A League of Women Voters chapter may be resurrected in Superior. Seventeen residents attended two meetings last week at the Superior Public Library to gauge interest in reviving the local chapter.
Ellen Penwell, membership and events coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, spoke to them about the league’s history and the next steps that would be needed.
The National League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The grassroots, nonpartisan political organization was built on the principles of empowering voters and defending democracy.
The Superior-Douglas County League of Women Voters, which Penwell found was active as far back as the 1920s, disbanded in 2001 due to low membership. It would take a core of at least 10 members, as well as a plan mapped out for future activities, to bring back the organization.
Town of Superior resident Rachael Martin, who invited Penwell to speak, said she would have been glad if only two or three people attended the Wednesday, Nov. 13, meeting. Both the number of attendees and their age ranges were positive signs, according to Penwell.
Martin, former director of the Carlton County Historical Society, said she had planned to join the League of Women Voters when she retired.
“It’s a way to get people of different political backgrounds together and I think we need some togetherness,” Martin said.
Martin considered joining the Duluth chapter, which has more than 200 members. She also visited the annual meeting for the League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties this spring, where she met Penwell. Another Superior woman called Penwell separately to ask about starting a Superior chapter, so she believed it was a good time to test the waters with informational meetings.
Those who attended the Superior meetings were most interested in organizing candidate forums and voter registration events through the league, which is open to male and female members.
Wisconsin currently has 23 chapters of the League of Women Voters. Members impacted the 2018 election by registering more than 12,000 Wisconsinites, protecting over 4.4 million voters through the league’s election observation program and hosting more than 1,000 election events, including voter registration drives, candidate and issue forums.
In addition to well-researched issue positions that the national and state leagues have reached a consensus on, local chapters can focus efforts on things that matter to them. The Ashland and Bayfield Counties league, for example, is spearheading advocacy surrounding water quality in 2019.
“This is where all the action happens,” Penwell said of local leagues.
It can take up to a year to start a chapter, if there are enough people to step up and lead. Anyone interested in a local League of Women Voters can contact Penwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-256-0827.
Learn more about the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin at lwvwi.org.
How to be a voting advocate
Ellen Penwell, membership and events coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, suggests a number of online resources regarding elections: