League of Women Voters

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League of Women Voters of the United States
LWV Logo.svg
Founded February 14, 1920
Founder Carrie Chapman Catt
Type Political advocacy
Focus Political action, responsible government
Location
Members ~150,000
Key people Elisabeth MacNamara (President)
Slogan "Making Democracy Work. Grassroots Leadership since 1920."
Website lwv.org

The League of Women Voters (LWV) is an American civic organization that was formed to help women take a larger role in public affairs as they won the right to vote. It was founded in 1920,[1] by Carrie Chapman Catt during the last meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association approximately six months before the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution gave women the right to vote. Catt was also the founder and at the time the President of the International Alliance of Women. The League of Women Voters began as a "mighty political experiment" aimed to help newly enfranchised women exercise their responsibilities as voters. Originally, only women could join the league; but in 1973 the charter was modified to include men. The league is a grassroots organization with chapters in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The league has approximately 150,000 members (as of 2006).[citation needed]

The League of Women Voters has as its official position that it is strictly nonpartisan; it neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any level of government. At the same time, the League is wholeheartedly political and works to influence policy through advocacy. The league takes a stand on many political issues after studying them and coming to a consensus on a position. The league works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and to influence public policy through education and advocacy, as well as through political lobbying of Congress.

The league is organized into two complementary halves: Voter service and citizen education; and program and action.

Voter service and citizen education[edit]

Debates[edit]

The League sponsored the Presidential debates in 1976, 1980 and 1984.[2] On October 2, 1988, the LWV's 14 trustees voted unanimously to pull out of the debates, and on October 3 they issued a press release condemning the demands of the major candidates' campaigns:[3]

The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates...because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.

—League President Nancy M. Neuman, LWV October 03, 1988

Many Chapters have sponsored local candidate debates.[4]

Voter registration[edit]

The League was founded in 1920 to help 20 million women register and carry out their new responsibilities as voters. Today, the League operates one of the largest and longest running non-partisan voter registration efforts in the nation. By sponsoring National Voter Registration Day, registering new citizens at naturalization ceremonies, reaching out to young people through its high school voter registration project and community college registration program, and offering voter registration forms online, the League encourages participation in elections by all eligible citizens.[5]

Education[edit]

The League sponsors seminars and produces manuals, pamphlets, and editorials to educate the voting public on the political issues it deems important.[6] The League also sponsors voter’s guides including Smart Voter[7] which offers comprehensive coverage of the recent and upcoming elections with unbiased election information.[8]

Program and action[edit]

Representative government[edit]

The league supports "an open governmental system that is representative, accountable and responsive." [9]

League of Women Voters members in front of the White House, 1924

The league has worked to reduce barriers to voting, to implement campaign finance reform, and to prevent gerrymandering. The league is a strong supporter of transparency in government and in Open Meeting Law.

The League was the lead advocacy organization pushing for adoption of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires states to offer voter registration at all driver's license agencies, at social service agencies including those providing public assistance agencies, and through the mail.

The League also was a prime mover behind the Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA, or McCain-Feingold) that banned soft money in federal elections and made other reforms in campaign finance laws.

In 2003, the League worked to incorporate key voter protection and civil rights provisions into Help America Vote Act (HAVA). In 2004, the League lobbied Congress in favor of the bi-partisan Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE) which attempted to scale back some portions of the PATRIOT Act which affect individual liberties.

International relations[edit]

The league believes that the United States should "promote peace in an interdependent world by working cooperatively with other nations and strengthening international organizations".[10]

The league is a strong supporter of the United Nations. During the 1940s, the league launched a nationwide campaign to build public support for the United Nations. The league was one of the first non-government organizations affiliated with the UN.

The league supports a liberal U.S. trade policy aimed at reducing trade barriers and expanding international trade.[11]

Natural resources[edit]

The league works to "promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest".[12]

The league has worked to promote clean air, clean water and to manage solid waste in an environmentally sound way.

The league was a strong proponent of the Clean Air Act of 1990. The league continues to work for stronger Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to improve energy efficiency and reduce pollution.

The league promoted the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1987 and Kyoto Protocol.[13] The League supported the Climate Security Act of 2008 (cap and trade) and policies that limit reliance on nuclear fission.[14] The league opposes the proposed Keystone Pipeline project.[15]

In Ogden Dunes, Indiana, Naomi Svhila was a long-time member of the League of Women Voters who worked to preserve the Indiana Dunes.[16]

In January, 2013, the League of Women Voters in Hawaii urged President Obama to take action on climate change under his existing authority, the Clean Air Act of 1990, which the league strongly supported.[17]

Social policy[edit]

The league works to "secure equal rights and equal opportunity for all, to promote social and economic justice, and to secure the health and safety of all Americans," yet has previously opposed lowering the voting age.[18][19]

The league has worked on a broad range of activities under the rubric of "Social Policy" including ending racial discrimination, providing equal access to quality education, fair housing, health care, and gun control. The League of Women Voters of the United States supports the abolition of the death penalty.[20]

The League opposed the Medicare Prescription Drug bill but celebrated the success of the Affordable Care Act.[21] The League supports a general income tax increase to finance national health care reform for the inclusion of reproductive health care, including abortion, in any health benefits package.[21] The League strongly opposed the passage of the Partial-Birth Abortion Act.[21] The League actively opposed welfare reform legislation proposed in the 104th Congress.[22]

Persons who are unable to work, whose earnings are inadequate or for whom jobs are not available have the right to an income and/or services sufficient to meet their basic needs for food, shelter and access to health care.

—National Board, January 1989

The League advocates affirmative action programs for minorities and women and opposes private school vouchers.[23] The League supports a system for unauthorized (illegal) immigrants already in the country to earn legal status, including citizenship.[24] The League could support deficit spending, if necessary, for stimulating the economy and opposes across-the-board federal spending cuts except for reductions in defense spending.[25] The League opposes a balanced budget constitutional amendment.[25]

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the proliferation of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons in the United States is a major health and safety threat to its citizens. The League supports strong federal measures to limit the accessibility and regulate the ownership of these weapons by private citizens. The League supports regulating firearms for consumer safety and supports licensing procedures for gun ownership by private citizens to include a waiting period for background check, personal identity verification, gun safety education and annual license renewal.[26]

Governance[edit]

National[edit]

A national Board of Directors consisting of four officers, eight elected directors, and not more than eight board appointed directors, most of who reside in the Metro Washington D.C. area, govern the League subject to the Bylaws of the League of Women Voters of the United States. The national board is elected at the national convention and sets position policy.[27]

State and local[edit]

Local Leagues and State Leagues are organized in order to promote the purposes of the League and to take action on local and state governmental matters. These Leagues (chapters) have their own directors and officers. The national board may withdraw recognition from any state or local League for failure to fulfill recognition requirements.[27]

Controversies[edit]

Attack ads[edit]

In May 2011 the League televised advertisements showing a young girl wearing a facemask with a voice-over saying “when Scott Brown voted to eliminate clean air standards…just imagine what it could have done to her.”[28] The decision to sponsor these ads was made by the executive committee of the national League. By poll, the entire national board approved the decision as did the state presidents of Massachusetts and Missouri, where a similar ad targeted the vote of Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill.[29]

On May 11, 2011 FactCheck posted;[30]

[These] new ads accuse two senators of endangering children's lives by voting to allow asthma-causing "emissions" to be released from smokestacks and tailpipes. But in reality, all that the senators voted to curb was the government's attempt to regulate carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" gasses, which have no direct connection to asthma, and an indirect connection that is a matter of debate in the medical community. To sum up, we find the League of Women Voters' ads to be deceptive primarily because they lead viewers to think Sens. Brown and McCaskill voted to ease restrictions on the kinds of "emissions" that everybody agrees are health-threatening pollutants. That's not what the senators did. We would not have called the ads deceitful had they honestly said that the senators voted to block regulation of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, the health effects of which are less certain.

On the other hand, such reputable environmental organizations as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) responded, pointing out the scientific accuracy of the ads, the League's long history of fighting for clean air and the public health[31] and showing that climate change is, in fact, a public health issue.[32]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "About the League". </ref
  2. ^ "League of Women Voters and the Presidential Debates". LWV. June 12, 2010. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  3. ^ Nancy M. Neuman (October 2, 1988). "League Refuses to "Help Perpetrate a Fraud"". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  4. ^ "#3: Spicing Up Candidate Debates". LWV. Retrieved February 7, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Tips for Successful Voter Registration Drives". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  6. ^ "People Not Polluters - Scott Brownhttp". 
  7. ^ "Unbiased Election Informationaccessdate=February 14, 2012". 
  8. ^ "Voters’ Guides Best Practices". LWV. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  9. ^ Impact on Issues: 2004 - 2006. A Guide to Public Policy Positions. League of Women Voters. 2005. p. 6. 
  10. ^ League of Women Voters, 2005, p. 25.
  11. ^ Gretchen Knell (September 22, 2011). "Trade". League of Women Voters. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  12. ^ League of Women Voters, 2005, p. 40.
  13. ^ Gretchen Knell (September 27, 2011). "Environmental Protection and Pollution Control". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  14. ^ Gretchen Knell (September 27, 2011). "Natural Resources". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  15. ^ Elisabeth MacNamara. "League Urges President to Deny Permit for Keystone Pipeline". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  16. ^ Smith, S. & Mark, S. (2006). Alice Gray, Dorothy Buell, and Naomi Svihla: Preservationists of Ogden Dunes. The South Shore Journal, 1.http://www.southshorejournal.org/index.php/issues/volume-1-2006/78-journals/vol-1-2006/117-alice-gray-dorothy-buell-and-naomi-svihla-preservationists-of-ogden-dunes
  17. ^ Gerhardt, Tina (9 January 2013). "70 Groups Send Pres. Obama Letter Urging Action on Climate Change". The Progressive. 
  18. ^ League of Women Voters, 2005, p. 56.
  19. ^ SciVille. "Should 16 Be The "New 18"". Retrieved 10 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Gretchen Knell (September 29, 2011). "Death Penalty". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  21. ^ a b c Gretchen Knell (September 29, 2011). "Health Care". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  22. ^ Gretchen Knell (September 29, 2011). "Meeting Basic Human Needs". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  23. ^ Gretchen Knell (September 29, 2011). "Equality of Opportunity". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  24. ^ Gretchen Knell (September 29, 2011). "Immigration". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  25. ^ a b Gretchen Knell (September 29, 2011). "Fiscal Policy". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  26. ^ Gretchen Knell (September 29, 2011). "Gun Control". LWV. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  27. ^ a b "Bylaws and Certificate of Incorporation". May 3, 1946 amended 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  28. ^ LeagueofWomenVoters (April 29, 2011). "People Not Polluters - Scott Brown". LWV. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  29. ^ Judy Thomas (May 20, 2011). "Cape League opposes partisan ads". Cape Cod Times. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Deceitful Attacks from the League of Women Voters". FactCheck.org. May 11, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Scott Brown's Attack on the Truth". ndrc.org. 
  32. ^ "Fact Check: Scott Brown Voted To Hurt Sick Children". thinkprogress.org. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Handbook for Members. Boston: League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. 
  • Impact On Issues: 2004 - 2006. Washington,D.C.: League of Women Voters of the United States. ISBN 0-89959-446-8. 
  • Lee, Percy Maxim; Young, Louise Merwin; Young, Ralph B. (1989). In the public interest: the League of Women Voters, 1920-1970. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-25302-1. 
  • Stevens, Jennifer A (2010). "Chapter 9 Feminizing Portland, Oregon: A History of the League of Women Voters in the Postwar Era,. 1950-1975". In Laughlin, Kathleen A., and Jacqueline L. Castledine. Breaking the Wave: Women, Their Organizations, and Feminism, 1945-1985. Routledge. pp. 155–72. ISBN 0-415-87400-9. 

External links[edit]

Archives[edit]