Skip to main content

Local League of Women Voters celebrating 90 years of advocacy

This story originally aired on WKBN.

In this week’s segment with WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford, Crawford sits down with Leah Sakacs, president of the League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown. The organization is celebrating 90 years.

According to Sakacs, the League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that fights and advocates for everyone to have fair access to exercise their right to vote.

“Historically, when the league started, women did get the right to vote, but it was white women and middle- to upper-class women,” Sakacs said.

Sakacs admits that while they’ve seen some progress, the organization still has a long way to go.

“So we do continue to fight, continue to advocate for that right to vote for everybody. You know, in our Youngstown community — particularly looking on the East Side, South Side, Campbell and Struthers areas — our low-income, Black, Hispanic and non-English speaking communities are largely disenfranchised. They don’t have the same access to exercise the right to vote due to laws that are in place today,” Sakacs said.

The organization has an active drive of getting people registered to vote who are not registered within that targeted population.

“We often will work with our Board of Elections to get the purge list and we will go knock on doors. So we do a lot of canvassing in the communities because especially a low-income population, they’re more transient and so they might move but not update their address. So we’re making sure we’re trying to reach those targeted populations to make sure that they are still registered so they still can go vote,” Sakacs said.

Sakacs says they are seeing progress in that area, but’s continual and still a challenge.

“Again, you know, they move quite frequently. So you just need to kind of keep canvassing and keep reaching those populations, especially, again, with the purge list,” Sakacs said.

When people move, they might not be sure where they’re then supposed to vote. Even if they are registered, where they voted for the last election may not be the same.

“They might not know that that’s changed. Then if you look at if someone doesn’t have good access to transportation, they take the bus to get there around the wrong place. Now, take a bus across town to get to where I need to go. So, big challenge,” Sakacs said.

A Hall of Fame recognition dinner is coming up on March 30. It will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center.

“So every year, we will, for many years, we have celebrated women in our Valley who have been making a difference in a long-lasting impact, and specifically those women who are doing the work to fight for people’s rights to vote,” Sakacs said.

The seven women being recognized are: Suzanne Barbati, Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, Ann Harpman, Dr. Lashall Pugh, Sarah Wilscheck, Vicki Vickers and Roxann Seabest.

The League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown is looking for members to join.

“Anybody and everybody. We need to engage not only women, we need to engage women — Black, Hispanic, white women. We need to engage people of all genders in our work we do of all ages. So everyone is welcome to join our mission, to volunteer their time to get out and do the hard work,” Sakacs said.

Join Crawford and Sakacs on Friday as they discuss ways to encourage women to join the league and volunteer.