Over the past year, The League of Women Voters has submitted articles to the Herald with the goal of encouraging Bucks ounty citizens to commit to voting, and to prepare themselves to vote thoughtfully. That is what democracy is abut.
There have been occasional letters to the editor in response to these articles, some claiming that the League is partisan rather than non-partisan. The League defines itself as a “non-partisan organization dedicated to providing voter education and services and advocating for issues.” There may be confusion about the meaning of the term ‘non-partisan.’ Let’s try to clarify the situation.
In general, non-partisan refers to a person or organization that takes a position on a particular issue based on what they see as the merits of the issue, after rational analysis. In contrast, a partisan person or organization takes a position on a particular issue because that is the position their political party takes.
For 103 years, the League has worked to educate voters and defend democracy. We do this work by wearing two hats: a voter services hat, and an advocacy hat.
Voter Services. The League of Women Voters is recognized for providing unbiasedinformation for voters prior to every election. Our Voters Guide, printed by the Bucks County Herald, as well as our online guide — www.Vote411.org — are scrupulously unbiased; all candidates are given an equal opportunity to present their own positions in their own words, so that voters can compare candidates side by side. When the League gives the pros and cons of a ballot question, it is careful to give a clear description of what a “yes” or a “no” vote would mean. The League does not endorse parties or candidates for office, does not fund candidates, and does not ask their members about their political affiliation, if any. We register voters no matter which party they affiliate with. We disperse legislative guides and election information without regard for party. This is not partisan.
Advocacy. While the League wants all citizens to vote, we do not want them to vote blindly or based only along party lines. We believe voters should understand the issues — and where they stand on each issue — in order to know how to cast their votes. To this end, League members across the state or nation (depending on the topic) study many issues from all sides and attempt to reach a consensus. The resulting consensus (and we sometimes fail to reach a consensus) becomes the League’s position on that issue. Once the League has reached a position on an issue, it lobbies for that position. This is our advocacy hat. We have positions on a wide range of topics, including women’s rights, gun safety, climate change/energy, fair funding for education, digital equity, and criminal justice. Our positions do not take into consideration those of any party’s platform. If either party happens to agree with one or another of our positions, that is purely coincidental. Our state and national positions, based on what we believe is best for all citizens, can be found at https://www.palwv.org/issues and https://www.lwv.org/impact-issues. This is not partisan.
Follow-up. In the Dec. 15, 2022 edition of the Herald, we asked the non-voters of Buck County why they didn’t vote in November. Only five registered voters responded. To increase the sample size, we repeated the request in the Jan. 19 edition of the Herald. No one responded. The mystery remains.
Cathy Morano is a member of the League of Women Voters of Bucks County, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing voter education and services and advocating for issues. It envisions a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.
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More than 100 years ago, the League of Women Voters of the U.S. was founded to be a nonpartisan voice for American women who wanted free, fair, and open elections, above all else. The politics may change, but our commitment to democracy remains the same.
I’m always amazed about how much gets done for our democracy by volunteers and this week being National Volunteer Week causes me to stop and reflect on how thankful I am for the all volunteers who power our democracy.
All year long, I work with League volunteers around the country, supporting their efforts to reach and help inform voters through our national voter information site, VOTE411.org.