After a century or work, League of Women Voters not resting on its laurels

By Kevin Beese Staff Reporter


The president of the Illinois League of Women Voters is urging residents to be active participants in the electoral process — in even the simplest ways.

“Nothing is too small. The cost is too great,” League president Allyson Haut said in calling for action

at a celebration of the organization’s 100th anniversary Friday, Feb. 14. “A social media post, a coffee, a conversation with family and friends can make a difference.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a member of the Illinois League of Women Voters, talks to audience members Friday, during a celebration of the League’s 100th year. (Photo by Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

Haut noted that the League was formed in 1920 to educate women on their newly acquired right to vote.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said women need to be active participants in the electoral process today as well.

“We need to make sure our voices are at the table for discussion,” Stratton said at the event held in the Gold Room of the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago — the same location where the nonpartisan organization was formed 100 years ago.

“We must never forget the women who came before us and on whose shoulders we stand,” Stratton said.

Audra Wilson, executive director of the Illinois League, said the organization continues to work to educate voters, but not sway them.

“We have been accused of being too partisan and not partisan enough,” Wilson said of the Illinois organization, which has 4,000 members.

Kentiya Orange, a Legal Fellow for the national League of Women Voters, noted that the organization has 700 local chapters.

“We continue to lead in defending democracy,” said Orange, who conducts research and analysis of state-level voting rights and redistricting laws. “The League’s work is needed now more than ever.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois talks to League members during the program. (Photo by Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

She said the League will also work to ensure free and fair elections. The push for “fair” legislative maps is one of the organization’s next challenges.

“Voters choose their representative. It’s not representatives choosing their voters,” Haut said.

A rallying cry during the program was the Equal Rights Amendment, which has still not been added to the U.S. Constitution.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said he expects his daughter to become a lawyer after passing the State Bar exam.

“She will take a vow to support the Constitution,” Raoul said. “I want a Constitution that supports her.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-11th, said the U.S. House has voted to get rid of the ERA ratification deadline and hoped that the U.S. Senate would take up the issue.

“ERA would help make the nation a better place,” Foster said.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a League member herself, said the Illinois organization has always been at the forefront on key issues — from voting rights to education funding.

League members clap as Keshia Smith sings “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” during the anniversary celebration at the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago. (Photo by Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

Preckwinkle said the organization makes politicians stand behind their actions.

“The League holds me accountable as a public official,” she said.

The Cook County Board president praised the organization for its continual advocacy.

“You have made Cook County and Illinois a better place to live because of your involvement,” Preckwinkle said.

Illinois’ junior senator, Tammy Duckworth, praised the organization for its tenacity in championing causes.

“Through it all, you risked safety and security, withstood hypocrisy and misogyny, refusing to stay silent so that your daughters, and your daughters’ daughters and my daughters could inherit the democracy that they deserve,” Duckworth said.

Upcoming League events

  • March 26: Rally Day for Fair Maps at Illinois State Capitol at 11 a.m.
  • Sept 24: League’s 100th Anniversary Lunch from noon to 2 p.m.