Lee, Debra (2019, Laramie County Clerk)

Debra Lee

History matters, and during this year’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage, we find inspiration in the women and men who made sure we have the right to vote and hold office.

Women like Amalia Post, Esther Hobart Morris and Theresa Jenkins campaigned tirelessly for the right to vote and fought to make sure that right was preserved. Men like Edward Lee, William Bright and Gov. John Campbell were instrumental in shaping the story of women’s suffrage in Wyoming.

A century and a half later, too many of us take the right to vote for granted, and in doing so, we fail to honor the struggles of those who championed for it. Too many men and women do not show up at the polls. By their very presence at the polls, on juries and in public office, women changed the political landscape and the course of history.

However, today, the Equality State ranks at the bottom in the number of women elected to the Legislature. In every election, too many legislative seats go uncontested. In 2016, 37 women ran for the Wyoming Legislature, but only 10 won. In 2019, we have 14 women in the Legislature, six in the Senate and eight in House, representing 15% of our legislature. Half of our legislature’s female senators are from Laramie County, and that’s a good start. But there’s more to be done.

On the celebration of Wyoming’s 150th women’s suffrage celebration, let’s remember the spirit and tenacity of those who put the right to vote and hold office into law and made sure we are able to exercise these rights today.

Teach your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren the sacrifices made to win these rights. Take them with you when you go to the polls. Talk about why it’s important to use your voice at the ballot box. Discuss political issues and the role of government.

Encourage their participation in elections and decision-making. Let them know that students as young as 16 can apply to be election judges. And when your child or grandchild turns 18, take them to the County Clerk’s Office to register to vote, teach them how to research candidates and issues, and show them what their ballot will look like.

Mentor young women to participate in government or be proactive in seeking a mentor. Go to city council, county commission or legislative meetings, work on a campaign, run for office and vote in every election. When young women see other women running for office, they are often inspired to seek office … and to write their own histories.

Yes, history does matter, and so does our vote.

Debra Lee is the elected Laramie County clerk. One of her duties is to oversee all elections in the county.

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