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Jefferson-Jenkins, Carolyn (1952 - )

In 1994 Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was elected the first African American president of the National League of Women Voters.  She became at that time the 15th president of the League in its 74 year history. A native of Ohio, Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins majored in Social Science and Education at Western College for Women in Ohio and received her Master’s in Education in Administration and Supervision from John Carroll University in Ohio. She then obtained her Ph.D. in Urban Education and Administration from Cleveland State University in 1991. Jefferson-Jenkins began her career as a public school teacher and administrator in 1974.  She joined the League in 1982.

Jefferson-Jenkins headed the largest nonpartisan citizen organization in the United States.  At the time of her presidency there were more than 120,000 members in all 50 states. The organizations main purpose was, and is, to educate voters about candidates and issues so that they can make wise, informed decisions at the ballot box.  Jefferson-Jenkins promoted the Leagues strength as a grassroots organization with membership through 1,100 local leagues and called for the organization to return to its focus on local elections.  It was there, at the local level, she argued that the League could most effectively carry out its programs.

Jefferson-Jenkins also placed high priority on increasing the number of voters who regularly participate in the electoral process.  Noting the steady decline over the past half century in political participation especially in the presidential elections, she placed an emphasis on voter registration.  She led the League of Women Voters 1996 Get Out the Vote Campaign which registered more than 50,000 new voters.   Jefferson-Jenkins especially promoted registration among women and people of color and members from both groups to run for office.  

In the last year of her presidency, 1998, Jefferson-Jenkins promoted the Wired for Democracy project, one of the earliest efforts to increase

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