League of Women Voters Oklahoma/Oklahoma City Honor 100 Oklahoma Women Trailblazers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Teri McGrath 405.286.9909 CelebrateLWV@gmail.com November 14, 2018
Oklahoma City, OK -- 100 women were recognized as Oklahoma Woman Trailblazers by the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma at a gala event commemorating the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma women winning the right to vote in 1918. The Trailblazers are included in "100 Oklahoma Women Trailblazers," a project recognizing 100 women from the last 100 years, for their work in shaping Oklahoma and inspiring generations of women to come . A commemorative booklet, "100 Oklahoma Women Trailblazers," prepared by Dr. Heather Clemmer, Dr. Lauren Brand, and their students at the Southern Nazarene University history department was presented to those attending the gala and featured in a video produced by Markus Zindelo and students at Oklahoma City Community College, documenting the Trailblazers project. Fifteen Trailblazers attended the event.
The event, "100 Years: Women Building a More Perfect Democracy," opened with "The Fashions of Women's Suffrage"-- a historical fashion show by staff and volunteers of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Following the welcome by Governor Mary Fallin, Dr. Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma History Center executive director, highlighted stories from the fight for women's suffrage in his talk, "Chicanery, Characters, and Champions." Civic leader, Tricia Everest, shared stories of her great aunt, Edith Kinney Gaylord, an early female journalist who made history as the first woman on the Associated Press Washington, D.C. bureau general news staff. Dr. Sunu Kodumthara, Southwestern Oklahoma State University professor, closed with a message about the continuing struggle to achieve equality and create a more perfect democracy and issued a call to action.
The centennial celebration occurred almost exactly 100 years after the male voters in Oklahoma approved a state question amending the Oklahoma Constitution to extend the right to vote to women in Oklahoma on November 5, 1918. Several of the 100 women trailblazers honored in the booklet were present, as were members of the League of Women Voters of Lawton, Norman, Tulsa, Bartlesville, Stillwater, and the newly formed Oklahoma City League of Women Voters.
Met with resistance and prejudice hard to contemplate today, the struggle for women's suffrage lasted more than seven decades, throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Oklahoma suffrage fight began during territorial days and was a major issue at the Oklahoma state constitutional convention in 1906. Failing to get the constitutional delegates to bring Oklahoma into the Union as a suffrage state, the women suffragists continued their efforts until achieving victory more than a decade later.
The League of Women Voters was formed in 1920, designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. The League encouraged women to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. From the beginning, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. It was then, and is now, a nonpartisan organization.
For more information about the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, visit our website at LWVOK.org or find us on Facebook.
by Karen Cárdenas, LWVOK Co-President
When the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was first announced in May of 2017, the League of Women Voters of the United States, along with many other organizations, attacked it immediately. They were not concerned that the commission would find wide-spread electoral fraud. That issue has been resolved many times over by a myriad of studies, most notably by the Brennan Center whose research has shown that incidents of voter fraud are few.
The LWVUS's concern was with voter suppression. In the past, efforts to "clean up the voting rolls" have been nothing more than thinly-veiled attempts at disenfranchising thousands of people. And, not just any people. The individuals targeted have largely been elderly or members of minority groups. They have been people who tend to vote in a certain way; therefore, their elimination from the voting rolls has been to the advantage of one political party.
In order to accomplish their work, the commission asked states to supply them with the names, addresses, party affiliation and voting histories of voters in their states. They also asked for criminal and military history as well as the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. However, they also limited their request to information that is "publicly available."
Since every state handles voter information differently, the responses from states have varied widely. According to a Public Broadcasting Service article, 14 states had refused to comply with the commission's request. Others had agreed to supply some of the information requested, but not all of it. The Oklahoma State Election Board took the unique action of supplying the commission with the information on its website where publicly available information could be obtained (for a fee); but, it did not supply the information directly.
Bryan Dean, the Public Information Officer for the Oklahoma State Election Board, pointed out in an email to LWVOK Co-Presidents, Karen Cárdenas and Jan Largent, that the commission had only requested data that is "publicly available under the laws of your state" and, that is what Oklahoma has provided. He added that some information, such as voters' felony records, is not available at all. Oklahoma maintains a list of individuals who have been denied permission to register to vote because of a felony convictions. However, once individuals have completed their sentence, they become new registrants and there is no link to their criminal history.
It is not certain what the commission could do with only partial information. However, some states are not waiting to find out. Recently, the League of Women Voters of Texas sued the state over even releasing publicly available information to the commission. The Texas League's allegation is that voters had an expectation of privacy when they provided this information to the state. The commission has promised to make public any information it receives. The LWVT alleges that making even a limited amount of information public at a national level could lead to identity theft and is a violation of citizens' rights to privacy.
Given the challenges facing the Presidential Advisory Commission, it is doubtful that it can produce anything useful. Given the threat it poses to voters, however, its efforts should be carefully monitored.
She was a loving wife, a caring mother, and a deeply involved member of the community, most recently serving as president of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma. She will be remembered for her warmth, her leadership, her gentle heart, and her quiet and fierce devotion to the causes she believed in. She is survived by her husband, Scott Swearingen; her daughter, Julia Swearingen; and her son, Jake Swearingen and wife, Laura Wiles.
The memorial service will be held at All Souls Unitarian Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave (https://maps.google.com/?q=2952+S.+Peoria+Ave&entry=gmail&source=g) ., on Saturday, March 31 at 1:00 p.m.
If you cannot attend in person, live stream is available at allsoulschurch.org.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, JustHope, or the All Souls Unitarian Church Green Team.