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20 Ways LWV Empowered Voters and Protected Democracy in 2020

LWV in 2020: 20 ways LWV empowered voters & defended democracy this year

This year was challenging on many fronts, but 2020 saw many important expansions for our democracy. Never has our work as defenders of democracy been more important. More voters than ever before participated in our elections in 2020, thanks in part to the work of the League across the country. Here are just a few of our successes in 2020:  

 

1. Protecting Millions of Voters in the Courts 

Throughout 2020, LWVUS was part of over 60 state and federal lawsuits across more than 35 states to ensure voters had safe access to the ballot in this election. With a winning legal record, we are so grateful to our state and local Leagues, as well as the dedicated legal partners who helped us fight voter suppression and advance voting rights this year. In all, we protected approximately 20 million voters through our election-related litigation. This election cycle, our litigation covered important issues such as establishing or enhancing notice and cure processes for ballots flagged for rejection, waiving double witness requirements for mailed ballots, and expanding the absentee excuse to cover more voters. We did all of this to ensure that voters did not have to choose between exercising their constitutional right to vote and risking their health and safety during the pandemic.

2. Informing More than 6 million Voters on VOTE411 

More than six million users came to VOTE411.org for election info in 2020, and for the first time ever, the site was also available in Spanish! Ahead of this critical election, the League redesigned VOTE411 to support more voters than ever before. The hard work of creating and maintaining our nonpartisan election information site was acknowledged in May when VOTE411 won the People’s Voice Webby Award for Best Government & Civil Innovation Website. 

 3. Expanding People Powered Fair Maps 

Through People Powered Fair Maps™, Leagues partnered with more than 1,000 organizations, coalitions, and groups and held more than 1,300 virtual and in-person events and forums this year to help build power for fair redistricting processes nationwide. We helped to defend and create fair redistricting processes on the ballot in Missouri and Virginia, which passed in Virginia and will pave the way for redistricting reform in 2021. We also fought hard to get redistricting on the ballot in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Oregon — where the fight continues. Additionally, we hosted Racism and Redistricting: How Unfair Maps Impact Communities of Color, an event exploring how systemic racism impacts redistricting, with state leaders in some of the most gerrymandered states. 

4. Getting Out the Count for the 2020 Census 

The 2020 Census officially launched April 1 — just two weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic sent the country into a shutdown. The Census Bureau was forced to change its operating timeline as door-to-door counting was not in the best interest of public safety. The League partnered with the Census Counts Campaign, which issued digital guidance for how to turn in-person Get Out the Count events into digital activities. The League also filed a lawsuit to extend the timeline for the count. As a result of this litigation, the Census Bureau achieved 16 additional days to count until October 16. As the deadline to complete the census closed in October, the data processing continued. The League continues to urge Congress to extend the data delivery timeline and protect the 2020 Census in the next version of the stimulus bill.   

5. First Ever Virtual National Convention  

In June, LWVUS convened virtually for our 54th biennial convention, hearing a keynote address from CBS News Anchor Norah O’Donnell and electing Dr. Deborah Turner as the board president for the next two years. In the middle of the pandemic, more than 1,200 League members from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands gathered virtually to conduct our League business, which included amending our bylaws to fully commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion in principle and in practice.  

6. Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment  

August 2020 marked one hundred years since the 19th Amendment was ratified and women won the right to vote. But not all women benefited from this change to the Constitution. Old discriminatory practices like cuts to early voting, polling location closures, and strict voter ID laws, combined with new suppression tactics that have emerged during a global pandemic, have reminded us of the frailty of our democracy if we don’t defend it vigorously. 

This centennial was a time to honor and acknowledge the women who came before us, and to use the lessons of their fight to shape a fairer, more just future. To further this conversation, on August 12, LWVUS CEO Virginia Kase virtually sat down with LWVUS President Deborah Turner for a powerful discussion on what lies ahead for democracy in America, and how all women can be active participants.  

7. Protecting the U.S. Postal Service 

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, LWVUS filed a lawsuit against the Postmaster General and United States Postal Service asserting that recent changes to postal service procedures and equipment presented an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote.  

Delivering ballots is just one of the essential functions of the post office — especially in the time of COVID-19. Undermining the postal service’s ability to do its work deals a serious blow to our democracy.  

Because of the COVID pandemic, LWV worked to expand safe voting options like voting by mail. While we knew not every voter would choose to vote by mail, every voter should have that option to do so and the trust that their ballots will be delivered on time. We urged the public to contact members of Congress and tell them we need to protect and fully fund the U.S. Postal Service so it had the resources it needed to properly deliver the mail ballots of those that chose this option.

8. Women Power the Vote Day of Action  

On February 14, 2020, the League of Women Voters celebrated 100 years of empowering voters and defending democracy. To commemorate our milestone birthday, League leaders, volunteers, and staff celebrated with nearly 400 Day of Action events across the nation centering around the theme: Women Power the Vote. Read the inspiring experience from one future League leader here.

Group holding voting signs

9. COVID Relief Funding 

Throughout 2020, LWVUS advocated for more stimulus to support the American people during this unprecedented time. After the first congressional stimulus package failed to include adequate funding for elections, LWV pressured Congress to do more. Throughout the summer and fall, we pushed for the US Congress to support American families’ basic human needs, provide funding to safeguard free and fair elections, extend the U.S. Census Bureau's statutory reporting deadlines, and provide the U.S. Postal Service with the necessary funding levels to continue its vital services. 

10. Going Digital for National Voter Registration Day 

As COVID-19 changed the landscape of voting in 2020, registration became more important than ever. The wide array of changes to voting rules in response to the coronavirus outbreak made it critical for voters to register or update their registration ahead of Election Day. From coast to coast on September 22, National Voter Registration Day, League volunteers were out in their communities—and at their computers—for more than 850 events and virtual actions! Their historic efforts paid off, with use of our VOTE411 online registration tool at an all-time high this year.  

11. Vote Early Day

The League has always advocated to expand early voting, but in 2020 we took it to a new level as a premiere partner in launching the first ever ‘Vote Early Day.’ On October 24, corporations, thought leaders, and nonprofits came together to encourage voters with early voting options to take advantage of that flexibility and cast their ballots before Election Day. Dozens of Leagues took part in this first-of-its kind celebration of early voting, and LWVEF kicked off a historic early vote campaign, sending 1.75 million postcards to women voters in fifteen states ahead of key voting deadlines. This effort was critical given the many, many changes voters experienced due to COVID-19.  

12. Partnering to GOTV 

Reaching and informing voters is what we do, day in and day out. But as one of the most trusted nonpartisan organizations, in presidential election years we have a great opportunity to reach voters through big partnerships. 2020 was no exception. In fact, we had more partnerships this election cycle than ever before. Huge brands supported VOTE411.org, including Target, World Market, Warby Parker, and more. We launched powerful new collaborations with NALEO, The National Partnership for New Americas, the HBCU Alumni Association and a range of powerful coalition efforts to protect the vote. And we worked with large media entities to spread the word even farther. All of these efforts contributed to our successfully reaching millions more voters than we could have on our own.  

13. Recruiting Poll Workers 

The COVID-19 pandemic had a dramatic impact on every part of our elections. One of the areas that took an early hit was in-person election worker recruitment. Every election requires poll workers on Election Day and during early voting periods. The vast majority of these individuals are retirees and senior citizens, many of whom were in the high-risk health category for contracting the coronavirus and had no choice but to sit out this election year. The League and many other organizations realized this shortage would cause a huge strain on our election system. We rallied together to recruit a new generation of poll workers, and the League recruited thousands of Americans to help serve at the polls in key states.  

14. Countering Mis & Disinformation 

Part of our mission to empower voters requires us to provide them with accurate and trusted information. We do that every time we share content about VOTE411.org, the League’s nonpartisan election website. This election cycle saw more disinformation targeting voters than ever before, widely on social media. It was our role to counter that narrative and ensure voters had the facts to decide for themselves how and when to cast their ballots.  

15. Equal Rights Amendment 

2020 kicked off with an important advancement for equal rights when the Commonwealth of Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Since it was first passed in 1972, the League has advocated for making the ERA part of our constitution for decades. In February, on the day before LWV turned 100 years old, the House of Representatives took an important vote to remove the deadline for ratification. The amendment isn’t over the finish line yet, but the League won’t stop advocating for this important step to end discrimination against people on the basis of sex.  

ERA

16. Standing in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter 

Committing to our diversity, equity, and inclusion policy alone isn’t enough. The League is working to be an anti-racist organization and a better ally for communities of color. We know this is not an area for LWV to lead, but we can be an effective partner in standing with communities of color and advocating for what is right. Voting rights and racial justice are inextricably linked, as suppression of communities of color is regularly enacted through attacks against voting rights. This year, we fought hard for the passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act to stop these discriminatory attacks on voting rights and restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We joined over 450 organizations urging Congress to take swift and decisive legislative action in response to ongoing fatal police killings and other violence against Black people across our country. We know there is still so much work left to do to gain full liberation for Black Americans, and the League is committed to continuing the fight with our partners representing people of color.

17. Fighting LGBTQ+ Discrimination 

This year saw a landmark decision to provide long overdue protections for LGBTQ+ people in the areas of education, housing, and healthcare. The League joined more than 50 organizations on amicus briefs in the Supreme Court cases of Bostock v. Georgia and Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. The court ruled that all individuals are protected by the law, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We also joined Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, another important case before SCOTUS that could decide how federal funding is used by private agencies with a history of discrimination.  

18. Protecting Reproductive Rights  

The League was proud to join civil rights organizations on an amicus brief in the case of June Medical Services v. Russo, urging the Court to strike down Louisiana’s anti-abortion law. The Supreme Court ruled favorably in this case, protecting the health rights of women, especially women of color.  

19. Passing DC Statehood in the US House of Representatives   

The residents of our nation’s capital came one step closer to full representation with the U.S. House of Representatives passage of H.R. 51, the D.C. Statehood bill, in June. For years, the League has worked with coalition partners to build support for this legislation nationwide, including efforts to educate state and local leaders, as well as community members, as to why statehood is critical to securing equality for all U.S. citizens.  When the new Congress takes office in January, we expect this bill to be reintroduced, and the League will continue to advocate to see it pass in the House and Senate.  

20. She is me 

Throughout our 100th year, LWV shared stories of the amazing individuals leading our organization at all levels of League. Through a digital and social campaign, we explored diverse stories of League members who have shaped past and present progress for voting rights. Local and state Leagues joined the movement, highlighting their own members driving change on the ground. #SheIsMeLWV celebrates the League’s belief in the power of women to shape a more perfect democracy.  

She Is Me Cover

 

Looking ahead to 2021, the League of Women Voters will be at the forefront to advance democracy — in the nation’s capital and in state legislative sessions. We will continue to work for fair redistricting processes that produce maps which reflect our communities. We will support voters in local elections and advocate for them at the federal level. And as our organization enters our next hundred years, we will continue to grow our nonpartisan grassroots network and advance racial and social justice.