This section features stories of groups and communities that connect intentionally to confront their social and political differences.
The League of Women Voters: What happens to intentions for non-partisan political activism about ensuring access to the democratic process when access to the democratic process is, itself, a partisan issue?
What is the fate of organizations that brand themselves as non-partisan in today’s openly charged political climate? For over 100 years the League of Women Voters (the LWV) has nurtured an image and reputation that placed it above the political fray as a largely non-controversial resource for non-partisan voter information. Never endorsing specific candidates, the organization’s public identity was defined by its commitment to facilitating voters’ ability to make informed choices about whom they would elect. The recent spotlight on the perennially fractured state of politics in the United States that has caught many mainly White citizens by surprise has ignited a crisis for many would be non-partisans. Empowering voters by presenting them with unfiltered information from and about their candidates and educating them about the voting process is, ostensibly, as non-partisan as it gets. What happens when the long-standing struggle between polarized forces over the exercise of citizenship via the voting booth is openly recognized?
This dilemma is hardly new, especially for the LWV. The LWV was founded by women abolitionists who, after the Civil War, struggled to decide whether or not to endorse the 15th Amendment which acknowledged the rights of Black men citizens to exercise the franchise while denying those rights to all women. As this ProPublica article describes, the LVW now finds itself in this pivotal moment grappling with what non-partisanship means when political polarization in the United States is, once again, undeniably and unavoidably exposed. What happens to non-partisanship about voting when the non-partisan organization’s central mission, expanding qualified access to the vote, is the partisan issue? Can the irrefutable core principles of democracy and their application become a unifying rallying cry for those who are otherwise politically at odds?