Earlier this year an unusual, but exciting meeting of countywide agencies, nonprofit organization leaders, the West Chester Borough mayor and Chester County commissioners occurred for the first time ever to discuss the goal of empowering the women of Chester County, PA. Out of this meeting, a vibrant coalition, called Your Vote is Your Voice! Empowered Women Vote, has grown seeking to empower women in our community, particularly those underserved, and to better engage them in the political process.
During this kick-off meeting, we exchanged information and our experiences regarding various countywide services with a focus on how these issues impact so many single women and single mothers living silently among us in our community. We covered a wide range of services and needs, including housing problems, childcare needs, disability needs, educational opportunities, employment difficulties, health care access, language barriers and legal issues.
All the stories and cases shared by this coalition of county leaders led right to the work already being done by the League of Women Voters of Chester County on voter registration and education. We could see the path, yet we could also hear the echo of silence of those left out of our electoral process. In fact, there are over 9,000 unregistered women living in our county.
The gathering was truly motivating, and the opportunity presented is new and authentic: expanding our League’s reach to those eligible, yet unregistered, who have not been heard. We are excited to help these women overcome any barriers, including distrust, overwhelming poverty and isolation, in order for them to realize the power of their voices through their votes.
With our combined local knowledge, and the League’s long history of advocating for voters’ rights, we knew that the Your Voice is Your Vote! coalition needed to jump into action immediately. We recognized that we’d need to alter our usual approaches in order to successfully reach these women in a more direct way.
The Your Vote is Your Voice! coalition is using the League’s expertise to train our volunteers to go out and register new voters. Thus far, the Chester County League has trained over 50 volunteers who will be hosting voter registration events in their own communities throughout the county in the upcoming weeks and months. As support grows for the new coalition, future efforts are being planned to take place simultaneously at almost every church, mosque and synagogue on weekends. Preliminary plans are also in place for future public events on local college campuses. Our county commissioners have already recognized our new campaign with a public citation in support of our coalition efforts.
It is no coincidence that the bulk of the coalition’s work is kicking off during Women’s History Month. The League’s 96 year history of Making Democracy Work® and reaching first-time voters will serve our coalition well. Through this work we’ve been reminded of the Justice Bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell that was commissioned to support women’s suffrage in Pennsylvania in 1915.
Time may be short before the primary in April, but we are confident the Your Vote is Your Voice! coalition will bring new women into the electoral process now and throughout 2016. We are excited to continue our efforts through to November’s general election.
To learn more about the work of the League of Women Voters of Chester County, follow them on Facebook.