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League of Women Voters helps navigate government maze | Commentary

This opinion was originally published in the Santa Maria Times.

Did you know that the next presidential primary is in March 2024? That may seem like a long way off, but soon candidates for local and regional offices will begin their campaigns for your vote.

How will you find your way through the maze of candidates, issues and referendums? We are the League of Women Voters and our goal is to empower citizens to shape better communities.

We are a nonpartisan political membership organization which acts after study and member agreement to achieve solutions in the public interest on key community issues. We work to build citizen participation in the democratic process and engage communities in promoting positive solutions to public policy issues through education and advocacy.

Established in 1920 after many women won the right to vote, the League is one of the nation’s most respected community-based organizations. In addition to our work in the elections area, League volunteers work on issues of local importance, from education to land use and housing.

It is important to share that the League of Women Voters at all levels (local, state or national) does not support or oppose any candidate for office or political parties. We want everyone to vote so our elected leaders represent our entire community.

We are a voice for all, working to connect people directly with government.

The League of Women Voters provides and works from facts. We educate. We advocate for change. The League is working to strengthen our democracy and our communities.

Our work includes:

  • Protecting the right to vote against threats and ensuring that every vote is counted by fighting for and implementing voting systems that are free, fair, and accessible.
  • Advocating for positive change at the local, state, and national level on issues such as education, government accountability, and money in politics.
  • Fostering civil dialogue about important community issues, such as government spending, climate change, immigration, civil liberties, gun safety, health care, and helping end homelessness.

The League of Women Voters believes in respect for individuals, the value of diversity, the empowerment of the grassroots, both within the League and in communities, the power of collective decision-making for the common good, acting with trust, integrity, and professionalism, and operating in an open and effective manner to meet the needs of those we serve, both members and the public.

Membership is open to everyone 16 and older and filled with benefits, including opportunities to learn and lead, shape issues important to you and your family, and become part of your community and of a larger network across the country.

The Leagues throughout the nation develop policies through several processes that begin at the grassroots, local level. The League of Women Voters has a series of priorities: The issues for education and advocacy are set every two years at the League of Women Voters California convention, the Legislative priorities are set for each legislative session by the state board, and the core issues of the League that include redistricting, elections, initiative and referendum process, voting rights, and campaign finance reform are set at League national level processes.

In summary, our mission is to encourage informed and active participation in government, increase understanding of major public policy issues and influence public policy through education and advocacy.

Our Santa Maria Valley League serves northern Santa Barbara County, and we value input from the community. You can reach us by email at [email protected] or mail at PO Box 1388, Santa Maria, CA 93456. Our website is, or follow us on Facebook at LWVSMV.

Virginia Souza is the President of League of Women Voters Santa Maria Valley.