Pasadena Area League of Women Voters to Launch Push for More Diverse Membership at Centennial Event

Published : Wednesday, September 25, 2019 | 4:42 AM

The Pasadena Area League of Women Voters will mark its centennial and celebrate 100 years of American women’s right to vote by initiating a Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Task Force to build a more diverse membership. The League’s national Chief Operating Officer, Virgina Kase will be on hand to speak about this project at a public forum on October 3.

The League of Women Voters U.S. is the national umbrella for the local group.

“A couple of years ago, the U.S. League introduced its diversity, equity and inclusion policy, the result of a lot of background and research and assessment work that was going on for a few years,” said Pasadena Area League of Women Voters President Pat Coulter. “It rolled it out under ‘Transformation Journey’ which is involved in bringing the individual Leagues across the country into a ‘21st Century’ place.”

There are 800 leagues across the country affiliated with the state level California League of Women Voters and the U.S. League. With the new leadership and the new task force, it was kismet that the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage coincides with the League’s anniversary.

“In addition to the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, it’s also the 100th anniversary for the founding of the League of Women Voters, founded four months before the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote,” Coulter said. “Women of color, and indigenous women were not allowed to participate in the suffragist movement. They weren’t allowed to march in the 1913 parade. They were not welcome into the League. We knew this was not about color, it was about democracy. We all deserve to vote.”

Coulter said that it’s important for the League to “look like America,” she said.

“I started our task force with an appointment of three people. The chair Jacqueline Pinn, Debbie Fagen and Dorothy Keane (past president). But their first big effort was to bring Virginia Kase to League day in October.”

Inclusive Dialogue to Take Place at Event

It marks the first time the Pasadena Area League will address the diversity issue directly and take inclusive dialogue.

“We want to expand the tent and reach new members for the League of Women Voters who want to engage, but we also want to reach into communities we haven’t reached into before,” Coulter said. “We know the demographics of our area and look at our League membership and see from age membership, we need a strategy to attract younger people to the League, how are we going to attract Latin X, Asian women, a strategy that will help us expand our tent to people who at present don’t have a presence in League of Women Voters Pasadena area.

“We’re looking at ways to make sure there are no barriers in becoming members of the League as well,” she said. “Financially we don’t want that to be a barrier. We want them to pay based on their ability to pay.”

While women were granted the right to vote in 1920, discriminatory practices led to the reality that few women of color registered.

“One of the things we’re doing for the centennial celebration is to acknowledge and take ownership of, and to realize there were some things that happened during that era and say ‘Now that we know better, we can do better.’”

“The focus on equity and inclusion is part of the transformation that we hope the League will go through,” she said. “It’s not an initiative. Transformation is such a good word. When you transform something over a period of time, we would want the League to look more like the country we live in. And to not only include women, but also men, young people and non-conforming people can be a part of the League of Women voters. We’re trying to expand our tent to include more people. We need everyone voting. We need every voter to be informed. We inform people by making sure they understand how their vote counts.”

New Voting Initiatives for 2020

In L.A. County, voting is changing in terms of how we vote, Coulter said.

Longer voting period: “Beginning in March when we go to the primaries, we will vote not at the old polling places but at voting centers all across LA County and we’ll vote for 11 days,” she said. “You will have more than one day to vote.”

Voting by Mail: “Now, we can vote by mail, or vote on a Saturday or a Sunday.”

Better ADA Compliance: “Also, the change in the voting for LA Count is more ADA compliant,” she said. “People with certain physical challenges are more able to vote. We want people to know this is happening before. As we get closer to the election the League of Women Voters will also do analysis and we pull together the pros and cons of the propositions and go out to different groups.

There is still the old-fashioned way to gain interest in voting, Coulter said.

“We have gone door-to-door in some communities,” Coulter said. “One year we went around to a big complex and knocked on doors, but there are many other ways to get the information out and primarily it’s through social media.

What does she advise?

“I would encourage all voters to listen to the candidates,” she said. “Whatever they say may not absolutely come to fruition. However, you can get a sense of what they might fight for if they are elected. Those are some of the things I’m looking for.  And remember that the more informed we are about politics, the better decisions we can make. “

The LWV-PAS Centennial Celebration with National CEO Virginia Kase is scheduled for October 3, 8:30 to11:30 a.m at the Women’s City Club, 160 N. Oakland Ave, Pasadena. Parking is off Madison Avenue. Reservations are required both for an optional breakfast ($25) and seating, available online lwv-pa.org. For more information, phone (626) 798-0965 or email office@lwv-pa.org. Breakfast is at 9:00 a.m., the forum begins at 9:45 a.m.