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Civic duty

League aims to educate people politically regardless of stance

Created date

August 21st, 2012

For the last 92 years, the League of Women Voters has fought to protect not only women s but people s right to vote. A non-partisan group of both men and women, they strive to empower everyone to shape better communities through education and advocacy, according to literature provided by the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County.

Impact on everyday lives

The League of Women Voters not only educates people on local, state, and national governmental issues, they also focus on issues that impact people in their everyday lives matters like education and health care, housing and immigration, and natural resources and public relations. They also host forums for candidates and work the polls to ensure things run smoothly and ethically. It s impossible to know everything, says Nancy Allison, resident chair of the League of Women Voters at. target="_blank">Riderwood,an Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md., and the older I get, the more I realize just how much I don t know. For the last six years, since Nancy moved to Riderwood, she s been learning from the league. Having moved from a house in Montgomery County to a Riderwood apartment home in Prince George s County, she attended a league meeting to learn about new local issues. I went [to the meeting] to learn about where I live, and I never left, she says. She s been a league member ever since.

Open arms

Every month, the Riderwood unit of the league meets to discuss a specific theme, such as legislation on climate change or reproductive health. Members can be as involved as much as they want; they can merely attend meetings to hear different sides of the issues, or they can join committees focused more on one specific issue. Ruth Erk, one of the first people to move to Riderwood and who started the unit on campus in 2002, has been involved with the league for more than 50 years, like many other members on campus. She attended meetings in Montgomery County until she realized Riderwood had enough interested people to create a unit. Montgomery County has many units of the league. However, Prince George s County doesn t have one; many people who live in Prince George s County attend the meetings at Riderwood, which are open to anyone and everyone who wants to become more informed politically. Riderwood is in a unique position because the campus is divided into two counties: Prince George s and Montgomery (see accompanying story). People are coming to Riderwood from all over, Ruth says.

Making voices heard

Nancy and Ruth agree they have a responsibility to make each voice regardless of views or opinions heard. We owe the women who sacrificed so much to gain us the vote, and when I was growing up, I hardly knew of these women, Nancy says. A lot of women ended up in jail; some were even fighting their husbands because the men didn t understand why it was so important to their wives, Ruth says. Because of this, some women never even got married. That s how important getting the vote for women was to them, Ruth says. We re still fighting for the right to vote today, unfortunately, because of the new voter ID laws, says Nancy. Voter ID laws are state-based efforts to ensure protection from voter fraud. At the polls, you must present valid identification to document you are who you say you are and that you have the right to vote in that county. Some states are trying to enhance those rules, but others argue that it can alienate certain populations, for example, seniors who don t have a driver s license or state ID card. Everyone in the league has unique political views. Ultimately, the group aims to educate people on the facts, to present both sides of each question. Before you vote, you need to be informed about the issues and not just from one source, Nancy says. Dig around to find the truth, which can be difficult to do. If you don t vote, you lose out on the opportunity to make a difference. And that s what democracy is all about, Ruth says.