The South Central Indiana League of Women Voters along with sister organizations throughout Indiana and the country celebrate a huge milestone next year. On Feb. 14, 2020, the League on a national level will celebrate its 100th birthday. The organization was founded because women were fighting for the right to vote. While the planning began long before, it would be 1926 before we actually got the right to vote.
Since that time, the League here and chapters around the country have acted as watchdogs, leaders on issues relating to: education, health care, the environment, and this year’s biggest priority, redistricting reform, i.e. the fight against gerrymandering. Here locally, years ago, the League with people like Melba Doggett, Barbara Williams, Mary Coyte, June Vogt, Florence Sussman and Tom Wolfe were largely responsible for the passage of an elected school board in Clark County. The chapter died out years later and was not reactivated until Barack Obama’s election. A young woman, Jessica Meyer, approached me and asked if I remembered the League. I did. I belonged as a young professional and believed in its mission. She asked if I would help rejuvenate the League. I agreed and we began exploring what we would have to do. Seven years later, we are looking forward to celebrating our Mother Organization’s 100th birthday.
This year, to start the process of celebration for the 100th birthday, we began a series of political forums. Our goal was, as it always is, to educate, inform and participate with those who vote, hope to vote, and someday will be voters. We were designed to educate and inform. It is not our job to endorse political candidates; it is our job to offer the voters the opportunity to hear directly from those wishing to serve them. They can draw their own conclusions from what is said by the candidates themselves. Our last forum for this year will be at the Ashland Park Shelter House near the Falls of the Ohio on Oct. 24. We will begin at 5:30 p.m. and please remember to bring your lawn chairs!
It has been exciting to date: 77 attended the Charlestown forum, 157 the New Albany forum, and 77 attended the Jeffersonville forum. New Albany wins the prize with all but one candidate (who apologized because he and his family were on vacation) in attendance and the chairs for both the Republican and Democratic parties were present. An important event in that partisan politics were set aside for the evening to offer an opportunity to the voters to get a whole and complete picture of their candidates. Maybe Clarksville will match that effort!
We have to restore civility and responsibility to public offices. Negative ads, political positioning and entitlement attitudes have become the norm. We need to send a clear message to those we elect — do your job and do it well. We are watching. We are voting. We do care about what you do and we want to know how you do it, so transparency is important. Inform us, serve us, and do the jobs you were elected to do.
Our voting record in this community and in Indiana is dismal. One hundred years ago our predecessors fought for us in real ways, they were jailed, beaten, some died for the right for us to vote. We owe the women who fought for us, we owe them the vote they fought so valiantly for, and we owe them our allegiance.
I look at my granddaughters and wonder what it will be like for them when they turn 18. Will they have the same difficulties we have, even today? Will people call them names because they question the establishment? Will they be ostracized because of their commitment to furthering voter participation? Will they be questioned or branded because of who they support or their political beliefs? I pray all of that is ending with our generation, I really do.
I registered to vote in 1971 (the first year I was old enough). No one told me what to do, I just went down and registered. As an activist later, I helped to change voter laws that would allow homeless people the right to vote from their residence no matter where that was; we were the third state in the nation to do that. It is in that vein that we try to educate the disenfranchised.
The power to change history, to create positive growth in our communities and to be one people is clear and available to each of us one day of the year. The first Tuesday in November brings us together as one people to elect our leadership. It is sacred to America and should be protected at all costs. Intimidation, name-calling, ugly advertisements and gerrymandering are tools for those who can’t win elections on their own merit and who do not deserve to hold office.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, do what is required of you in America, vote for those you want to serve you. In the words of my dad, remember “on election day, you go into that booth equal to a Rockefeller, don’t forget that, it is the great equalizer."
— Barbara Anderson, Jeffersonville, is executive director of Haven House Services Inc. Reach her by email email@example.com.