Shelter Island Reporter Editorial

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Protectors of our rights
The League of Women Voters of Shelter Island held their annual “State of the Town” luncheon at the Ram’s Head Inn April 28, which was an enjoyable, social afternoon, as always.

Supervisor Gary Gerth delivered a substantive summation of issues facing the town and we applaud him for expressing plans his administration has to come to grips with the concerns of his fellow Islanders.

By sponsoring and organizing the annual luncheon, the League brings Islanders together for the town’s “report card,” but also to have a chance to talk about life on the Island and share ideas.

What was most important, perhaps, on Sunday, were the young people who attended, students from teacher Peter Miedema’s Participation in Government class, who had front row seats to view democracy at work in their own hometown.

League President Lois B. Morris and her colleagues are continuing the essential work of teaching the lesson that every vote counts and participation in the political life of communities is one of the highest forms of patriotism.

From the beginning of the Republic down to the present day, guaranteeing the right to vote in America has been a ceaseless battle.

The League was founded to ensure that women be acknowledged as first-class citizens and guaranteed the right to vote. The organization was inspired by the movement that came out of the mid-19th century fight for women’s equality, along with the abolition of slavery and enfranchisement of former slaves.

But with enfranchisement came voter fraud, with barriers denying voters’ rights in the south after the Civil War. The situation was so corrupt, vicious and endemic that it was necessary 100 years after the last shot was fired at Appomattox to pass a federal law guaranteeing voting rights.

But still, low-life legislators erect roadblocks in front of ballot boxes. This was seen in elections in 2018 in several states, with last minute polling place changes; election eve robocalls lying to voters that they were no longer eligible to vote; and long lines allowed at the polls with no intervention by officials to speed up the process.

The League is on the barricades of this issue, stating: “We work year-round to combat voter suppression through advocacy, grassroots organizing, legal action and public education. Our efforts have resulted in the protection of voting rights and ballot access for millions of Americans.”

The Shelter Island chapter of the League — celebrating its 20th anniversary this year — presents information through the State of the Town event, candidate forums as well as informal gatherings, along with “get-out-the-vote” campaigns.

We are all indebted to the continuing work of these fighters for fairness and protectors of American rights.

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