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Michael Barnes

League of Women Voters Dinner

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Since 1920, the League of Women Voters has been among the most admired nonpartisan political groups in the country. They host debates and issue voter guides. They encourage participation in the process, which can be tough in a state like Texas that appears to want the lowest possible voter engagement possible.

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Celia Israel and Gina Hinojosa at League of Women Voters Dinner.

For instance, the local chapter got behind Rep. Celia Israel‘s bill that allows for online voter registration. Studies indicate that it would increase participation by at least 10 percent and it would save counties millions of dollars on temps who must try to decipher hand-written applications. The bill, which should have been noncontroversial, had 75 signatories but died in committee.

The League’s dinner at the Double Tree Hotel was all about civic involvement. The group saluted six Travis County women mayors: Caroline Murphy of Bee Cave, Deane Armstrong of Jonestown, Rita Jonse of ManorRose Cardona of Sunset ValleyCristin Cecala of Point Venture and Linda Anthony of West Lake Hills. Just hearing about their deeds before and during their tenures in public office was exhilarating. When they spoke, it became clear that each came from a different place and was going in a distinct direction.

The big draw for the crowd of 100 or so was keynote speaker and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. She took her assignment — “State of the County” — quite seriously. She dug into almost every issue — from inequality and affordability to traffic and conservation — with just the right amount of detail. New to me: The refreshed efforts at a new county courthouse have already started with no predetermined site, design, size or cost.

Frankly, I think a lot more people could use exposure to this sterling good-government group.