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East County League of Women voters to disband


More volunteers needed to start new league

After 53 years of existence, the East County League of Women Voters is disbanding, and it's an important loss, said member Marlene Byrne.

“We're disbanding because of a lack of participation and interest and people not getting involved,” she said.

At one time the group had more than 200 members, but now only a handful of people are doing all the work, said Byrne, who has been involved in the league since the 1980s.

But the work of the league is important to voters, Byrne said, because it is the only organization that gives voters detailed, nonpartisan information on candidates and issues.

The national League of Women Voters, formed in 1920, has the goal “to improve our government and engage all citizens in the decisions that impact their lives.” That involves registering people to vote, organizing candidate and issue forums and compiling information for the league's “blue book” voters' guide.

“The reason I joined was because I didn't understand a measure on the ballot,” Byrne said. “I needed someone to explain the ballot and explain it both ways. I joined the league since I knew it was nonpartisan.”

The league often can help with local issues that would go unnoticed in Portland, such as recent school board conflict in Corbett. The league was asked to step in and help.

“They had people running for school board, so we did a candidates' forum,” she said. “We felt we should do that because the league is one of the only places you can find both sides.”

The Portland League of Women Voters will try to pick up the slack now that the branch in Gresham is folding, but it won't be able to do as good a job as far as East County is concerned, Byrne said.

For example, the next time the league produces a voters' guide on county election issues, it might not even include East Multnomah County, she said, and even if it is included, the issues and candidates will not have the level of research they had in the past.

“East County should have a voice on what is happening in the state,” she said.

However, Byrne hasn't given up on the hope that others may step up and take over the league. Anyone interested can call Byrne at 503-491-9384 or the Portland League of Women Voters at 503-228-1675.

“We're going down into ashes, but sometimes ashes become something almost the same,” she said. “So some group will see the league is the only one that can do it. I think we need to form another League of Women Voters for East County and do the work of the league.”