By Kjersti McDonald
Did you know that before women (white women) were granted the right to vote in the U.S., suffragists in Missouri had formed The League of Women Voters of Missouri?
LWVMO was formed in October of 1919, months after the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s 50th convention in St. Louis, where President Carrie Chapman Catt proposed the creation of a “league of women voters to finish the fight and aid in the reconstruction of the nation.” It was formed with the goal of empowering women voters to be informed and engaged in public policy.
There are currently eight chapters of the LWVMO, and soon, there will be nine! A group of about 50 people from the Joplin area – including Carthage, Webb City, and Carl Junction – gathered at Bookhouse Cinema in July to learn more about the League and discuss the prospect of forming a Joplin-area chapter.
Now that interest has been established, a second meeting will be held on Monday, September 23rdfrom 6-7 p.m. at the Joplin Public Library. There, prospective members will discuss next steps for unit formation, talk membership and dues, vote on a slate of officers and an official chapter name, and move forward with deciding what this area’s LWV chapter’s advocacy and education efforts will look like.
One proposal for a Latinx-focused forum to educate Latinx voters on things like the structure of our state government, voter registration, how to find one’s polling place and ballot issues, will be put forth at Monday’s meeting.
This is obviously a particularly tumultuous time in our country’s political history. Now more than ever, it is vital that we educate and empower citizens on their rights and responsibilities. Voting on election day is the basic operation that we have in this democracy – how much more real, effective change could happen if every low-and-middle-class citizen was informed on how government is affecting their everyday lives? Those with money are certainly impacting policy with their fiscal influence. It’s time that we start a revolution of radical civic engagement. Only then can the power return to we, the people – all of the people.
I encourage anyone who has been thinking about finding an avenue to positively affect our democracy to come out to Monday’s meeting and get involved with our local group. Read on to learn more about what the LWV does.
When: Monday, Sept. 23rd
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Where: Joplin Public Library, Conference Room 1
1901 E. 20th St. Joplin, MO 64804
Membership & Dues
LWV Membership is open to men, women and non-binary people, age 16 and over.
To be a member of the LWV, one must pay yearly dues. The national dues are $32/year, Missouri state dues are $20/year, and local dues are determined by the local league. The LWV of SWMO – which is focused in the Springfield area – sets their local dues at $8, which brings the yearly total to an even $60. It’s anticipated that the Joplin-area unit’s dues will also be $8, which means prospective members can expect to pay $60 to secure their membership in the Joplin-area unit.
Discounts – A family membership is the full cost of one membership, plus half the cost of another membership. i.e. $90 for a family membership. Student memberships are typically half-priced, but currently, as a promotion in celebration of the upcoming centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, students don’t have to pay membership dues until January 2021.
The National League of Women Voters was established on February 14, 1920, just six months before the passage of the 19th amendment which gave white women the right to vote.
The LWV was meant as a nonpartisan vehicle to empower and educate women on how to use their newly-earned right to vote, but also to be active participants of democracy. In addition to educating voters on their rights and responsibilities, the League actively advocates for and against issues and policies on behalf of the public interest. Although the League is non-partisan, it doesn’t discourage its members from participating in partisan politics – except for members of League leadership.
Advocacy and Education
The LWV has long been a respected and active organization that provides services like www.vote411.org, a website that describes itself as a “one-stop-shop for election related information.” Visit the site, enter your address, and find your polling location, see registration deadlines, upcoming election dates, and a sample ballot with both candidates and ballot initiatives, including additional information on the ballot issues to help you inform your voting decisions. You can also register to vote and check or update your voter registration information through Vote 411.
The policy issues that the LWV decides to take positions on is decided at the national level and is passed on to the state and local leagues. The LWV doesn’t take positions on policy issues on a whim. Years of research goes into a policy position, and the LWV is always careful to make their decision non-partisan and in the interest of protecting U.S. voters.
The LWVUS fought with other voters’ rights groups to pass the Voter Registration Act in 1965, a law that requires state governments to offer voter registration opportunities to any eligible person who applies for or renews a drivers’ license or applies for public assistance, and also prohibits states from removing registered voters from the voter rolls unless certain criteria are met.
Last year, the LWVMO endorsed Amendment 1, a ballot measure which passed with over 60% of the vote, and addresses issues such as fair legislative districting, limits on campaign donations and lobbyist gifts to elected officials, and barring elected officials from taking a job as a lobbyist for two years after leaving office.
Recently, one of the fights the LWVMO has been involved in – along with the ACLU, the Advancement Project, and the NAACP – is a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s voter ID law, which requires a voter to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Local leagues are given leeway to choose the local issues they would like to work on, but still require research.
Above all, the LWV believes in protecting and informing voters and demanding that our democratic republic government is fair, responsive and respectful of the will of the people. Read more about the LWV’s priorities, issues, and advocacy and education work at www.lwv.org.