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'We want to be a voice.' League of Women Voters starts local chapter

This story was originally published in the Bowling Green Daily News.

The League of Women Voters of Kentucky has opened a local chapter in southcentral Kentucky.

LWVK is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes “informed and active participation of citizens in government through study and action,” according to its website, with seven chapters in the state.

The local league encompasses the 10-county BRADD region.

Their first meeting was held Saturday at Warren County Public Library’s Bob Kirby Branch.

Local chapter president Elizabeth Hawks said that the response was excellent, and about 30 people came.

“The room was full,” she said.

The debut meeting was mostly informational and organizational. State League President Fran Wagner and some other local chapter leaders came to explain what the League of Women Voters does, and Hawks led the group in a brainstorming exercise.

Wagner said that getting a chapter in southcentral Kentucky has been a goal for a while. Eventually, when a core group of at-large members of the state league formed from the region, they reached out to ask if they’d be interested in starting a local league.

“We’ve wanted to have one there for a long time,” Wagner said. “They want to be able to focus on what’s going on locally.”

LWVK does not support or oppose individual candidates or political parties, though it has taken a stand on several policy issues impacting women.

For example, the league advocated for a “no” vote on Amendment 2 in the last election, which would have codified the ban on abortion in Kentucky’s Constitution if it had not been defeated.

LWVK is also lobbying to restore voting rights to people who have felony convictions after they have completed their sentences. As it stands, these individuals are permanently disenfranchised, and it would take a constitutional amendment to change that.

Wagner said a Mason-Dixon poll the state league recently commissioned found that 71% of Kentuckians supported restoration of voting rights for convicted felons upon release.

“We have studied issues and arrived at a consensus,” Wagner said. “We’re all about making democracy work.”

Locally, Hawks said the group narrowed down its goals to three issues. First, it wants to get more people out to vote. Like the state chapter, it would like to work to restore voting rights to those who have been disenfranchised.

Second, it is interested in furthering transparency in local government.

Third, the league wants to create fair maps after recent gerrymandered redistricting, Hawks said. They would like an independent group to draw the legislative maps, she added.

“It’s not a partisan issue,” she said. “Both parties do this when they are in the majority.”

The league’s first business meeting will be Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. over Zoom, and subsequent meetings will be held the third Monday of each month. The group will decide whether to switch to in-person meetings at the next meeting, Hawks said.

Anyone 16 or over is welcome to join. Dues are $50 to become a member of the local, state and national chapters of the League of Women Voters.

“We want to be a voice in southern Kentucky,” Hawks said. “Come join us.”

Learn About LWV of Kentucky and its Branches