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Reflections on 100 years of the 19th Amendment with Marilyn McLeod

Nathan Lawrence

This year’s Presidential election coincides with two historic events; the global COVID-19 pandemic and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification. While they are very different events, both impact the way Americans are voting this year. Here in Missouri, KBIA’s Hannah France spoke with League of Women Voters of Columbia Boone County President Marilyn McLeod about these landmarks – and her thoughts about voting.

France: Everyone knows the pandemic is causing a lot of chaos in basically every sphere of life, but what I would love to spend some time talking about is this centennial anniversary that's falling on 2020. And I think it's potentially being a little bit overshadowed by all the craziness of the pandemic, a little bit anyway. So, what do you suspect that the impact of how historically significant this year is could have on voters and specifically on women voters?

McLeod: Well, it's a great time to reflect. I think, particularly young people, but most people don't know that women spent more than 70 years struggling for the right to vote. And then, you know, we recognize that not everybody got to vote, which was true for, you know, African American men, African American women, you know. So, it's taken a long time for America to reach its true democratic heights.

It's just important to recognize that it did not come easily. It's been a struggle and it's something to take so seriously, and to be sure that you honor it, and that we all honor the vote. So not to take it lightly, I think if nothing else, that would be the lesson of recognizing the centennial.

France: Right, absolutely. Not every woman got to vote in 1920 or after 1920. You know, there's all sorts of social barriers that kept poor women and women of color from voting. You know, socio-economic barriers, racial barriers. In what ways do you think those barriers still exist today and might be kind of exacerbating certain community’s abilities to vote in these more difficult than usual times?

McLeod: Take, for example, people who have cars. They assume everybody has a car. Some people can't afford a car. So perhaps they need to take the bus, or they need to walk. So, say that person lives in one part of town. Their polling place is near their home, somewhere in the vicinity of their home, but they work clear across town. So, a poorer person who can't afford a car, something that you take for granted if you have a car, has to struggle with a decision about this particular part of their life.

France: There's a lot of young people here. There’s a lot of people who for them, this might be their first election. What would you say to them if they’re concerned about voting, not sure whether they're going to vote or not, really just feeling confused as a lot of people are this year?

McLeod: I'd say, learn as much as you can about what's on your ballot.

I don't think a lot of times young people and even old people, if I may, I can speak for myself, realize that elected officials have an impact on their lives. You know, laws are made by people who have been elected to positions to make laws. It's not something to think lightly of, because it could impact your own life.

Hannah France is a convergence radio student at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism – set to graduate with her Bachelor of Journalism in May 2021.