The League of Women Voters in Licking County: Making Democracy Work

Reed BrowningBy Resident Reed Browning —

Recently, Dr. Rita Kipp spoke to Kendal residents about the re-founding of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. A resident of Granville since 2016, Dr. Kipp is one of the movers behind the rebirth of a Licking County chapter of the venerable organization whose work over the decades has earned it its high reputation as a group committed to educating the electorate. Its motto declares its ambition: “Making Democracy Work.”

Dr. Kipp began her talk by sketching out the history of an organization that emerged in 1920 at the moment in American history when the 19th Amendment enfranchised women, that in the 1970s and 1980s sponsored Presidential Debates, and that even in the more challenging times of sharp political division and the rise of social media has remained committed to its educational goals.

She then spoke of the campaign that the revived chapter committed itself to this past year in helping would-be voters get registered. The league used libraries and colleges campuses as the sites for its effort and, on the basis of what it learned this year, it will focus next year on colleges and high schools – locations that are rich with young people interested in getting engaged with voting.

She turned next to two activities that the local chapter plans to engage with in 2018. One involves filling a gap: that is, moving into the civic role of dispenser of reliable electoral information from which print journalism has been withdrawing in recent years. To this end she would like to see the League circulate a Voters’ Guide. The second involves bringing local and state candidates together into a forum where community members might query them about their positions.

Finally, she explained that the League, while not endorsing parties or candidates, has a tradition of advocacy with regard to some special issues: redistribution reform, women’s health, and the maximizing of opportunities to vote. It will continue to promote all three.

Dr. Kipp’s pre-retirement career involved teaching anthropology at Kenyon College and serving as an academic administrator at several institutions of higher education. She came to speak at Kendal at Granville with a reputation as a great teacher — and her fascinated Kendal audience can now attest to the accuracy of the reputation.