Javier Navarro / Staff Writer
A grassroots organization in the city of Denton hopes to motivate and inform citizens so they can make better decisions when they go to the polls in upcoming elections.
The League of Women Voters of Denton is a nonpartisan organization made up of both male and female members that aims to educate citizens about public policy issues and encourage them to participate in elections.
The organization’s President Sue Smith said it is important for registered voters – especially college students – to be more aware of what they are voting for, especially elections that involve proposed constitutional amendments.
“I don’t know anybody who can just go to the polling place and figure how to vote on those amendments,” Smith said. “Getting people educated on the issues, and of course getting them to vote, is what we think is quite important.”
The organization is part of a local chapter of the League of Women Voters, which was founded in 1920 during the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Smith said the Denton chapter was founded in 1961 during a time when there was more political involvement among the community.
Denton County has seen a low turnout during local elections in recent years, especially for constitutional amendment elections.
According to VoteDenton.com, since 2000, 3 percent or less of registered voters actually participate in local elections, with the 2011 election having just under 3 percent of voter turnout. National elections in Denton County have had more participation, with the last election seeing a 62 percent turnout in 2012.
Smith said local elections have a bigger impact on citizens because any policy changes will directly affect them in their area. She also said people have a more direct contact with their local representatives.
“You can walk across the street and visit your city council members,” Smith said. “We have very little control and direct contact with the President.”
Program Vice President Peggy La Point said the lack of understanding what is being voted on and general apathy toward elections are some of the reasons why a lot of citizens don’t vote.
“People really do believe they can’t make a difference,” La Point said. “They really do think that tonight’s television show is more important than determining their own future.”
To inform the public and become more involved, the league holds general membership meetings that are open to anyone and publishes a voter’s guide for the November and May elections that list the issues being voted on and shows their pros and cons.
This year, the voter’s guide will cover the nine proposed state constitutional amendments on the ballot. Some of the amendments include local property tax exemptions for spouses of U.S. armed service members killed in action.
Julie Leuzinger, department head of UNT’s Eagle Commons Library, has been a member for over a year and said she enjoys it because it helps her stay informed and help others in the community.
“I have one place to look to find out how current, new or proposed laws will impact me and my family,” Leuzinger said. “The more informed I am, the better decisions I can make when going to vote.
Leuzinger also said starting almost every Saturday of this month, the league will have a booth set up at the Denton community market to inform citizens of the upcoming elections and help them register to vote.
Smith said anyone can join the league and full-time students have to pay a $20 membership fee.
The next general meeting will be held at UNT tonight at 7 p.m. in Environmental Sciences Building room 176.
The League of Women Voters of Denton talk about dues and fees at their board meeting Thursday. The League is open to men and women members. Feature photo by Edward Balusek / Staff Photographer