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League of Women Voters on Capital Hill

April Ashland

TheUtah League of Women Votersgave an orientation of ways to lobby lawmakers during an onsite orientation on Monday at Capitol Hill.

Members of the league met in a room in the basement of the state capital, ate lunch, discussed the process of how bills become laws.

“Our founders believed women could vote their own heart and their own minds but like anybody they need education," said Jenn Gonnelly, co-president of the Utah League of Women Voters.

Gonnelly said the group is the oldest women's voting organization got its start on Feb. 14, 1920, just six months before women were granted the right to vote.

"We were formed by suffrages who were currently working on getting women the right to vote in the U.S.," Gonnelly said. "One of the biggest arguments against women voting is they don't need to vote, they already have the ear of their husbands."

She said Utah has one of the lowest percentages of voter turnout, to reduce that statistic the league promotes voter education and registration.

“Our entire purpose of being is to educate voters to make a more educated vote,” Gonnelly said.

Each day the league posts committee calendars, provides summaries of bills as well as well as keep people informed of legislative issues.

“We are watchdogs," said Gonnelly. "As busy as everyone gets with disparity and incomes, those with lower incomes are working two or three jobs to make ends meet. It’s hard to participate and watch a 45 day session when so much is happening that rules our lives. We provide that documentation and that watchdog group.”

When the legislature is not in session, the league collaborates on studies that are presented to and used by lawmakers to make decisions.

"We research our issues in a non-partisan way without it biased one way or another," Gonnelly said. "We have over the years created positions that we have lobbied on. We are considered very middle of the road in our positions; we don't cater to one party or another."

The group is funded by donations said Gonnelly. However, the vast majority of the work is completed by volunteers of the organization with a relatively small budget.

"We're one of the few groups up here that doesn't support a paid lobbyist," said Gonnelly, "It's not that we've got anything against them, we just can't afford them. This is the very basic of what it takes to participate in democracy."

Although women make up the majority of the members, in 1976 men began participating in the League of Women Voters including the League of Utah. Gonnelly said the group keeps the name for nostalgic purposes.

Morgan Pratt is a sophomore at Utah State University seeking a degree in Journalism and Communications.