The Texas League of Women Voters (TLWV) is a nonpartisan, membership-driven political organization that seeks to empower citizens to form better communities worldwide. The League originated in 1919 when formed as the re-organization of the Texas Equal Suffrage Organization in the wake of Texas’s ratification of the 19th Amendment. Currently, there are 34 local chapters of the TLWV in communities across Texas.
Although the League is well known for voter education, particularly the Voters’ Guide, the organization also has an extensive history of advocacy dating back to its origins, particularly for issues affecting women, children, and families, as well as issues related to voting rights.
Grace Chimene is a retired pediatric nurse practitioner who joined the League of Women Voters Austin in 2012. She became president of the Texas League of Women Voters in 2018:
For those who aren’t familiar with the Texas League of Women Voters: What is your organization’s purpose and primary activities?
Grace Chimene: “Our mission is ‘empowering voters and defending democracy’. We provide voters’ guides (in English, Spanish and other languages as needed), information about voter registration, and sponsor forums and debates that help voters get to know candidates and their platforms.
“The League also advocates for voting access and voting rights, as well as other issues that are important to our members. While we do take an official position on these matters, it’s not a partisan position, and we do not endorse or oppose candidates or political parties. Our non-partisan stance is a value that we cherish greatly.”
What’s in the Voters’ Guide, and how do people obtain a copy?
GC: “You can visit our website and download a customized voting guide that provides election information specific to your community—all you have to do is enter your address. We also provide print-version statewide voters guides, which are available at public libraries. Some local Leagues offer print-version voters guides, too.
“In these guides, we provide candidates the opportunity answer a standard set of neutral, non-biased questions that help voters learn more about their positions. These answers are presented ‘as is’—we don’t change a thing. The production of these guides is expensive, but we’re very committed to meeting the needs of all Texans in this regard. Voter education is important to our organization and we really love doing it.”
Can you tell us more about the League’s advocacy efforts?
GC: “In the earliest days of the League, the issues tended to center around child care and child health. Now it can be just about anything—when we see that there is an issue that citizens are interested in, we study the issue thoroughly (usually for about two years) and then we take action, advocating legislators and encouraging voters to do the same. During the 2019 legislative session in Texas, we were responsible for generating 51,000 emails in support of our priority items.”
What kind of growth has the League experienced in Texas?
GC: “In the last two years we’ve added eight new Leagues in Texas! We’re also becoming much more diverse in our membership, providing more services to Texans from all walks of life. It’s a very exciting time to be involved.”
What do you find the most rewarding about your League leadership experience so far?
GC: “I’m just so proud to be a member and to work with other volunteers who want to empower voters. I love supporting our democracy—what a privilege to be able to do this.”
As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, what are your thoughts?
GC: “What a long way we’ve come! The League started 100 years ago serving women who got the right to vote – but it was really only one group of women who got that right. Now that we’ve been able to improve access to voting for more and more people, we will continue fighting for voting rights until all eligible citizens have equal and fair access to the vote.”