Salt Lake Tribune columnist Rebecca Walsh laments the lack of younger women joining the League of Women Voters, noting that the numbers have dropped since the 1970s, mostly through attrition.

Walsh writes about local resident Sandy Peck, who started going to the League’s Salt Lake City meetings with her children:

Now, the 73-year-old volunteer executive director spends day after day at the Utah Legislature, quietly taking notes. She speaks up only to advocate for radical notions like voter rights, public meetings and access to government records.

One of the last nonpartisan, grassroots, government-watchdog groups remaining on Capitol Hill, the League focuses its attention on voter education, producing "white papers" on hate crimes legislation, alternative energy and redevelopment law. They prepare a daily legislative update for public radio station KCPW. And each election year, League members draft a voter guide and moderate debates.

Most of the time, Peck and other League members are summarily dismissed with a platitude — "What nice old ladies."

Still, Peck participates each year. "It’s hard for me to be detached," she tells the SLT.

The League was started in 1920 in the wake of the suffrage movement, and questions concerning its present-day role inevitably emerge. Is it relevant and necessary — since women have long been voting at approximately the same apathetic 50-60 percent rate as men? What, if anything, has come to replace it in our political discourse? What does its decline say about women’s political power or women’s willingness to be politically engaged?

And maybe most importantly — whether or not you are a member or admirer of the League — how do you make your voice heard in the political process?

By the way, the LWV has a very dynamic website, and the news and events section shows quite a bit going on.

Christine

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  • Tracy May 30, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    The decline of participation in the League is yet another sign, in my mind, of the lack of true civil engagement in present-day America. I know many would tell me to look at MoveOn.org and other online and generally non-traditional venues for activism — but the League has always been about the face-to-face type of politics. And I think we are missing something if we think we are going to be able to do all of this virtually.

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