Nonpartisan group informs and engages citizens for a healthy democracy
The League of Women Voters St. Paul works to make voting less intimidating for people.
It is part of the larger national organization, the League of Women Voters, a civic organization in the United States that was formed in 1920 to help women take a larger role in public affairs after they won the right to vote.
For Como resident Amy Perna being involved in the League is a natural extension of the civic and community engagement that began in high school, when she organized students and faculty to support Diversity Day.
In 2016, she was hired as the LWVSP candidate forum coordinator. She worked seasonally for the next three years, and then joined the board in July 2017 as Voter Service Chair. Last year, she was elected as Co-President.
Perna believes that a healthy democracy requires informed and engaged citizens, open and responsive government and the opportunity to take action.
For more on the League, read the Q & A below.
What is the value of LWVSP?
The value of our work lies in that we engage and educate people in a strictly nonpartisan manner. Folks know that when they show up to a candidate forum – a program like January’s Presidential Nominating Primary event with Secretary Simon or to volunteer with us in area high schools – that they will be walking into a nonpartisan, safe environment in which they can learn and ask questions. Additionally, we bring value to our community by engaging folks in the democratic process by registering them to vote, hosting candidate forums, engaging youth and holding relevant educational programs. Registering voters looks a little different this year, but we are out registering in person in select locations!
Who is LWVSP for?
The LWVSP is a welcoming organization and is for every one looking to engage in democracy at the local level in a nonpartisan way. We welcome folks who want to learn more about the people running for office, engage in relevant topics, those who might be interested in working with area high schools to encourage youth participation in elections or joining one of our book clubs. Many people join LWVSP because they want to help register voters, which is great! You can also join the League and become a member or make a donation to help support our work!
How does LWV further democracy?
A democracy requires that people vote. A lot of what we do at the local level is help make that process less intimidating for people by showing them what it will look and feel like at the polls.
Lifetime member Sig Johnson holds mock elections all over the city, our Youth Vote team teaches youth about how to vote and why it is important by employing Student Leaders in Saint Paul high schools, and we register voters wherever we are asked.
We believe it is essential for the public to understand the views, opinions and commitments of people running for elected office and to understand issues facing our nation, state and city and that is where our Voter Service Committee and Program Committee come in.
We organize candidate forums, produce a voter guide and hold free programs on issues people care about like election security and the Presidential Nominating Primary and voting during a pandemic. It is this understanding that better equips voters with information they need to make informed decisions.
How can people be involved in politics during this pandemic?
I would highly encourage people to check out Vote411.org to learn about candidates in their districts. Use this time to read or listen to trusted news sources and to really dig into a candidate’s history, work and volunteer experience; don’t just rely their campaign website and literature or social media feeds to make a decision about who to vote for.
If you notice a candidate hasn’t filled out their Vote411.org questionnaire, reach out to them and encourage them to do so!
I would also encourage everyone to talk to people in their circles about voting. Ask people what their voting plan is. Studies have shown that this is a highly effective way to encourage voter turnout.
I would like to encourage people to vote from home by absentee ballot. You can apply online right now for absentee ballots, so you get an easy, vote-from-home experience. Ballots need to be postmarked by Nov. 3, but we are asking folks to turn those ballots in by Oct. 20, a full two weeks before election day. The last day to pre-register in MN was Oct. 13. If a person isn’t registered by then, they can do so at their polling place on election day.
Meet other members
Joann Ellis & Helen Losleben with Dave Triplett and Bill Ekblad[/caption]
What is the value of LWVSP?
Dr. Cheryl Bailey of Merriam Park, LWVSP Youth Vote Team: Nothing could be more clear to me that voting, educated voters and promoting access via legislation (instead of obstructing voting) are the most important issues of our times. If climate change, COVID 19, or partisanship concern people, then more citizens simply have to vote!
Claudia Dieter of Highland Park, LWVSP program chair: For me, the value of the League is its non-partisanship which gives it credibility. The League does take positions on some issues, but the position is on the issue, not the politics or the party.
Helen Losleben of Mendota Heights, LWVSP secretary: LWV helps me and many others know that getting involved with the election process is vitally important to the growth of our country. LWV works diligently to help make it easier for people to register to vote answering questions and providing information in a clear message on the importance of voting.
How does LWV further
Bailey: In order to get smart and able politicians, they have to know that the populace is going to be watching them and will hold them accountable. That needs to be much more pronounced now, especially in the face of a pandemic, to keep bad policies and naughty elected officials from taking advantage of a tragedy. Attention is turned elsewhere...
Dieter: The LWV furthers democracy by providing information to the voters, information that is presented without spin. And, as a member of the Program Committee, I/we take this very seriously when we plan and execute a program. For example, we were working on a program for April that was going to be a debate on the National Popular Vote Compact. The League of Women Voters at the national level has a position on the NPV. Regardless, arguments both for and against Minnesota joining this compact, were to be presented.
The goal, or mission, of the League is to provide information so that the community members can make an informed decision, be that a candidate, a school referendum, etc.
What tips do you offer to those who want get involved in politics?
Losleben: Join a local group, know your community and what they stand for, volunteer, be informed. LWV has sponsored great informational events, giving folks information in a unbiased manner to help promote healthy elections and transform voter turnout to an even higher point than every before.
Bailey: Be patient. I continue to be hugely bothered by the snail’s pace of political activism, but I think it’s the only way. Be direct - say what you think, while being respectful of the opinion of others. I hope Monitor readers will join the League of Women Voters! We need young people, people of color, people in the disability community, etc to join us and fight for an educated citizenry! The more we can diversify our membership, the more our message will remain relevant for the next hundred years.
Dieter: If there is something that has impacted your life, either positively or negatively, and you want to understand it better – dig in! Reach out to people you know who are involved or impacted by it as well. Find out who the decision makers are. Ask questions!
The LWVSP is one of many organizations, including our neighborhood newspapers, in our community that are interested in making our city and neighborhoods better. The more that we can collaborate and support one another, the better our chances to succeed and make a difference.