League of Women Voters

Cover image created by Tracy Q, photo editor

“Creating a more perfect democracy” is the League of Women Voters tagline and the goal that this nonpartisan organization in Johnson County is committed to achieving. 

“We are trying to educate voters,” Heidi Matthews, LWV’s Communication Chair said. “Sometimes people don’t realize the LWV is a delightful group of nerds. We’ve looked for that information for our members be informed but also to help other voters be informed.” 

Since 1952, the year that the JoCo chapter of the LWV was created as an outgrowth of the women’s suffrage movement, the league has been committed to informing and inspiring voters.

“We are non-partisan, non-profit; We never endorse candidates because it’s helpful, right? For some people to talk about it in a different way without all the noise,” Matthews said. 

Avid members of the JoCo community, the LWV holds legislative coffees, and informational meetings about who the local commissioners are, who the mayor is, as well as things going on at the state. 

“Our members have also said ‘how do we become involved in helping our local community?’” Matthews said. “We understand that we need to show up for who’s going to be making decisions about our roads, our taxes for buildings or projects going on in the area.” 

“We have an observer core that goes to meetings of elected officials,” Diana Carney, a member of LWV said. “They are a presence so that elected officials know that there are citizens who are paying attention to what goes on in these meetings and then they write a short report which we then include in our newsletters. It’s a great resource for any voter.” 

Trailblazers of the United States, the JoCo league has a history of supporting progressive measures like mental health awareness, affordable housing and equity discussions which are integral to JoCo’s current community. 

“We did a forum on social equity and it was a very open conversation; What do these terms mean, and what does it mean for people who are actually living life with such hostility, and how as league members can we diminish the gap,” Connie Taylor, Co-Presidents of LWV said. “It’s not just a national issue but also a community issue.” 

“Mental health is a big issue. It’s one of those things of educating not only our members but our community, people don’t really talk about mental health,” Taylor added. 

“The league was instrumental in getting that started back in the 50’s,” Carney said. 

Claire Reagan, one of the League’s members, says she joined because of the LWV’s commitment to informed voting. 

“It’s a group of people who want a strong community,” Reagan said. “I think different generations on either end of the age spectrum have assumptions about younger people and younger people have assumptions about older people but it’s so refreshing to see people who are of a different generation than me sharing the same values.” 

Though the organization is non-partisan that doesn’t mean the league doesn’t state their opinions when it’s warranted. A recent time when the league was vocal about their position was during the Aug 2nd vote regarding reproductive rights in Kansas. 

“We did publish ‘vote no’ cards that said to vote no, backed up with what was there and said ‘here’s what that means,’” Matthews said. “We invited professors, experts in the field, lawyers, we had a judge on our panel that came to explain, in terms that everybody could understand, here is your list of things that could change or would be possible to change depending upon how you voted.” 

“We do take positions based on our values and it was really encouraging to see the coalition of people come around the ‘vote no’ last year,” Reagan said. 

With over 300 members it’s no surprise that they don’t all agree on every position and this was no different with the league’s decision to “Vote No.”

“We had some people that said they no longer wanted to be a member and we thanked them for their membership while they were there, that we hoped that they didn’t fully disengage from the league but that we understood,” Matthews said. “We don’t all agree but we’re willing to listen to each other’s positions and then all have coffee together afterwards and say ‘that’s okay’.” 

The consensus among members is that the LWV is a great group to be a part of. 

“When I was looking for something after my kids were grown to be more active in the community I checked out their website, I looked at their positions and what they do,” Carney said. “People in this organization are incredible if you put all their resumes together! I am just floored, this is a great resource.” 

When talking to the ladies of the LWV it’s clear that a sense of community and family is present among them. They care about one another, so much so that they’ll reach out during life struggles, and triumphs. 

“I’ve met some really good friends. I lost my mom to COVID, and then my younger sister died in the fall and I have some friends who I really just know from the league reach out with comfort and care,” Reagan said after a member of LWV came up to congratulate her on running for school board in the Olathe district. 

As much as Reagan loves the league, she acknowledged they’re in need of younger members. Although the demographic of the league has broadened since she joined, younger people are still wanted. 

“I will say in order for the league to continue on the path that we need for our democracy we need young people involved,” she said. “I think sometimes on the ground level people see the league and think it’s a group of older retirees and that’s not entirely the case. I definitely would like to see that view of the group shift because we’re at a time where we need voters who share values to stand up and vote.” 

Whether it’s public speaking, tabling, or addressing letters, the league has a place where all skills can be utilized. 

“If you want to be a part of the LWV as a younger person we have a place for you. We have people that want to help you use your skills and talents in some of the things we’re doing,” Matthews said. “This league will continue past its 103 years because the ones coming after us know how to do digital skills.” 

“Your generation is adaptable to technology. We could always use that. It’s the TikTok, the technology, whatever skills you want to bring to the table, we will find a place for it,” Taylor agreed. 

Anyone is welcome to join the LWV, no matter their gender, political affiliation, age, or race. It’s an organization with accessible resources for anyone who wants to aid in creating a more perfect democracy, “What I would scream from the rooftops is that the league is an incredible source of education and information. We have incredible programs every month with very knowledgeable guest speakers” Carney said. 

“You have access to all kinds of information through the league that is available to anybody.”

Arien Roman Rojas, student reporter



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