In 1952, the League of Women Voters of Bowling Green and the Perrysburg League of Women Voters compiled the first non-partisan candidates bulletin in Wood County. Since then, League has regularly published candidates bulletins, now known as Voter Guides, and held Candidates Forums where candidates appeared before the voters in person. Candidates have participated at an almost 100% level, and they have regularly expressed their gratitude to League for opportunities to present their positions publicly. The public has also appreciated opportunities to hear the candidates.
The Forums operate under guidance from the national and state level Leagues, which preclude holding a forum for a given office unless at least two candidates for that office are present. Consequently, in a two-person race, when one candidate is willing but the other declines, the willing candidate is denied the opportunity to speak, and voters are denied hearing their views.
This year, only four candidates on the Bowling Green ballot agreed to participate in the Forum, and fewer candidates than ever answered questions for the nonpartisan Voter Guide. Unfortunately, this non-participation is a trend across the country. Why have so many candidates declined to participate? Is it to deny their opponents widespread public access? Is it fear of presenting their views to the public? Is it a national strategy to silence specific perspectives and civic discourse?
Despite League’s 102-year reputation for non-partisanship and integrity, and despite evidence to the contrary, we have recently been accused by a few of partisanship. We have never supported any candidate or political party. After conducting extensive research and consensus building with members, we do take positions on issues, such as levies and redistricting, as part of our mission to increase understanding of major public policy issues. Our work in redistricting has meant that we have had very public disagreements with both political parties in Ohio across the decades.
The public can rest assured that the League of Women Voters of Bowling Green will persist in our efforts to encourage political responsibility through informed, active participation in government. We will continue to give candidates opportunities to present their views publicly and seek ways to make these opportunities available to all candidates.
And, as the signs around town say, “Just Vote Please!”
Janet Parks, President
League of Women Voters of BG
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