Asheville-Buncombe County League of Women Voters Co-president Barb Panarites marked the 220th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights with a call for inclusive political discourse and greater civic participation in Asheville and the surrounding region.
“For more than 91 years, members of the League of Women Voters have defended civil liberties and promoted balanced, nonpartisan discussions on issues that are important to our community, and we continue this work today,” Panarites said. “Our mission is to increase public participation – to help empower individuals to exercise the rights that are afforded to them through our democracy.”
“As we reflect back on 2011 and witnessing democratic movements take hold around the world, there is much to celebrate. But, it is also a reminder that we cannot take our liberties for granted,” said Panarites. “Every day, League members work in our community to protect our liberties by encouraging voting, discussing critical issues, and holding elected officials accountable for their actions and decisions. In the highly partisan environment throughout our nation, our role in creating a ‘safe’ venue where all sides of the issues can be discussed civilly and thoughtfully is more critical than ever. We encourage all to join us and make their voices and opinions heard; it’s our right!”
The Asheville-Buncombe League recently participated in a national League study of education policy and is poised to begin a study of privatization of government services, assets, and functions, and the impact on local communities. This autumn the local League hosted well-attended public forums for candidates running for Asheville City Council and Weaverville Town Council. “We know how important an informed public is to the democratic process,” said Panarites. “We hold forums, we publish a voter’s guide that tells people how to contact their elected officials, and we send observers to meetings of boards and commissions.”
The protection of the individual liberties laid out in the Bill of Rights has been central to the League’s work throughout its history. During World War II, the League worked to balance the preservation of civil liberties with the importance of national security. During the Communist “witch hunt” period of the early 1950s, the League conducted a community education program known as the Freedom Agenda, providing Americans with the opportunity to discuss and learn about the Bill of Rights. More recently, League members have promoted a diverse and independent judiciary, advocated against harmful elements of the PATRIOT Act, and worked for government transparency and accountability.
For more information, visit www.ablwv.org or www.lwv.org, follow the League on Twitter @ablwv, or like the League on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ablwv.