April 21, 2013

Speaker: Work to expand voting accessibility

Rachel Brown

— When whispers and slight movement toward a voter identification law began years ago, the League of Women Voters was among the first to sound the alarm, national president Elisabeth MacNamara told a group of women gathered in Dalton for the state League’s biennial state meeting Saturday at the Emery Center.

In 2012, she said, the League received almost completely positive feedback from national, state and local news media for its efforts to educate voters and make resources available. The League, founded 93 years ago, identifies itself as a non-partisan organization dedicated to efforts that increase voting accessibility for citizens and educate voters on the issues.

“Making sure everyone has a voice and has a say is the real mission for this League,” MacNamara said.

This weekend marks the third time the state convention has been held in Dalton, organizers said. While many meetings are held in and around Atlanta, state president Elizabeth Poythress said it’s important to go to outlying chapters too to provide support and encouragement.

Member and past president Margaret Ball said the League is always looking for new members.

“We need younger people in the League now,” she said.

MacNamara agreed, and she said the kinds of efforts the League works toward are also what young people want to be a part of. They include working to expand early voting opportunties in states across the nation and organizing political forums for candidates to interact with the public. MacNamara said they’re also working to make voter registration “permanent and portable” so voters once registered in a state don’t have to worry about their registration expiring if they miss some election cycles.

She added members are still working to ease restrictions in states, like Georgia, where only a handful of identification methods are accepted for would-be voters and where obtaining a driver’s license — a main method of voter identification for many — requires significant and often time-consuming paperwork.

League members also recognized outgoing local president Helen Crawford and incoming co-presidents Mary Lynn Burton and Virgelia Meek. Martha Ann Saunders of Carroll County was presented with the Eleanor Raoul Green Society Lifetime Achievement Award for her decades of service with the League and her community.

For more information on the League, visit lwv.org.