By Todd Travis
The League of Women Voters is a national organization which came along around the time the 19th Amendment was passed for women’s rights (1920). While Indiana has had chapters for many years, Johnson County does not currently have a chapter. A few Southside women have decided to try and change that and bring a chapter that will be more accessible to Southside residents. The LWV is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. The mission is to empower voters and defend democracy and therefore is committed to equity for all voters and the recognition that democracy is strengthened by the inclusion of diverse voices in the community. The main thrust of the organization is to get more people registered to vote through education and advocacy.
Two of the women who are leading the charge, Karen Lunsford and Mary Kooi, share some of their reasons for wanting to start the local chapter. “The state chapter is going to have a certain broader agenda, whereas the local chapters can decide for themselves what they wish to do, and it’s done on consensus.” Lunsford explained. She noted how the current Marion County chapter holds its meetings on the Northside and therefore will not have as much participation from Southside residents. “I think the Johnson County chapter will not only attract many more Johnson County participants but will probably also be an easier commute for some of the more southern Marion County residents,” she noted.
Some issues that Lunsford hopes to address include environmental challenges, women’s rights and receiving honest information from the legislature. “We still have a long way to go in some of these areas. I think it’s important right now to find middle ground and help bring the nation together,” she remarked. She also noted that the League is not an organization for women only as they look to have inclusion from a complete diversity of voices. Lunsford credits Kooi as the spark that started the fire in getting this idea started. Along with Lunsford and Kooi, Cindy Cook has also been working to start the chapter. Acting as a liaison from the greater Lafayette chapter is Joanne Evers, who is also assisting with the team’s efforts. “The League of Women Voters has a tremendous wealth of information available to help people improve their community in so many different ways,” Lunsford said.
Kooi’s passion for the LWV is rooted in her passion for education. “Only when we are informed people are we energized to take action, which is essentially what advocacy is,” Kooi explained. “The best way to make progress is through knowledge.”
Kooi first got interested in politics when she volunteered as part of a political campaign. Through this process she realized how little she actually knew about the policies that directly affected her. She also began to see that so many people were in the same boat as her. “After this campaign, I felt so passionate about how empowering it is to have information and to know where to go to channel the energy,” she recalled. “You can partner with people and join with organizations who have the infrastructure to actually take meaningful action – The League of Women Voters is one of those organizations.”
One of the big action items is to host forums for political candidates. This allows for there to be a venue for the public to learn about these people. “To be informed on what’s going on in local politics is incredibly important, and we often don’t think of that,” Kooi remarked. “Most people just think about the President and national elections, but it’s important to learn about the township councils and the mayor’s office because these are the people who handle our money and make decisions about our daily lives.”
A pilot presentation was made on Monday, April 11 as part of the process of applying for the new chapter. As these women work hard to complete all other requirements to become approved as a new chapter, they are looking ahead and planning several upcoming meetings for people to join and gather information. The dates of these meetings will be May 21 in the afternoon, May 24 in the morning, May 26 in the morning and June 2 in the evening. While times and venues have not been decided yet, you can find more information by visiting lwvin.org/Johnson or by emailing LWVJCIN@gmail.com.