Yesterday, staff from the League of Women Voters attended the Feminist Majority Foundation’s annual Women, Money, Power Summit. The event featured sessions on voting rights, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and an awards luncheon to honor trailblazers for women’s rights.
In the first session of the day, speakers connected the dots on a range of issues from education, voting rights and attacks on women’s health. Terry O’Neill of the National Organization of Women spoke about the importance of women working together to overcome the wide-ranging attacks on women’s rights. Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation spoke eloquently about how voting rights are connected to women’s rights, labor issues and immigration reform, and how women must come together to battle back against these attacks and to move our country forward. Campbell urged attendees to get involved and be a part of the ongoing discussions on these issues: “You gotta go in and weigh in and challenge folks.”
Finally, Kate Folmer of Ballot Strategy discussed the range of issues being approved or rejected by voters through ballot initiatives in the 2013 and 2014 elections, including attempts to repeal same day voter registration in Montana and to overturn a comprehensive voter suppression bill in Arizona. The League of Women Voters of Arizona is active in the coalition seeking to overturn this oppressive bill which seeks to limit voters’ ability to vote early alongside a host of other attacks on voting rights.
During the awards luncheon, friend of the League, Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, received a trailblazer award. In her acceptance speech, Arnwine passionately spoke about how attacks on voting rights are an attack on women’s rights. As an example, Arnwine stated that 34 percent of women do not have the required identification in states where ID is necessary to vote. This is often due to the fact that women change their names upon marriage, creating a discrepancy regarding legal documents. Arnwine called for both federal and state level solutions to stop the attack on voting rights and highlighted the importance of strong bipartisanship support.
The Summit was filled with positive energy and enthusiasm and underscored the need for activists to come together on common issues. Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, acknowledged a range of important movers and shakers present at the Summit, including our own executive director, Nancy Tate. Smeal briefly reminisced about her involvement with her local League as she was getting her start. Smeals’ remarks served as a reminder of how League members are actively working on a range of important issues across the states as well as the great success we can achieve when working together on a cause.