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RACINE, KENOSHA – “Who Gets to Vote,” a community-wide education program is now underway at the Racine and Kenosha Public Libraries. The program features presentations, discussion sessions and free copies of a best-selling historical book.

“The Who Gets to Vote program has been planned to create awareness of how you can get involved and to learn about the importance of your vote,” said Angie Zimmermann, Racine Public Library executive director. “We’re hoping this program helps raise awareness around everyone’s right and responsibility to vote and how important that is for a healthy and well-informed democracy.”

Community members are invited to read and discuss “The Soul of America – The Battle for Our Better Angels,” a 2018 New York Times best-seller by author and historian Jon Meacham.

As described by Amazon.com, the book “helps us understand the present moment in American politics and life by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame division and fear.” An HBO documentary based on the book was released in 2020.

Meacham is the author of 12 books, largely focusing on American history and biographies. He was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for biography for “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.”

Barb Brattin, Kenosha Public Library director, explained that “The Soul of America” was chosen for the community-wide read for a variety of reasons, including a local connection.

Meacham delivered the commencement address at Carthage College in May 2018, the same month as the book’s release. He’s a long-time friend of Carthage President Dr. John Swallow.

“His (Meacham’s) writing is very accessible to everyone,” said Brattin. “It puts things into context and really offers some hopeful messages for the future.”

A grant from the nonprofit, Wisconsin Humanities, was used to purchase softbound copies of “The Soul of America” for free distribution. Copies are available – while supplies last – at all four Kenosha Public Library locations and the KPL bookmobile and at the Racine Public Library reference desk.

The public is invited to participate in a pair of discussion sessions about “The Soul of America.” The Kenosha discussion is at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 7 at the KPL Southwest Library, 7979 38th Ave.

The Racine session will be virtual at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9. Register at RacineLibrary.info.

Other Presentations and Discussions

A series of presentations and discussions are planned around the “Who Gets to Vote” program throughout this month and into April.
All sessions are free and open to the public.
  • March 1-31: Postcards, the Battle for Women’s Suffrage: Fighting for the Right to Vote. A display of suffrage post cards from the Kenosha History Center can be seen at the KPL Northside Library, 1500 27th Ave.
  • Tuesday, March 8: Right in the Middle Reading Club: “The Candidate.” Reading and discussion of a book for 10-to14-year-old readers. 5 p.m., KPL Northside Library, 1500 27th Ave.
  • Wednesday, March 9: Who Can and Cannot Vote. Presentation and discussion with local community leaders surrounding voting and various specific populations such as formerly incarcerated people, college students and the elderly in special care facilities. Presented by the Racine Public Library. 6 p.m. Virtual. Register at RacineLibrary.info.
  • Wednesday, March 9: Decoding Your Ballot: Voter Research for the Busy Citizen. Megan Brown of Ballotpedia discusses ways that voters can research less-covered elections such as school boards, city councils and ballot measures. 7 p.m. Virtual. Visit the KPL website at mykpl.info to register for a link.
  • Thursday, March 10: Old Weird America When Voting Was a Crime: Susan B. Anthony, Victoria Woodhull and the Election of 1872. A presentation about how two women made their mark on an election nearly 50 years before women won the right to vote. 6 p.m. KPL Northside Library, 1500 27th Ave. and virtual at mykpl.info.
  • Friday, March 11: Politics and History Book Club. A discussion of the history of voting, voter suppression, struggles for the vote and the evolution of voting rights. Participants may read any book related to voting to share in the discussion. 1 p.m. KPL Southwest Library, 7979 38th Ave.
  • Monday, March 14: Black History Book Club: Voting Rights. More than a half-century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, voting rights, suppression and getting out the vote are still hot and contentious topics. 6 p.m., KPL Southwest Library, 7979 38th Ave.
  • Tuesday, March 22: Partisan Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression in Wisconsin. Attorney Douglas M. Poland, a partner at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Election and Political Law Team, will discuss how partisan gerrymandering dilutes the power (and therefore suppresses votes) of Wisconsin voters. 6:30 p.m. Virtual. Visit the KPL website at mykpl.info to register for a link.
  • Thursday, March 24: Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument Tour. Susan Philpott of the National Park Service will share the story of Alice Paul’s political savvy and the National Woman’s Party’s tactics in support of woman suffrage. 6 p.m. Virtual. Visit the KPL website at mykpl.info to register for a link.
  • Wednesday, April 13: Meet the Representatives. Racine Public Library assembles Racine area elected representatives for public engagement and an opportunity to learn about local issues. 6:30 p.m. Virtual. Register at RacineLibrary.info.

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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...