League strives to engage citizens in democracy

MILLSBORO — Election Day is just over five weeks away.

It has been top of mind for the news team at the Delaware State News as we strive to report on the candidates in state and local races.

We’re not alone in our pursuit of information that will be helpful to voters.

On Friday, this editor met several members of the League of Women Voters of Sussex County at the group’s “fun lunch” in Millsboro.

With the election approaching, the Sussex league has been hosting a series of candidate forums and diligently spreading word about 411.org — a website that offers insights on the ballots, candidates and issues. Just plug in your address and you’ll find many answers to your voting questions.

“We’re a nonpartisan group,” said League of Women Voters of Sussex County President Martha Redmond. “Our mission is to inform, engage and educate the people, primarily of Sussex, on local politics and local issues in government.”

The effort, she said, includes getting people to register to vote.

“Mainly the older people are registered to vote, so we’re trying to go to high schools and colleges to get those people to vote,” said Ms. Redmond.

Occasionally, the youngsters need to some extra persuasion to register.

“When we were talking to these kids at the college,” she said, “they were like, ‘Oh, I don’t know … I don’t know if I should … I don’t know anyone to vote for.’

“One of our guys said, ‘Do you want your grandfather making all the rules? Because that’s what you’re going to do if you don’t vote. People like me are going to be making the rules.’

“That usually works.”

The league’s efforts with young voters does not end there.

“We text them and call them on Nov. 6 to remind them to vote,” said Ms. Redmond. “Today’s the day to do it. Go for it. You’re all set.”

(By the way, the deadline to register to vote in Delaware is Oct. 13.)

Ms. Redmond said the League of Women Voters of Sussex County boasts more than 130 members — and about 25 of them are men.

She said she has been involved about five years, after moving to the area from Columbia, Maryland, where she was a nurse.

Her work with the league started as an observer, keeping tabs on Sussex County Council and school board meetings.

“You meet so many dynamic people who are very into different issues and they educate themselves about them,” said Ms. Redmond. “It’s their passions — water, environment, land use.”

One of the past year’s big initiatives was to closely follow the comprehensive land use discussions. They had a number of forums and speakers available to educate the public and then encouraged them to weigh in.

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On Saturday, Oct. 6. the league’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee will host a Water Warriors’ Expo as third part of its “Safe Drinking Water? — Everyone’s Concern” forum. It will be from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Milton Fire Hall.

The league says there will be no speeches or debates.

Participating organizations include the Sierra Club, Marine Education, Research, Rehabilitation (MERR) Institute, Delaware Center for Inland Bays, Keep Our Wells Clean, Delaware Interfaith, Protecting Our Indian River, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, Milton Sustainability Committee, Lower Sussex NAACP Youth Council 2719, Citizens Climate Lobby Lower Delaware, Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project and Fox Chase LLC/Farm Freezers.

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The upcoming League of Women Voters of Sussex County forum schedule:

•Sussex County Council District 4, Paulette Rappa, D-Millsboro, and Douglas Hudson, R-Dagsboro, 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, Rehoboth Beach Library;

•State House District 20, John Bucchioni, D-Nassau, Stephen Smyk, R-Milton, and Harry Smouse Jr., L-Milton, 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, Milton Public Library;

•State Senate District 6, David Baker, D-Milton, and Ernie Lopez, R-Nassau, and State House District 14, Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, and James DeMartino, D-Lewes, 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Lewes Public Library;

•Sussex County Council District 5, Ellen Megee, D-Selbyville, and John Rieley, R-Millsboro, 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at Laurel Public Library.

State Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Laurel, and Robert Wheatley, D-Laurel, participated in a league forum recently in Laurel.

To learn more about the League of Women Voters of Sussex County, visit sussexlwv.org.

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The League of Women Voters of Delaware will host a forum for those aspiring for statewide or national offices at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in Bank of America Auditorium, Delaware State University, Dover.

Candidates for U.S. senator, Congress, attorney general and state auditor have been invited.

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Note to candidates: The Delaware State News has sent out surveys for you to complete. The deadline to return completed surveys is Oct. 12.

Readers can anticipate the first of the surveys to appear Oct. 21.

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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