Susan Windmiller is the President of League of Women Voters, Miami-Dade County.
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
Our American democracy works when we, citizens, have the information we need to understand the issues so we may cast an informed vote. The leaders we elect make the decisions that affect us. This is especially true at the local level right here in Miami-Dade County – our job, health care, energy costs, security, transportation, our environment, through the air we breathe, the water we drink, public education, and so much more.
It is absolutely necessary that as citizens we know the issues, know where the candidates stand, advocate for the issues important to our community, and vote with the facts to make an informed voting decision.
The League of Women Voters and our local chapter, the LWV Miami-Dade, works to ensure that all eligible voters – particularly those from traditionally underrepresented or underserved communities, including first-time voters, non-college youth, new citizens, minorities, the elderly and low-income Americans – have the opportunity and the information to exercise their right to vote.
The League of Women Voters was established in 1920 after the 19th amendment was passed, guaranteeing American women the right to vote. The League, founded by Carrie Chapman Catt, was established immediately after this to ensure there was an organization expressly, designed to help the 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It encouraged them 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.
The LWV MD believes that advocacy is one of the most important solutions in ensuring that government works for the benefit of all citizens. This is done by advising our members and the public with ALERTs on high priority issues and the recommended action such as contacting elected officials with phone calls and emails; working with our community partners representing a variety of community organizations, to maximize our advocacy efforts and results; by conducting social media messaging campaigns to get the word out on where the LWV MD stands on a particular issue; attending public meetings and presenting our positions to elected officials; publishing Voter Guides on line to learn the candidates and the issues; and forming issue based workgroups, where members organize around specific issues to understand, educate, and/or advocate for public policies that will improve the lives of our citizens on that issue, and elect officials who represent these positions. Important issues in 2017 include: gun safety, natural resources, expanding solar energy, status of women (equal pay) in Miami-Dade County, children & families (including affordable, quality child care), an independent judiciary, transportation, and getting money out of politics.
Personally, I have been a member of the LWV MD for 10 years. I was appointed to the Board by then president, Annie Betancourt, a former Florida legislator. As a member of the LWV MD, I believe I have had the greatest impact on issues important to our community. In the process, through the LWV MD, I have been able to grow my skills as a leader and establish amazing relationships, especially with other women leaders, who share the same commitment to make a positive impact on our community.
In recent years, I am proud that our LWV MD has conducted discussions on human trafficking, immigration reform, advocacy for positions on state ballot amendments to support a funding source to protect our natural resources (WON), to establish fair districts (WON), to expand rooftop solar, including via tax credits (WON). We have conducted dozens of voter registration drives to be ready to vote, and “decode the ballot” workshops so voters understand what a vote in favor or against an issue means, we have created new and innovative programs to educate voters to celebrate our democracy, such as securing the right to vote by our annual Women’s Equality Day, honoring local women who have had a meaningful impact on our community and serve as role models for all by our annual Women That Shine event, established a monthly Cocktails & Conversation, where members and the public can meet and learn about the League in an informal, casual setting. As President, I have worked with our Board to increase our partnerships with other organizations, which has allowed us to expand our advocacy efforts, engage more members of the public i.e. voters, grow our membership, educate more citizens, and achieve better results! We have enhanced our digital communications platform to make information available to members and the general public that is easy to find and understand: candidates, voting, issues, advocacy, elections. This is what the LWV MD does to make our democracy work!