New League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland forms
Three Cuyahoga County leagues of the League of Women Voters are merging to form a single organization aimed at educating voters, encouraging voter participation and advocating for good government.
The League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland will serve all of Cuyahoga County, building on a tradition dating back nearly 100 years.
The Greater Cleveland league combines leagues that covered the city and suburbs, and Shaker Heights. The League of Women Voters of the United States approved the local merger last month.
The national group traces its roots to 1920. It was founded during the national convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, justsix months before ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.
An original focus was to encourage women to carry out their ''new power to participate in shaping public policy.''
Cleveland was part of a group from the beginning,according to the local organization's archives: ''In a formal ceremony in April 1920, held at Cleveland's Hotel Hollenden, the Cuyahoga County Woman's Suffrage Party of Greater Cleveland was retired and the League of Women Voters of Cleveland was formed.''
Belle Sherwin, first league president in Cleveland, went on to become the second president of the League of Women Voters of the United States, serving from 1924 to 1934.
The Cleveland group was the first nationally to use objective questionnaires for candidates forpublic office.
The league does not endorse candidates, instead remains neutral, but does advocate for or against issues of public concern, including those on the ballot. A leading issue has been voter rights.
''A single strong League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland will provide voters with more timely and complete information before every election in Cuyahoga County and its municipalities,'' Greater Cleveland league President Maryann Barnes said in a news release.
''Our goal is to provide nonpartisan information about candidates before elections, but also support and promote policies that match our good-government positions.''
Local involvement in recent years has included lobbying for amendments to the Cuyahoga County charter to improve opengovernment and ethical standards.
Chapters of the new Greater Cleveland league are Bay Village, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights-University Heights, Fairview Park, Hillcrest (serving five eastern suburbs), Lakewood, Rocky River, Shaker Heights and Westlake- North Olmsted.
Members observe city and school district meetings, host candidate forums and publish voter guides.
The Cuyahoga leagues in the spring worked jointly with the Northeast Ohio Media Group to publish an online voter guide on cleveland.com, providing biographical information about candidates and giving the candidates an opportunity to share with voters their views in response to a variety of questions.
A second jointly produced voter guide will be published before the fall election on cleveland. com.