With the all-important presidential and Congressional elections just 35 days away, it was timely that we were joined this morning by Sandy Kerr from the league of Woman Voters which is also celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Founded on February 14th, 1920, prior to the adoption of the 19th Amendment, its mission has been to empower women to create a more perfect democracy. The League was founded by leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. F or 100 years, it has been a nonpartisan, activist, grassroots organization that believes voters should play a critical role in democracy.
Sandy began with a brief history of the League of Woman Voters:
February 14 LWV Founded
The League was officially founded in Chicago in 1920, just six months before the 19th amendment was ratified and women won the vote. Formed by the suffragists of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the League began as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters.
Locally, in Bucks County, chapters were formed in Newtown in 1920 an din New Hope in 1924.
August 26 19th Amendment Ratified
After it passed in the House and Senate, the final hurdle for the 19th Amendment was ratification by the states. As anti-suffrage groups still fought to oppose ratification, suffrage leaders mobilized to continue their pressure campaign in the states. Finally, the Amendment was ratified in Tennessee and officially made law on August 26.
It should be noted that the passage did NOT provide universal suffrage for all women. It was not until the Snyder Act of 1924 that Native American women were grated the right to vote. Even with the passing of this citizenship bill, Native Americans were still prevented from participating in elections because the Constitution left it up to the states to decide who has the right to vote. After the passage of the 1924 citizenship bill, it still took over forty years for all fifty states to allow Native Americans to vote. For example, Maine was one of the last states to comply with the Indian Citizenship Act, even though it had granted tax paying Native Americans the right to vote in its original 1819 state constitution. As reported by Henry Mitchell, a resident of that state, Native Americans were prevented from voting in Maine in the late 1930s.
In 1948, the Arizona Supreme Court struck down a provision of its state constitution that kept Indians from voting. Other states eventually followed suit. Even with the lawful right to vote in every state, Native Americans suffered from the same mechanisms and strategies, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, fraud and intimidation, that kept African Americans from exercising that right. In 1965, with passage of the Voting Rights Act and subsequent legislation in 1970, 1975, and 1982, many other voting protections were reaffirmed and strengthened.
1944 — 45
UN Established & LWV Named NGO Observer
After World War II, the League carried out a nationwide public support campaign, at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. participation. Following the campaign, President Harry Truman invited the League to serve as a consultant to the U.S. delegation at the United Nations Charter Conference. One of the first organizations officially recognized by the UN as a non-governmental organization (NGO), the League still maintains official observer status today.
LWV Education Fund Established
As the League became more active in issue advocacy, the need arose for a separate organizational arm for activities like voter registration and information. The League of Women Voters Education Fund was established to encourage the active and informed participation of citizens in government and to increase understanding of major public policy issues.
Major Campaign to Ratify the ERA
In 1972, shortly after congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), LWV voted officially to support “equal rights for all regardless of sex.” The League followed this vote with a nationwide pressure campaign that continued through the 1970s. That national campaign ended in 1982, but LWV continues to push for ERA ratification today.
Emmy Award for Presidential Debates
The League sponsored the first televised presidential debates since 1960, for which we received an Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in Broadcast Journalism.
LWV Sponsors Presidential Debates
The League sponsored televised general election Presidential debates in 1980 and 1984, as well as presidential primary forums in 1980, 1984, and 1988. The debates focused on nonpartisan issues with a main goal of informing voters. As candidates demanded increasingly partisan conditions, however, the League withdrew its sponsorship of general election debates in 1988. Leagues around the country continue to hold debates and forums for local and state offices today.
NVRA Becomes Law
The League’s grassroots campaign for national legislation to reform voter registration resulted in passage of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), also known as the “motor-voter” bill. The goal: increase accessibility to the electoral process. The motor-voter bill enabled citizens to register at motor vehicle agencies automatically, as well as by mail and at agencies that service the public.
HAVA Becomes Law
When the 2000 election exposed the many problems facing the election system, the League began to work on election reform. Working closely with a civil rights coalition, LWV helped draft and pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which established provisional balloting, requirements for updating voting systems, and the Election Assistance Commission.
LWV Launches VOTE411.org
The League provided a dedicated website for voter information as early as the 1990s. In 2006, the League launched the next generation of online voter education with VOTE411.org, a “one-stop-shop” for election-related information. Today, VOTE411 provides both general and state-specific nonpartisan resources to the voting public, including a nationwide polling place locator, a ballot look-up tool, candidate positions on issues, and more.
LWV Launches People Powered Fair Maps Campaign
In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering cannot be solved by the federal courts. In response, the League initiated People Powered Fair Maps, a coordinated effort across all 50 states and D.C. to create fair and transparent, people-powered redistricting processes to eliminate partisan and racial gerrymandering nationwide.
LWV Celebrates 100 Years
February 14th, 2020, marks 100 years that the League of Women Voters has empowered voters and defended democracy. Over the last century, we’ve fought for election protection, democratic reforms, and equal access to the ballot—all while maintaining our commitment to nonpartisanship and fostering an informed electorate. As we look into our next hundred years, we aim to build power for the next generation of women leaders and voting rights activists. That’s why we’re celebrating our 100-year milestone with a nationwide coordinated Day of Action called Women Power the Vote.
What will the next 100 years hold?
The League of Women Voters has evolved from a mighty political experiment designed to help 20 million newly enfranchised women vote in 1920, to what it is today: a unique, nonpartisan organization that is a recognized force in molding political leaders, shaping public policy, and promoting informed citizen participation at all levels of government. To join us for our next 100 years, join your local League today!
The discussions proceeded with many questions concerning current voter registration and voting options and deadlines.
In order to be eligible to vote in Pennsylvania you have to register to vote before Election Day in Pennsylvania. You can find the deadline to register to vote in the "Dates and deadlines" section.
- be a citizen of the United States at least one month before the next election
- be a resident of Pennsylvania and your election district at least 30 days before the election
- be at least 18 years of age on the day of the next election
- You may also register if you:
- are a pretrial detainee, confined in a penal institution awaiting trial on charges of a felony or a misdemeanor;
- got released or will get released by the date of the next election from a correctional facility or halfway house (this must be upon completion of the term of incarceration for conviction of a misdemeanor or a felony);
- are on probation or released on parole; or
- are under house arrest (home confinement)
Voting and registration deadlines are also extremely important.
Election day is Nov. 3
Online: Oct. 19
By mail: Received by Oct. 19
In person: Oct. 19
Absentee ballot deadlines
Request: Oct. 27
Return by mail: Postmarked by Nov. 3
Return in person: Nov. 3 by 8:00 p.m.
Sep. 14 – Oct. 27, but dates and hours may vary based on where you live
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the option of Mail-In Voting has become available to all citizens of the Commonwealth. The deadlines for Mail-in Voting are the same as for Absentee Voting. And, pursuant to a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, “Mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania have previously been due by the time polls close on Election Day. But the court's order adds a three-day extension to receive ballots that are postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots with a pre-election postmark will now be counted as long as they are received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6, three days after the polls close.”
It should be noted that Republicans in the State Legislature have threatened to go to court to overturn this state supreme court ruling.
For people who choose for Mail-In Voting, there are some simple procedures to ensure that a personal vote will be deemed valid and counted … particularly as it realtes to the use of teh "secrecy" envelope in which the actual ballot must be inserted.
In the wake of the president’s threats to send poll watchers to every voting precinct in the country, the following is relevant to poll watchers in the Commonwealth.
Poll watchers: Poll watchers must be a registered elector of the county. A poll watcher does not have to be a resident of the election district that they are appointed to watch.
Section 417 of the Pennsylvania Election Code, 25 P.S. § 2687, provides for the appointment of watchers. Under section 417(a), “[e]ach candidate for…election at any election shall be entitled to appoint two watchers for each election district in which such candidate is voted for.” In addition, “[e]ach political party and each political body which has nominated candidates…shall be entitled to appoint three watchers at any general…election for each election district in which the candidates of such party or political body are to be voted for.” 25 P.S. § 2687(a).
Each watcher so appointed must be a qualified registered elector of the county in which the election district for which the watcher was appointed is located. Each watcher so appointed shall be authorized to serve in the election district for which the watcher was appointed and, when the watcher is not serving in the election district for which the watcher was appointed, in any other election district in the county in which the watcher is a qualified registered elector…. It shall not be a requirement that a watcher be a resident of the election district for which the watcher is appointed.
And, in another latecourt ruling, a federal judge stays Trump campaign lawsuit over Pa. voting rules; https://whyy.org/articles/federal-judge-stays-trump-campaign-lawsuit-over-pennsylvania-voting-rules/
Sandy also provided some important websites and three videos which should answer any additional questions individuals might have concerning voting in the 2020 elections.
Important websites and contact info:
Votespa.com – polling place info, check your registration status, register online to vote, apply for an absentee or mail in ballot etc.
Vote411.org – this is the League site for personalized voting information: registration status, what’s on your ballot, polling place info, local candidate forum information, candidate positions etc
Bucks County Board of Elections portal for up to date info on the 2020 election: http://www.buckscounty.org/2020Election
Bucks County Board of Elections phone: 215-348-6154 (follow the prompts)
Election video links
Attached are the YouTube links to the 3 League videos on registering to vote, voting by mail and voting in person. Hopefully these will address most of the questions your group has about voting in the upcoming election.
The Club thanked Sandy for her most informative presentation and answers to many questions.
The bottom line is to
V O T E
on or before November 3rd