August 26 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote in the United States. And this week, a key player in the voting-rights movement also marks a milestone. On February 14, 1920, the advocates and organizations behind the women's suffrage movement gathered in Chicago and created the League of Women Voters.
Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Illinois Audra Wilson said the centennial presents an opportunity to examine the league's history and the obstacles overcome to ensure all women have a voice at the polls.
"It still took another 45 years before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and we are still contemporarily dealing with attacks on that right to vote," Wilson said. "So we are reminding people of why we are still relevant 100 years later, and why, quite frankly, we still have to be talking about preserving that right to vote."
The League's initial goal was to educate women about their new right to vote, and Wilson said since then, the organization has continued to defend democracy as it educates and empowers voters of all genders and political affiliations.
Along with events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters and the 19th Amendment, Wilson said League events this year will also focus on the 2020 elections.
"Not withstanding the pomp and circumstances of a lot of these larger elections, the elections that are the most significant to the average voters are the ones that are happening locally," she said, "because these are elections that have the impact on individuals' daily lives."
While Wilson encourages all voters to cast a ballot, she noted it also should be done responsibly.
"It's so easy to get misinformation about candidates and stances and their beliefs because they're being inundated and they don't know how to sift through a lot of the chatter and to identify some really good information so they can make informed decisions," she said. "Sometimes they might give up, period: 'Well, forget about it, I just don't even want to bother.'"
The League of Women Voters of Illinois just released a new Illinois Voter Guide that includes information about the candidates on the ballot. The league also will be hosting nonpartisan forums around the state that will allow voters to ask questions directly to local candidates.