efforts, the organization has helped countries such as Somalia, the Congo, and Jordan develop organizations that focus on women’s participation in politics. Other overdue advances by women in political affairs have been noted across many parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Education is a key element of such advances.
But in the United States, women’s suffrage was gained after long decades of struggle in 1920, the same year the League of Women Voters was created. With nearly a century of women voting across the U.S., the New York League of Women Voters formed a coalition that has been urging a name change in the national organization. Their proposal was hotly debated at the 2006 national convention, and then defeated by the membership. The coalition planned to bring it up again at the 2008 convention, but my searches to learn the outcome were futile.
Yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s still the League of Women Voters.
When I searched the League’s website, I looked for a list of members of their officers and board of directors. ALL of them are women.
Prior to 1920, being denied the right to vote rightly incensed US women. Since then great strides have been made by the women’s movement that picked up a lot of steam in the 1970s and in many ways continues to the present with the first nomination of a woman for US president by a major political party. Issues such as equal pay for equal work and opportunities for leadership and advancement remain, among others.
The League has done a commendable job of voter education through such things as their Voters’ Guides, chapter sponsorship of local candidate debates, and past sponsorship of presidential debates, until campaign organizations made too many demands on the League and they withdrew sponsorship in 1988. Sometimes I have taken a marked-up copy of their Voters’ Guide into the voting booth to help me decide on numerous complex issues and propositions on local ballots.
Cutting to the chase, the time is overdue for the League of Women Voters to apply the principle of gender equality to its own membership and leadership.
The League of Women Voters of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, asked its members:
Out of curiosity, do you think the name of the League should be changed? Yes or no and why or why not?
What do you think about “The League of Voters” or “the League of Men and Women Voters”? And what about the expense of changing the logo? How effective do you feel a name change would be to recruit new members in a time when LWV is experiencing a 30% reduction in membership? Would the perceived integrity of the LWV be lessened? Increased? What about the heritage of the name?
I loved the questions about the expense of changing the logo and the one about the heritage of the name. What about gender equality among the members and leadership of the League? Does it have the goal of educating men and women voters, or only women? Does their name reflect their purpose today? Clearly it does not and should not.
After years of having this issue running through my head, I propose that the League’s name be changed to League of Informed Voters, or LIV—an acronym you can pronounce as “live,” as in to live a more civic life.
We need informed voters to offset lies and deliberate, or sometimes just ignorant, misinformation on political issues. The League of Women Voters is the best organization we have to educate and inform US voters. It can and should be better. The League and the country would benefit greatly.
I’d love to pay dues to a League of Informed Voters. I’d love being an active member of a League of Informed Voters. However, I feel a little funny about the idea of joining the League of Women Voters. I’m not a woman. If I were to join, would I have equal opportunity for participation along with women? My impression is “No.”
It’s time for the League of Women Voters to uphold the principle of fairness and inclusion that it fought for in the years leading up to 1920, when suffrage was finally won. The League of Women Voters should change its name to the League of Informed Voters and inject a new, inclusive energy into informing and involving all voters in upcoming elections.
It’s time to wake everybody up and get to work making things better than they are now. We need widely informed and energized voters to do it. I wish the coalition created by the New York League of Women Voters, if the coalition still exists, and other leading chapters across the country, every success in finally getting a name change for the national organization approved. Valuable time has been wasted in hidebound debate focused on the rearview mirror. We need highly informed voters of both genders, and the League should live up to this founding value of gender fairness.
I’d appreciate it if readers would add their opinions in the “Leave a Comment” section below and send this post to friends, family, colleagues, and social media outlets. I will diligently post those comments in a timely fashion.