Photo by Sofi Mendez
Jayn Chaney, director of the LWV, runs a registration drive with members Harriet Adelburg and Nancy Cadmus.
Louise Carhart, Community Editor
This past Tuesday, Sept. 22, was National Voter Registration Day, representing a countrywide effort to encourage eligible voters to become politically active.
In Grinnell, the City chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV), a non-partisan community leadership group, marked the occasion by setting up booths around town and allowing passersby to register on the spot. Their efforts were tied to their larger push for increased voter equality and accessibility.
The LWV booths were set up in places like the Drake Community Library and Hy-Vee and were manned by volunteers and board members alike. The locations were intentionally picked as ones with high foot traffic, where volunteers for the LWV could register as many people as possible.
“We’re very pleased that a lot of people that have come into the library are registered … the most important thing is to have people registered to make it easy for them so they will be participating citizens,” said Harriet Adelberg, a board member who tabled for the group at Drake Library.
The Grinnell league has been active in issues besides voter registration in its Grinnell community. Instead of promoting a certain party or candidate, the LWV focuses on bringing issues to the attention of the City and county that they find to be especially pressing. Each issue is carefully chosen, with the help of a study done on its impact in the area.
“Whenever we take a position, we do a study first. We don’t just go, ‘Oh, yeah, this sounds like a good thing,’” said Selva Lehman, a volunteer and member of the LWV.
The LWV has been instrumental in promoting policy, protections and regulations for Grinnell and Poweshiek County, many of which pertain to environmental issues. In the past, the LWV played an active role in the passage of Iowa’s Bottle Deposit Law, or “Bottle Bill,” in 1978. This bill promotes responsible recycling of various containers and was a landmark policy at the time.
“We usually do a local issue … once we study it and have a position we can take action, and that means lobbying,” Adelberg said.
Besides lobbying for their positions as a part of direct influencing of policy, the LWV conducts community-based programs that make politics and resources more accessible. They publish and distribute pamphlets explaining programs like housing and food assistance. These materials also lay out community resources for food, health and human services, making these organizations much easier to find.
“The goal is educating the public on issues … it’s education, voter registration and [the study of] issues that could be pertinent to the community,” Lehman said.
In keeping with the education side, the group organizes candidate forums for local elections that allow community members to meet their prospective representatives and engage them in questions on policy.
Most importantly, the LWV would like to point out that they are available to all people within the community.
“We are open to all members,” said Nancy Cadmus, a tabling volunteer and board member. “It’s called the League of Women Votes, but men are welcome as well.” College students have also in the past been members and active participants in the work of the LWV.
The League of Women Voters will be hosting a membership brunch on Saturday, Sept. 26 at the First Presbyterian Church of Grinnell from 10 a.m. to noon that is open to those interested in becoming members. A representative from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will present a talk on water quality and the local watershed.