A Century of Promoting Everyone’s Right to Vote
Today, we are a nonpartisan, grass-roots organization that believes that active and engaged citizens, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or political affiliation, are the hallmark of a democracy.
…But in the midst of this celebration, we must acknowledge that the ratification of the 19th Amendment was only the beginning of a long, arduous fight to remove barriers to voting for all citizens. The fight for suffrage was inextricably tied to the odious legacy of racial subjugation and class warfare. Until recently, the deep legacy of black suffragists and their fight alongside their white counterparts has been minimized or completely omitted from many historical accounts.
Over a nearly century-long crusade, activists had to counteract a host of arguments against women’s suffrage, including concerns that allowing women to vote would undermine male hegemony or tear at the fabric of the nuclear family. But in a sad irony, what helped to ensure passage of women’s suffrage was the belief that allowing white women to vote could, in fact, ensure that guarantee of white supremacy.
Unfortunately, such a sentiment proved to be true. The ratification of the 19th Amendment was followed by a long, dark chapter of Jim Crow laws. The voting rights codified in the 15th Amendment (for black males) and 19th Amendment was constructively neutralized via the immediate implementation of poll taxes and literacy tests. Another 45 years would pass before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the law that finally eliminated de jure discrimination.
It is unfathomable that 100 years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment and 54 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act that we must still contend with surreptitious attacks to impede the rights of citizens to cast their ballots, from manufactured claims of rampant voter fraud to insidious schemes to disqualify voters for purely partisan advantage…
Nearly 100 years after its founding, the League knows that its mission will not be complete until all citizens have the ability to cast their ballots without interference and will spend the next century, if necessary, to protect that freedom.
-Excerpts from, "A century of promoting everyone's right to vote, not just women," by Audra Wilson, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Illinois. Make sure family and friends are registered to vote and cast their ballots!