Today is the day to cast your vote for the District 7 Representative in Congress, Justice of the Supreme Court and a variety of other local elections.
While today might be the first and last time you ponder this election, the League of Women Voters of the Northwoods (LWVNOW) has been working tirelessly over the past several months to ensure local citizens were registered in preparation for today’s election.
At a League event at Nicolet College on Jan. 29, volunteer and advocate Debra Durchslag explained more about the League and the resources they offer.
“The League is about voter registration and voter education in order to promote democracy,” Durchslag explained. “We are a nonpartisan organization, meaning that we do not support any candidates and we don’t support any political party.”
Durschlag said that since voters need to present an official government document (such as a Wisconsin driver's license or ID) in order to register, it can be a headache for some to navigate the red tape.
“Voter registration is difficult in the state of Wisconsin,” Durschlag admitted. “We have to take many extra steps.”
While the vast majority of individuals don’t have a problem producing these documents, Durschlag said those who do often don’t make it to the ballot.
“The problem is when you’re trying to find underserved and underrepresented individuals,” Durschlag said. “Those individuals often have a very difficult time producing any of those papers.”
But Durchslag explained that other states have found innovative ways to get around the issues we face here, including motor voter registration.
“Whenever you get a drivers license, you’re automatically registered to vote,” Durchslag said.
She said that while motor voter registration would be a helpful solution down the road, the League is working diligently to educate voters on how to register within the confines of the current system.
The League hosts several workshops and presentations throughout the year to engage with the public and educate them on the voting process as well as the candidates who are running. In addition, the League hosts monthly meetings in which they invite a speaker to talk about various topics, such as poverty in the Northwoods.
The League also hosts registration events, in which League members help the public register to vote and provide resources to quality information about the candidates.
Through these registration events, Durschlag said she has found there are many young people in the community who are interested in participating in League activities.
“We’re really looking to engage these young people and see more of what they want to do and what we can do with them,” Durschlag said. “We’re not afraid of information and the exchange of ideas.”
Karen Kitze, one of the five women who started the Northwoods chapter, said information exchange and education was a major reason why the League began over a century ago.
“Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was one of the suffrage movement women, started the League of Women Voters right after women earned the right to vote,” Kitze explained.
She said that when women earned the right to vote, they weren’t educated on the political issues of the day, so Stanton started the League to do just that.
“Democracy cannot thrive without an educated population,” Kitze said.
In order to meet that goal, she said local Leagues can carry out a study and publish a position based on that research, in which the study generates a discussion that is then brought to the League for consensus so members can vote on that position.
“There is so much misinformation out there that I see our role as educating the public so that they can make responsible, knowledgeable decisions when they go to the ballot box,” Kitze said.
She said the League hosts registration events at high schools across the counties they service, which includes Forest, Florence, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties.
“We had a training session and trained some high school students to register other students,” Kitzen explained, “One of those students that got trained registered three of her classmates. Now she can, without us being there, help her friends register to vote.”
But she also said the League is open to men who are interested in joining, and they have a dozen or so men among their 70+ members.
Sue Dierksen is a new League member who said she joined in November after coming to a monthly meeting.
“It just felt like the place to get involved and from a civic perspective, to help do what I could do,” Dierksen said.
Those interested in attending the League’s monthly meetings should visit their website for more information about joining.
In addition to their website, the national League of Women Voters also sponsors Vote411, a website with links to candidate profiles and an option to check your registration status.
“Any voter can go in and look up who is running for what office at their local level, city level or county level,” Dierksen explained. “They can go in and just look at the candidates and what they’re about. To me, that is amazing.”
Another valuable resource endorsed by the League is MyVote Wisconsin, which directs you to the correct polling place based on your home address in addition to a sample ballot.
The Northwoods Chapter of the League of Women Voters encourages you to visit their website and resources to find your local polling authority and cast your ballot today.