The League of Women Voters was founded on Feb. 14, 1920. To celebrate that centennial, 300 local and state Leagues in all 50 states held activities to stress that “Women Power the Vote” in 2020.
“The nonpartisan League was founded to help American women exercise their hard-fought right to vote,” said LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox. “A hundred years after getting suffrage, women now outnumber men among registered voters. For the four elections in 2020, women will power the vote. Our founders fought to get the 19th Amendment passed 100 years ago, and we honor that long battle by educating and empowering all voters so that each can play a critical role in shaping our country.”
LWV of Missouri sent thousands of suffragist valentines to Missouri legislators, League members and friends of the League. LWVMO’s eight local Leagues held a variety of activities in addition to voter registration drives.
On Feb. 8, the Kansas City/Jackson/Clay/Platte Counties League hosted a presentation on activist women’s organizations by K. David Hanzlick, the author Benevolence, Moral Reform, Equality: Women’s Activism in Kansas City, 1870-1940.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas gave Sandy Eeds a proclamation recognizing LWV of Kansas City for 100 years of working to educate and inform voters. In turn, the League presented each council member a certificate of appreciation for running for office and serving the public.
LWV of Metro St. Louis volunteers delivered cookies to workers at several local election authorities on Valentine’s Day. The St. Louis League is also hosting Suffragist Cinema on March 8, showing the movie Iron Jawed Angels: Lead Follow or Get out of the Way.
LWV of Sedalia/Pettis County presented a history lesson of women’s suffrage since 1848 and the formation of the League. State Fair Community College teachers have agreed to give extra credit for students who attend and write about what they learned from the Feb. 11 event.
LWV of Columbia-Boone County hosted a program on February 11 called “Every Day in Every Way, How Local Elections Affect Your Daily Life.” Barbara Hoppe and Janet Thompson spoke about the impact of local elected officials are in our lives. The Columbia League sent a special valentine to elected officials to thank them for their service.
LWV of Southwest Missouri held several voter registration drives, including “Alamo Votes” at Alamo Drafthouse in Springfield that included education and a survey about voting motivation. An updated web site http://lwvswmo.org/ went live on Feb. 14.
The Missouri Supreme Court in January permanently struck down a portion of Missouri’s voter ID law. Election officials will not be allowed to require a photo ID to vote or represent in advertising and materials that a photo ID is required to vote.
In Priorities USA v. Missouri, the court agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the affidavit portion of Missouri’s voter ID law was “misleading and contradictory” by inferring that a photo ID is required to vote when the law in fact allows voters to vote with non-photo ID. The court also acknowledged the fundamental nature of the right to vote under the Missouri Constitution, noting that the right to vote and right to equal protection under the Missouri constitution are “even more extensive than those provided by the federal constitution.”
While the injunction issued in October 2018 is now permanent, the House Committee on Elections had a hearing Jan. 22 on a bill to rewrite the affidavit and eliminate the option of using non-photo IDs. HB1600 would also drop the requirement that voters be notified in advance about changes in the law. The League expects a decision soon in its lawsuit on the Secretary of State’s implementation of the voter ID law.
Denise Lieberman of the Advancement Project testified against HB1600, calling it an attempt to reinstate a strict photo ID requirement. “It would require voters to show a non-expired state issued photo ID to vote or cast a provisional ballot that would only be counted if the voter returned with photo ID or if the voter’s signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the signature on their voter registration.”
The state of Missouri has agreed to improve voter registration at Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) license offices to settle a League lawsuit against the Secretary of State and the Department of Revenue (DOR). The lawsuit filed by LWV of Missouri and the A. Philip Randolph Institute in April 2018 accused the state of violating the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by not automatically updating voter information after residents change addresses.
As part of the settlement, DOR will redirect residents to the Secretary of State’s voter registration website when they change their address at a license office. DOR also agreed to improve voter registration services by changing in-person and mailed change-of-address requests, conduct audits, publish data and designate an NVRA coordinator to ensure compliance with the settlement. The agreement provides court supervision for two years.
“Each election, disenfranchisement occurs when Missouri voters appear at the polls and find out that they are not registered at their current address,” said LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox.”While there are other improvements the League would like to see to make it easier to register and vote, these changes at DMV license offices will bring Missouri closer to full compliance and reduce the number of qualified voters being shut out of the political process.”
Click here for an Associated Press story from Nov. 21 about the settlement.
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.
The League learned ways to educate the public on the climate crisis and advocate for changes at the state and local level at the November 2 Fall Workshop in Sedalia.
Carolyn Amaparan from the Climate Reality Project stressed the urgency of the climate crisis. While 97 percent of scientists believe humans are causing the climate to change, polls show almost half of Missouri voters deny that fact. Impacts for the state include more days with temperatures above 95 degrees, weather catastrophes, and numerous health issues.
“Renewable energy is cheaper now than other sources of conventional energy,” Amparan said. LWVCBC member Dick Parker advocated for ways to reduce harmful greenhouse gas production, from shuttering coal-powered plants to switching to electric cars with batteries powered by wind and solar energy. (See the handouts or click here to see their presentations).
President Evelyn Maddox summarized expectations for local Leagues under the Making Democracy Work and People Powered Fair Maps grants from LWVUS. She said those grants will help local Leagues become more technologically sufficient, more aware of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, and on the road to long-term financial sustainability. Louise Wilkerson led an exercise on how to local Leagues can overcome obstacles to diversity.
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.