Despite Roadblocks, League of Women Voters of CC Continues to Get Out the Vote
By Richard L. Gaw
In 1920, on the backdrop of a suffrage movement that marched
down our nation’s streets in a surging rush that would not be turned back,
women in this country went to the election booths for the first time.
In the same year, the League of Women Voters was formed.
Now in its centennial year, the non-partisan organization has been a consistent stalwart of truth, committed to providing fact-based information about issues and the positions candidates take on those issues, in order to help voters make decisions that impact their communities, their state and their nation.
This year -- against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, a nation divided along party lines and the persistent rumors swirling about the authenticity of elections – the role of the League of Women Voters to succeed in their mission has never been more important.
Leading up to Election Day on Nov. 3, the League of Women Voters of Chester County have, quite literally, blanketed the entire county.
To evenly disseminate their work, the League has divided the county into five regions throughout its 67 municipalities, where section leaders and volunteers are coordinating:
- Zoom meetings and teleconferences that inform county residents about filling out a mail-in ballot request form;
- The supplying of townships, libraries, food banks, schools and churches, mosques and synagogues with English and Spanish voting information postcards, legislative directories and voting guides for everyone from college students to senior living residents;
- The organization’s social media and mailings; and
- “Meet the Candidates” forums. In partnership with the West Chester chapter of the NAACP, the League will host two virtual debates on Oct. 15 and 16 that will introduce 16 candidates who are vying for local and regional political offices.
“The League has been so busy this year, that we needed three co-presidents,” said Pam Gray, who shares her title with Susan Carty and Barb Lathroum. “Our membership has doubled since the last presidential election. The interest in voting, the right to vote and registration has gone up exponentially.
“We’re getting material and information out wherever we can.”
While the Oct. 19 deadline for registration and the Oct. 27 deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot quickly approach, they do so beneath the cacophonous, resounding and repeated claim that our nation’s current electoral system – and mail-in ballots in particular - has been desecrated by fraud.
As his U.S. presidential campaign escalates in fervency and volume, President Donald Trump continues his strikes against the validity of mail-in voting, which he claims is “rigged” and will invalidate the results of the upcoming presidential election.
One of the key targets of Trump’s narrative has been Pennsylvania – a critical swing state whose 20 electoral votes may determine the outcome of the election and, due to COVID-19, has seen a sharp increase in the number of mail-in ballot applications in the state. Recently, the Trump reelection campaign filed a lawsuit in the state court in Philadelphia, which seeks to give campaign officials to the right to observe satellite election offices around the city and help assure the integrity of the electoral system.
“Bad things are happening in Philadelphia,” the campaign’s lawsuit said. “While transparency and accountability are hallmarks of election integrity, the actions of Philadelphia election officials to date have undermined election integrity by shrouding the casting of ballots in secrecy.”
Efforts to complicate the November election took another controversial turn on Sept. 30 – one day after Trump continued to fan the flames of voter fraud in his debate with Democratic candidate Joe Biden -- when the House State Government Committee in Harrisburg passed a resolution by a vote of 15-10 to create a select committee on election integrity made up of three Republicans and two Democrats who would investigate and review the results of the Nov. 3 election. The group would be empowered to subpoena “witnesses and documents” and initiate legal filings.
In the wake of these allegations and actions, Gray said that several voters she has spoken to have become increasingly skeptical that this year’s presidential election on Nov. 3 will be, in fact, legal. At nearly every information table and virtual meeting the League has arranged in the last few months, she said that of the many questions she and her colleagues receive, one question continues to rise above the others.
“They want to know, ‘Is my vote-by-mail ballot going to be safe?’” Gray said. “I heard an interesting comment last week that said it is easier to fool someone than to convince them that they have been fooled. All we can do is show them the proof over and over again.”
“We are telling our voters to get their ballot, fill it out and send it right in. Chester County Voter Services has been wonderful in contacting voters and getting the information out.”
As the Nov. 3 election looms just a little more than two weeks away, Gray said that the League will continue to canvas every municipality in the county in an effort to keep voters informed. While its work remains an uphill battle against a climate influenced by the course of a pandemic and a groundswell of misinformation, she said that the League’s fight to preserve the integrity of the upcoming presidential election will be waged one information table, one virtual event and one alliance at a time.
“Within a year after the 2016 presidential election, the League experienced a deluge of new members and it is continuing to rise, in both women and men and in the number of minority populations we reach,” Gray said, who mentioned the League’s new partnership with the Black Women of Chester County in Action as an example. She is also encouraged to see accurate information shared by the media about voting and voter registration, and anticipates that the proper dissemination of facts – not rumors – may result in as many as 80 percent of registered voters in the county getting to the polls, or voting by mail this election.
“I think the integrity of the League of Women Voters of Chester County stems from the fact that we are trusted, and that we have a 100-year track record that supports that trust,” Gary said. “Our residents and our elected officials know that we are non partisan. When we sponsor a debate, both parties know that we are respectful, and all we have been interested in doing is presenting the candidates and the issues, without comment.”
To learn more about the Oct. 15-16 virtual debates the League of Women Voters of Chester County will be hosting, visit www.lwvccpa.org, or the League’s Facebook page.
Voting Information in Chester County and Pennsylvania
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].