The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
LEAGUE AT A GLANCE
The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a strictly nonpartisan citizen activist organization that operates at the local, state, and national levels. There are LWVs in every state; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the Virgin Islands. In New York State, there are 60 local Leagues throughout the state.
WHAT IS THE LWVNYS's PURPOSE?
- To encourage the active and informed participation of citizens in government.
- To increase understanding of major public policy issues.
- To advocate for public policies that promote LWV goals reached through
member participation and agreement.
WHAT ARE THE LWVNYS's PRINCIPLES?
THE LWVNYS BELIEVES
- In representative government and in the individual liberties established in the Constitution of the United States
- That democratic government depends upon the informed and active participation of its citizens and requires that governmental bodies protect the citizen’s right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings and making public records accessible
- That every citizen should be protected in the right to vote; that every person should have access to free public education that provides equal opportunity for all; and that no person or group should suffer legal, economic or administrative discrimination
- That efficient and economical government requires competent personnel, the clear assignment of responsibility, adequate financing, and coordination among the different agencies and levels of government
- That responsible government should be responsive to the will of the people; that government should maintain an equitable and flexible system of taxation, promote the conservation and development of natural resources in the public interest, share in the solution of economic and social problems that affect the general welfare, promote a sound economy, and adopt domestic policies that facilitate the solution of international problems;
- That cooperation with other nations is essential in the search for solutions to world problems, and that the development of an international organization and international law is imperative in the promotion of world peace.
WHAT WE DO
- Voter Service/Citizen Information:
The LWV is perhaps best known for its services to voters. The LWV directs its efforts toward encouraging citizens to register to vote and to take part in government and politics. Voter service activities include sponsoring candidates meetings, debates, and interviews; conducting voter registration drives; providing information about voting to the public; and getting out the vote on Election Day. The LWV never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for elective office, but the League encourages its members, as individuals, to take part fully in the political process.
In print and on-line, the LWV provides information necessary to inform the electorate through community handbooks, voters guides, political directories and factual studies of governmental issues. Community organizations often call upon the LWV for speakers on selected topics.
LWVs at each level choose issues for their members to study. Criteria considered when selecting study program:
- The issue must be one on which governmental action is needed.
- The issue must fall within the principles of the LWV.
- The issue must inspire member interest and commitment.
- Duplication of effort must be avoided.
- Funds, time, and people must be available to do a thorough job.
Final decisions on state and national programs are made by a vote of the delegates to the respective conventions. At the local level, the voting members in attendance at the annual meeting perform this function.
Through its consensus process, the LWV examines all aspects of a selected subject and tries to reach agreement on which to base a position. The LWV’s reputation for fairness rests on its practice of thorough and impartial study. Members discuss the issues; pros and cons are researched; and everyone has an opportunity to express an opinion. Once the LWV has a position on an issue, material is published to promote that position, always ensuring the distinction between LWV action on specific issues and the League’s nonpartisan voter information.
ACTION & ADVOCACY
Once a position has been determined, the LWV board directs and plans LWV action. Action includes lobbying, writing letters and sending e-mails to public officials; testifying at public hearings; litigating to help clarify laws in the public interest; working in coalitions; monitoring elections and other government activities; and using public forums, panel discussions, LWV publications, and the media to provide information to members and the public.
The results of LWV studies and LWV action are conveyed to the public via the printed and electronic media, including use of the Internet. The LWV uses press conferences, radio and television programs, statements to governmental bodies, and members’ enthusiasm as part of its strategy to promote the LWV’s mission.
One important tool for carrying out the LWV’s goals are publications that are researched, written and distributed by members at every level. State and national catalogs are available. Many of the LWV’s publications are available to members and the public at no charge, and others are available for purchase. Newsletters keep members in touch with all levels of the LWV. Local bulletins are usually published monthly, and the state Voter and the national Voter are published quarterly. The state Voter is also available online on the League’s Web site at lwvny.org and local League newsletters from around the state can be viewed at lwvny-bulletins.org/.
The LWV maintains observers at many meetings of various local, regional, state, and national governmental bodies. Observers do not speak for the LWV but attend these meetings to listen, learn, and make factual reports of the proceedings. The observer program has earned the LWV a reputation as a fair and accurate civic monitor.
Many LWVs have members who are available to speak on LWV issues to organizations within the community.
WHAT LWVNYS HAS DONE
Since its founding, the LWV has worked to improve the legal status of women and the welfare of children; to protect consumers; to obtain Home Rule for the District of Columbia; to further campaign finance reform and equal opportunity in education, employment and housing; to reform the welfare system; and to safeguard clean water and air. From the beginning, the LWV has been devoted to the principle of international cooperation; it supported the League of Nations and has consistently supported the United Nations, and the Trade Agreements Program.
Formed in 1919, the League of Women Voters of New York State has focused on the judicial system, legislative lobby reform, campaign finance reform, election laws, state finances, health care, public education, and the state budget. It has actively sought equitable reapportionment, as well as laws to improve air and water quality, land use, child care and women’s lives.
Local LWVs in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties have formed county inter-League organizations (ILOs). Issues addressed by these groups include solid waste management and reduction, county government structure and services, and land use. Local: Sixty local LWVs have spearheaded improvements in the structure and efficiency of their city, town and village governments, and worked on issues such as public education, housing, health services, racism, local planning, sanitation, recreation, and tax and charter reform.