Opinion: 104 years and counting of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, expanding voting rights for all

(Canva/SDI Productions)

By Debra Cronmiller

February 13, 2024

Celebrating their 104th year, The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin discusses their continued work to expand voting rights.

It was 104 years ago this week that a group of women formed a new organization that their founder, Ripon-born Carrie Chapman Catt, said would “finish the fight” to win suffrage for women.

And while we’ve come a long way since February 14, 1920, we are still far from finished in this fight for true and expansive voting rights. For over a century and counting, the League of Women Voters has been working toward stronger democracy where all Wisconsinites are able and empowered to exercise their right to vote. 

As a volunteer-led organization, the more than 2,000 League members in Wisconsin are the driving force behind the work —holding candidate forums, staffing information tables, running VOTE411.org and much more to fit the needs of local communities. We do this because we know the fight is far from over. 

Here in Wisconsin, as well as across the country, barriers to access the ballot box can be especially towering for youth, people of color, folks with disabilities, and other marginalized groups. While League work is rooted in history, we also know that the Suffragist movement was hypocritical in its fight–often excluding women of color. 

Unfortunately, Wisconsinites are still facing new efforts to stifle our rights. This November, Wisconsin will vote on an amendment in our state constitution enshrining that only citizens can vote—a problematic referendum that could erode municipal control over who votes in local elections and create new obstacles for people of color and non-English speakers at the polls. 

Before Wisconsin became the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment in 1919, an early success of the suffrage movement was getting access for women to run and vote in local school board elections. Local participation paved the way for women (though very few women) to join the electorate and have a say in who represents them. 

Like people who are noncitizens, far too many voices are not being heard or represented in government because they are not allowed, face barriers or don’t feel that their vote matters. 

The League of Women Voters knows that we’ve yet to “finish the fight,” but we aren’t planning on slowing down anytime soon. 


  • Debra Cronmiller

    Debra Cronmiller is the Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. Before serving in this role, Debra (she/her) worked in State government in the Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Children and Families.



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