February 14 has officially been declared League of Women Voters Day in Phoenix, celebrating the league’s 100th anniversary Friday.
Downtown Phoenix’s Senator Lela Alston read the proclamation to make it an official holiday, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, on the Senate floor Thursday. In addition to Phoenix and Maricopa County, proclamations were also signed by other parts of Arizona, including by the mayors or boards of supervisors in Mesa, Tempe, Tucson, and Prescott.
The holiday marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the League of Women Voters (LWV), a “nonpartisan, activist, grassroots organization that believes voters should play a critical role in democracy,” founded six months prior to the 19th amendment being ratified, according to the LWV.
The ultimate goal of helping Americans utilize their right to vote extends to not only women of America, but to other disenfranchised groups as well, including low-income individuals, people of color and people without valid identification.
It is “advocacy for those who cannot advocate for themselves,” Pinny Sheoran, the Arizona League of Women Voters (LWVAZ) state advocacy chair, said.
At the celebratory gathering in the Capitol on Thursday, about 100 league members from across Arizona wore white to symbolize the league’s century-long history and collective achievements.
Today the league dedicates itself to “defending democracy and empowering voters” and continuing to further election rights of the disenfranchised, according to Jeanette Senecal, the senior director of mission impact at the US League of Women Voters (LWVUS).
“We support voting rights– everybody should vote. We lobby against voter-suppression bills,” LWVAZ member Karen Rudolph said.
“It’s non-partisan and non-profit. It’s an environment where everyone should feel safe, no matter who they support or what issues they support — and that’s the whole purpose,” added Judy Wood, the former president of the Tucson chapter of the LWVAZ and a member of 50 years.
Through the long history, the LWV has been a part of many movements toward equality and enfranchisement, establishing themselves as a powerful force in the fight for democracy.
“Over the last century, the league has really fought for voter protection and expansion in the courts, in the streets, in our government, and in our communities at the ballot box,” Senecal said. “We advocated for the establishment of the United Nations in the 40s. We started a grassroots campaign to support the ERA in the 70s. We fought for critical pro-democracy earlier in the century, but our work is really not done.”
During this year’s presidential election, the league estimates it will reach over 7 million residents to better educate them on voting, according to Senecal.
In addition to voter education, the league focuses its efforts toward supporting or fighting against legislation, according to the LWV. They are currently urging legislators to support a bill that would allow for same-day voter registration (SB 1610).
The importance of the LWV being active in the passage of legislature is not just recognized by the league, but by members of the government of Arizona as well.
“As our voting rights are in jeopardy with this particular legislature — and you see this over and over again, it is so important that all of us stay aware and mindful and watching what they are doing to us because they definitely are taking away our voter rights and our women’s rights as well,” said Senator Alston, who is also an LWVAZ member.
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