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More than 150 guests attended a November 13 gala at the Sheldon to mark the 100th Anniversary of the St. Louis League. Many toured the Green Room where early meetings of the suffragists who founded the League were held.
Betsey Bruce hosted the program to honor League presidents from the past 100 years. LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox gave each honoree an engraved photo frame. She also presented a certificate to Gay Gellhorn to honor her grandmother, Edna Gellhorn, who served as President of the Missouri League from 1919-21 and 1927-29.
At the LWVMO Fall Planning Conference, Cecilia Belser-Patton from Jobs with Justice participated in a panel with Louise Wilkerson and state president Evelyn Maddox. They discussed intentional relationship building and welcoming all voices to the League, including persons of color, youth, men, LGBTQIA and low-income women.
“We can learn to move forward in ways that are inclusive…and engage people in ways that we haven’t before,” Belser-Patton said. She stressed the need to educate Missouri voters on the issues and then get them to vote based on their self-interest and shared values rather than political party.
The board of directors adopted the following DEI policy at the September 25 meeting:
The League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis is an organization fully committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in principle and in practice. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to the organization’s current and future success in engaging all individuals, households, communities, and policy makers in creating a more perfect democracy.
There shall be no barriers to full participation in this organization on the basis of gender, gender identity, ethnicity, race, native or indigenous origin, age, generation, sexual orientation, culture, religion, belief system, marital status, parental status, socioeconomic status, language, accent, ability status, mental health, educational level or background, geography, nationality, work style, work experience, job role function, thinking style, personality type, physical appearance, political perspective or affiliation and/or any other characteristic that can be identified as recognizing or illustrating diversity.
President Evelyn Maddox testified on Aug. 20 that Missouri voters are still confused about what identification they need to present at the polls despite extensive education efforts by League volunteers. Maddox is pictured below with Advancement Project lawyers Denise Lieberman and Sabrina Khan, Gillian Wilcox from the ACLU, Executive Director Jean Dugan, and Metro St. Louis officers Nancy Miller and Nancy Price. The group was in Jefferson City for the trial in the League’s case with the NAACP challenging the Secretary of State’s implementation of the photo ID law.
To recognize the Centennial of the League and Missouri’s ratification of the 19th Amendment, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft presented a proclamation signed by Governor Mike Parson in the Capitol Rotunda on July 8. The proclamation concludes: Whereas, the State of Missouri recognizes that the League of Women Voters of Missouri, which arose from the Missouri Woman Suffrage Association, has worked to educate and empower voters since its founding in October 1919, and Whereas, the citizens of Missouri appreciate the struggles of the Suffragists and others who fought for the right to vote by all citizens; Now, therefore, I, Michael L. Parson, Governor of the State of Missouri, do hereby recognize the 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment.
State Board members took a photo by a plaque the League installed in 1931 that is a tribute “to those women in Missouri whose courageous work opened the opportunities of complete citizenship to all women in the state.” For a list of Missouri suffragists and a closer look at the plaque, click here.
About 50 League members and Girl Scouts celebrated the Centennial of the League of Women Voters of Missouri and Missouri’s ratification of the 19th Amendment by marching in a 4th of July parade in Webster Groves.
LWVMO Board for 2019-21: Treasurer Cindy Wunderlich, President Evelyn Maddox, Vice President Marilyn McLeod, Nancy Copenhaver, Sharon Swon, Marge Bramer, Secretary Louise Wilkerson, Carol Schreiber, Joan Gentry, Kathleen Boswell, Melodie Armstrong and Nancy Miller.
The 64th state convention featured several speakers on election reform. On Friday, Alicia Gurrieri from LWVUS presented a workshop to help League members empower voters and defend democracy.
Amber McReynolds was a fabulous keynote speaker. She explained how she worked to get comprehensive election reform in Colorado, including automatic voter registration and address changes, mail-in ballots and central vote centers. “Let’s make the voting experience something everyone can celebrate,” she told LWVMO convention delegates. The former director of elections for Denver, she is now the Executive Director for the National Vote at Home Institute and serves as senior strategic adviser on various election-focused projects across the country. She was introduced by Eric Fey, Director of the St. Louis County Board of Elections.
St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones updated the convention on proposed election reforms “to ensure an effective government of, by and for the people.” She called Amendment 1 “a tremendous victory to clean up Missouri politics.” After commending the League for its work for American democracy, she challenged delegates to block legislation now in the Missouri Senate to override voter wishes and make it easier to gerrymander. She also shared some exciting opportunities to make positive lasting changes for voters, including approval or ranked choice voting.
In honor of the League’s centennial in 2019, the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis hosted a Suffragist Tour of Bellefontaine Cemetery on Thursday. On Friday night, delegates and guests enjoyed What Women Wore: A League of Women Voters Centennial Fashion Show. The entertaining and informative Fashion Show Script was written by Nichole Burgdorf and read by Rebecca Now, with fashions modeled by the volunteer board of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
Laura Champion from Lafayette High School in the Rockwood School District just won LWVMO’s statewide poster contest to promote youth voter registration. The League will send a copy of Champion’s poster to every high school in Missouri before the April 2019 local elections.
Metro St. Louis League Co-presidents Nancy Miller and Louise Wilkerson surprised Champion with a $500 prize.
“This vibrant poster catches your attention,” Miller says. “Laura is a very talented young artist and I hope this poster will inspire more interest in voting among high school students.”
“The colors make it more exciting and enthusiastic, which is my stance on getting people to vote,” Champion said. “I’m passionate about having people’s voices heard.”
Miller noted that overall voter turn-out of almost 60 percent in November was unusually high for a mid-term election. An early estimate shows 31 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 nationwide voted in 2018, but that would be an improvement over 20 percent in 2014.
State President Kathleen Boswell said, “We hope this poster will encourage more young people to register to vote as soon as they are eligible, which in Missouri is six months before their 18th birthday.”
The finalists in the competition included students from Kansas City, Sedalia, Springfield and Vandalia.
Amendment 1 was approved with 62 percent of the vote on Nov. 6, winning a majority in every state senate district. The League is reaching out to Governor Mike Parson and legislators, asking them to respect the people of Missouri and not undermine this effort to clean up Missouri politics.
After careful study, LWVMO endorsed the constitutional amendment in 2017. Using grants from the LWVUS Education Fund and the Election Reformers Network, LWVMO advocated for Amendment 1 and its changes to how legislative district maps would be drawn after each census.
“The League of Women Voters of Missouri played a crucial role in promoting the anti-gerrymandering provisions of Amendment 1,” said Clean Missouri Communications Director Benjamin Singer. “Thanks in big part to the League, Missouri will have more fair and competitive maps that protect minority representation and follow city and county lines when possible. Thank you, League of Women Voters of Missouri.”
LWVMO President Kathleen Boswell was encouraged by the vote. “Amendment 1 will clean up state politics by increasing fairness, integrity and transparency in government.”
Amendment 1 includes strong language ensuring racial fairness in redistricting. Besides improves the system for drawing fair maps, Amendment 1 bans most lobbyist gifts to legislators, lowers contribution limits for state house and senate races, requires state government to be more transparent, and makes other needed reforms. For more information and the complete text of the Constitutional amendment, go to www.cleanmissouri.org.