Democracy inspires League of Women Voters volunteer

Janet Belkin wears a League of Women Voters badge. [Courtesy Belkin)

Janet Belkin felt a compelling need to do something “to insure our democracy continues to exist.” She turned to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, a group she was a member of in the past in her native New York. “There’s a very strong and useful League in Tucson. I called and told them my background and it sounded like a place that matched my interest — educating voters and knowing the issues. It felt like a good fit,” says Belkin.

Founded in 1920, the League is a national nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League never supports or opposes any political party or candidate. The Tucson chapter began in 1941.

The League has two separate and distinct roles. Voter service-citizen education presents unbiased, nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues. Action and advocacy also is nonpartisan, but, after study, members use their positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest. The nonprofit Arizona League of Women Voters Education Fund supports the local chapter.

A lawyer by profession, Belkin served on the voter service committee the last two years and in April joined the board of directors. “I want to do something for this election,” says Belkin, adding that getting people to exercise their obligation to vote is the most important thing. “Voting is a way to make your thoughts heard and have a say in which way your government goes. It is my passion. I think it is something that should start in civics class as early as third grade.”

Belkin notes that the League is unique in that it has no paid staff. “Everything is done by active members. From president to office managers, they are all volunteers working to have the opportunity to really do something,” Belkin says of the 280 local members. Her committee conducts voter registration training to encourage registration across the area, and to get out the vote.

While her focus remains on the League, Belkin has been active in the Jewish community since moving here in 2010. She was on the advisory council for the Northwest Federation, serving as program chair, and on the Jewish Family & Children’s Services board. She also worked on the Tucson Jewish Community Center sculpture garden committee. She also volunteers with the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, to “maintain Antarctica as pure as it can be” and has made several trips there. She helps her husband, Dr. Al Tarlov, with his research on the social determinants of health. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a Muslim-Jewish friendship circle.