Janet E. Jackson will be the recipient of the 2017 Democracy in Action Award, the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus announced earlier this month.

It is both the highest honor the organization bestows and a major annual fundraiser, said Beth Taggart, co-coordinator of the award ceremony.

"This is one of our big community outreach activities," Taggart said.

The award will be presented during a ceremony at 6 p.m. May 9 at the Fawcett Center, 2400 Olentangy River Road.

Tickets are available at www.lwvcols.org. The cost is $50 for League members, $100 for others.

Jackson recently retired as president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Central Ohio, a post she held for 14 years. Before that, she spent six years as Columbus city attorney and nearly a decade as a Franklin County Municipal Court judge.

"Janet Jackson embodies dedication to civic participation," said Barbara Hykes, president of the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus. "Her outstanding leadership of United Way of Central Ohio, as well as her dedication as an elected official, have made a tremendous positive impact on central Ohio and make her a clear choice to receive this recognition."

Sara Neikirk of Clintonville, one of last year's recipients, will present the award to Jackson.

"I was surprised, and I was very honored," said Neikirk, who was honored for her many years as an advocate for the homeless, "I think voting could never be more important; democracy could never be more important. This is a really critical time for us all to remember how important it is to get involved, to do something."

Taggart and other League members, as well as the organization's lone staff person, Clintonville resident Elizabeth Grieser, talked last week about the work the League does and its importance in helping inform voters.

"I think the need is greater than ever, not just during elections but year-round to monitor this delicate thing we call democracy," League treasurer David B. Patton of Worthington said.

"We are nonpartisan. We don't take positions on candidates or political parties. Right now, I think people are turning to us more than ever because we don't have a vested interest."

Bryan Peluso of Bexley, vice president of League, said it helps show that it's possible to have "constructive civil discourse in troubled times."

"I think that's what this organization is all about."

"I think the League is known for being a reliable, trustworthy source of information," said Columbus resident Meredith Langlitz, who is on the board and serves on the voter services committee. "It's really nice to be part of an organization that's committed to the uphill battle of making democracy work."