Empowering Democracy

By Hannah Flood, NBC 15 Anchor | Photographed by Valerie Tobias

Women in the United States have had the right to vote for less than 100 years. For some women of color, it’s been even less.

In 2020 we will celebrate 100 years since the women’s suffrage movement, which led to the passage of the 19th Amendment. After the vote was secured, the suffrage movement turned into the League of Women Voters.

Locally, the League of Women Voters started in Madison in 1920, later growing into a countywide organization. The group’s mission is to inform voters and empower them to participate in democracy.

Ingrid Rothe, a committee chair with the League, has been part of the organization since the 1980s. She says in the last few years they’ve seen a surge in women participating in the political system. “I think there’s a great energy right now because there’s a fear that we’re going to revert to earlier times and lose many of the gains we have won,” Rothe says.

In the past two years the group has grown by about 200 members to a total of around 425 members, according to Brook Soltvedt, vice president of the Dane County chapter. Part of that renewed excitement could be tied to a record number of women running for office across the country. In Wisconsin, the race for U.S. Senate is a face off between two women. Election day is Nov. 6.

The League’s major focus for the past few years has been on educating voters about Wisconsin’s voter ID laws, Soltvedt says. “Now that we have the voter ID law we help [voters] know what they need because there are many misconceptions.” The League has joined with the newly formed Dane County Voter ID Coalition, a group made up of several organizations, working to make sure all eligible voters have the identification they need to vote.

If you would like to join the Dane County League of Women Voters, membership costs $75, $20 for students. They also have a low-income membership option. The group is nonpartisan; “We really welcome people from any set of personal opinion because we just want everyone to vote,” Soltvedt says.


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