By Brielle Rozmus ’19 and Nailah Russell ’18
In case you missed the previous post:
Democracy in Action | Students Study League of Women Voters of Frederick County
Dr. Zaki’s research project on the League of Women Voters of Frederick County, Maryland has taken us to places we never could have imagined. We have traveled to dusty archives in multiple libraries, and to League members’ homes to interview them on their participation. The one place we never expected to go when we signed onto this project was the Eastern Shore of Maryland to the historic Chestertown, Kent County. But, that’s where we ended up for a beautiful weekend in June observing and participating in the League of Women Voters of Maryland’s State Convention. The weekend was full of adventures for our trio, from first rides over the Bay Bridge to becoming voting delegates representing Frederick County’s League.
When we first arrived, we could feel the excitement in the air: State board members discussing what was on the docket for the weekend, general members greeting old friends from across the state, to our nervous chatter about what informational session to attend. Friday was filled with social events, from a walking tour of Chestertown, afternoon tea at a local inn and then a sunset cruise on the Chester River. This relaxed schedule didn’t mean that League matters weren’t discussed, instead, they were the main talking points at every outing. At afternoon tea, the League members quickly took advantage of our outlooks and opinions on League matters on state and local levels, national politics and the docket for the weekend. The League members were tremendously excited to have college-aged women at the convention, and wanted to know what young people thought on a variety of subjects from League sustainability and how to handle social media, to how to take advantage of the political climate.
The convention officially began Saturday the call to order. With all county Leagues present the convention began, quickly adopting a concise schedule and docket. The convention had a welcoming atmosphere that lasted the whole weekend, in which anyone could speak up and opinions could be heard on all subjects. From the budget to the action motions no one was limited or told not to speak. Even we were encouraged to speak whenever we felt the urge to make our opinions heard. When newer delegates asked for the rules and regulations of the convention to be explained because it was confusing the Parliamentarian and Speaker were happy to explain so that everyone at the convention could understand what was going on, from a brand-new representative to a seasoned veteran.
A wonderful example of this open dialogue within the convention was when it came time to approve the State studies for the next two years. The League creates a list of studies which are organized in two categories, Recommended and Unrecommended. In the Unrecommend category there was a study “Death with Dignity” which had staunch support amongst the members at the convention. Even though it had been previously unrecommended, the body voted on adopting it as a study, which 3/5 approved. So, the “Death with Dignity” will now be investigated for two years and the findings will be presented in 2019. The open dialogue that is fostered by the League of Women Voters Maryland allows members to even reach beyond the recommended studies, to select a non-recommended study and make them an important topic within the league.
The League of Women Voters Maryland Convention exemplified League values and created an open and welcoming dialogue that all members can have a say in the direction of the League. The convention was a wonderful opportunity for the three of us to observe the inner Leagues’ workings, but also to participate and make our voices heard, as voting members representing Frederick County. It showed that what we have been researching for these last six weeks is not only true on paper, but also in practice. That the League is open for all to join and that every county no matter how big or small can make a difference in local, state and national politics.
The League members were unequivocally the best part of the weekend. Each member personally encouraged us to become active in the political sphere, from becoming more active in the League, to running for office. The Frederick League believed us in so much so that they inducted us as members and voting delegates at the convention. The State League awarded us the Louis Stoner Scholarship, so that we could attend the Convention. The belief in us the students shows that the League is looking forward to the future, and to the youth building bridges within our generation.