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‘This is what the league does’: League of Women Voters forum headed to Oak Park library

The League of Women Voters of Oak Park and River Forest is planning to host a community forum on Sept. 17 at the Oak Park Public Library.

The program is meant to ensure the public understands voter suppression, clarify who is eligible to vote and encourage voter turnout.

Featured speakers will include Ed Yohnka, of ACLU Illinois; Ami Gandhi, of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; Andy Kang, of Asian Americans Advancing Justice; and Jan Dorner, of League of Women Voters Illinois.

The forum is free, and the community is invited. Voter registration will be available at the library the day of the event from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., right before the forum starts.

“This program complements our mission of educating and voting,” said Leslie Lauderdale, co-chair for League of Women Voters of Oak Park and River Forest’s drinks and dialogue event committee. “It addresses what people see in the news and helps identify who can vote. This is what the league does to encourage knowledgeable voter turnout.”

The forum is scheduled this month to help commemorate National Voter Registration Month.

Lauderdale said she hopes everyone realizes the power they can have at the poll.

“One of the things that’s important is knowing that everyone’s vote matters,” she said. “What happens is people sometimes are afraid, lack the knowledge to vote, or may be certain of what steps to take. The league has been doing its work for years. If you have a desire to vote, we make sure you’re ready.”

Yohnka said he looks forward to hearing from community members about their experiences at the poll.

“We’ve seen voter suppression,” he said, referring to the stories people have shared in the past. “Talking about that is important, and it makes people aware.”

Yohnka also intends to share insight on the work of the ACLU Illinois during the program.

“We want to talk about the cases we’re involved in, especially with the change in the federal administration,” he said. “The ACLU had to get involved in a case for voter ID laws. We want to talk of those specifics, as well as of those in other places in the country.”

Kang said he is hoping to move the dialogue forward on voter rights and voter suppression as it stands in today’s world.

“What I hope to bring to the forum is the trends we’ve seen,” he said. “Candidates have been worried [about] voter suppression. We haven’t seen strong tactics to this point, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. … They limit access in subtle ways. Just because there’s no master plan to suppress the vote in Illinois doesn’t mean voter suppression doesn’t occur. We have blind spots in our system. I hope to make that point.”

Yohnka said it is clear that cynicism and outrage remains prevalent after the 2016 elections and noted, that at the same time, there’s a more clear sense of purpose and a renewed commitment to civic engagement exhibited by many.

“If we can tap into that spirit, not only getting people to realize that we should care about the electoral process but also the policies, we will make the best use of this,” Yohnka said.

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