The League of Women Voters of Shelter Island had a very good week. But then, they’ve had a very good 16 years here as one of the Island’s greatest community assets.
Last Friday afternoon, the League screened — with pizza and soda — the film “Iron Jawed Angels” starring Hilary Swank, for Shelter Island High School seniors and juniors. The film chronicles the long, valiant and often violent struggle for the right to vote for women in America. As Julie Lane’s story reports, the students were mesmerized by the history of the movement that culminated in suffrage for women in 1920.
Mesmerized and, we hope, inspired.
Due to educational campaigns by the League and other organizations, plus savvy candidates refusing to take young people for granted, there had been a steady rise nationally in rates of voting by Americans 18 to 29.
But in 2012 there was a significant decrease in participation at the polls by that demographic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Less than half of the cohort cast ballots in the last presidential election, compared to 68 percent of voters 45 to 64 and 72 percent among seniors.
The League knows it has its work cut out for it, and by getting high school kids involved, as it did with the screening Friday, it’s being proactive in not only providing young people with practical details on how to register and vote, but the fundamental reason why they should.
There weren’t many youngsters at the League’s 8th annual “State of the Town” luncheon Sunday at the Ram’s Head Inn, although high school teacher Peter Miedema accompanied some of his students who dined with the guest speaker, Supervisor Jim Dougherty.
Sponsoring and hosting this event was another of the League’s services to Shelter Island, providing a wonderful presentation by Mr. Dougherty, an elected official who has mastered the craft of giving a political speech, putting his own feisty, charming and engaging polish on what is rapidly becoming a lost art.
But in addition to Mr. Dougherty’s report on the state of the town, the League’s event also provided a venue for neighbors to sit together for a good meal and discuss the issues of the day that affect us all.
We thank League Co-presidents Lois B. Morris and Cathy Kenny and all the other volunteers who continue to encourage the involvement in one of our fundamental duties, creating our democracy anew every time we go to the polls.