YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – In this week’s segment with WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford, Crawford sits down with Leah Sakacs, president of the League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown. The organization is celebrating 90 years.
According to Sakacs, the League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that fights and advocates for everyone to have fair access to exercise their right to vote.
“Historically, when the league started, women did get the right to vote, but it was white women and middle- to upper-class women,” Sakacs said.
Sakacs admits that while they’ve seen some progress, the organization still has a long way to go.
“So we do continue to fight, continue to advocate for that right to vote for everybody. You know, in our Youngstown community — particularly looking on the East Side, South Side, Campbell and Struthers areas — our low-income, Black, Hispanic and non-English speaking communities are largely disenfranchised. They don’t have the same access to exercise the right to vote due to laws that are in place today,” Sakacs said.
The organization has an active drive of getting people registered to vote who are not registered within that targeted population.
“We often will work with our Board of Elections to get the purge list and we will go knock on doors. So we do a lot of canvassing in the communities because especially a low-income population, they’re more transient and so they might move but not update their address. So we’re making sure we’re trying to reach those targeted populations to make sure that they are still registered so they still can go vote,” Sakacs said.
Sakacs says they are seeing progress in that area, but’s continual and still a challenge.
“Again, you know, they move quite frequently. So you just need to kind of keep canvassing and keep reaching those populations, especially, again, with the purge list,” Sakacs said.
When people move, they might not be sure where they’re then supposed to vote. Even if they are registered, where they voted for the last election may not be the same.
“They might not know that that’s changed. Then if you look at if someone doesn’t have good access to transportation, they take the bus to get there around the wrong place. Now, take a bus across town to get to where I need to go. So, big challenge,” Sakacs said.
A Hall of Fame recognition dinner is coming up on March 30. It will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center.
“So every year, we will, for many years, we have celebrated women in our Valley who have been making a difference in a long-lasting impact, and specifically those women who are doing the work to fight for people’s rights to vote,” Sakacs said.
The seven women being recognized are: Suzanne Barbati, Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, Ann Harpman, Dr. Lashall Pugh, Sarah Wilscheck, Vicki Vickers and Roxann Seabest.
The League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown is looking for members to join.
“Anybody and everybody. We need to engage not only women, we need to engage women — Black, Hispanic, white women. We need to engage people of all genders in our work we do of all ages. So everyone is welcome to join our mission, to volunteer their time to get out and do the hard work,” Sakacs said.
Getting involved in the League of Women Voters is easy. Just go to lwvgy.com and say, “Hi, I am interested in getting involved” in a message.
“One of our board members will reach out to you and have a conversation about how they would like to engage,” Sakacs said.
More women are getting involved now as laws are passed that impact them, such as Roe v. Wade.
“I think a lot of us are seeing the fight that is happening again, looking at Roe V. Wade. That fight was fought and now it has to be fought again,” Sakacs said. “I think a lot of things that some of our older members were working on back in the 60s and 70s are ongoing issues or it’s become an issue again.”
When you think about having been in existence for 90 years, the struggle still continues for women with families and children to raise and how potential laws can change the lives of our children.
“It’s your voice, your vote,” Sakacs said. “I just really hope that everyone sees the good work that we’re doing in the community and wants to join us in doing that. You don’t have to attend a meeting. You can help canvass. You can help us write postcards. You can call your local officials. There are so many ways to engage if you don’t have a lot of time.”