The League of Women Voters 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 which 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 cooperation with other nations is essential in the search for solutions to world problems, and that the development of international organization and international law is imperative in the promotion of world peace.
What Is the League
The League is a non-profit, non partisan, national organization whose purpose is to promote informed and active participation of citizens in government at all levels.
The League came into being in 1920, the year women gained the right to vote. It grew out of the National American Women Suffrage Association, which spearheaded the 77 year drive to get women the vote. The local League of Women Voters was organized in Madison also in 1920. In 1971 it merged with the League of Women Voters of Middleton and became the League of Women Voters of Dane County.
Like government, the League functions on several levels — local, state, regional and national. People who join in Dane County also become members of the state and national Leagues. The League is a grass-roots organization that is open to anyone 18 years or older.
The League is organized into local discussion units which meet monthly to discuss selected issues currently under study. These groups vote on the studied issues and make recommendations for social, political or governmental changes. These groups also make suggestions for new topics for study and for action plans.
In Dane County the League has several units that meet morning, afternoon or evening. The League is governed by a Board of Directors, which is the administrative and policy-making arm of the League. It provides direction and leadership for carrying out member decisions and is ultimately responsible for all plans and activities.
The League acts in support of, or in opposition to, selected governmental issues which it has studied. It does not support or oppose candidates, factions or political parties. League members, as individuals, are urged to work in the political party of their choice. In order to protect the League's non-partisan policy, guidelines regarding the political activities of the Board of Directors are reviewed frequently.
The League is a non-profit organization financed in two ways: by member dues and contributions, and through community and national finance drives which enable public-spirited citizens to help support the work of the League. Dues are collected at the local League level. National, state and regional Leagues are supported primarily by local Leagues. Since some of the Leagues' activities are for the purpose of influencing legislation, contributions are not tax-deductible.
However, the League of Women Voters Education Fund, a national public foundation separate from but working closely with the League, is supported by tax-deductible contributions ($50 minimum) from foundations, corporations, unions, governmental agencies and individuals. This fund finances extensive research on governmental issues and produces publications that are distributed to the public and to local and state Leagues. Checks must be made payable to the League of Women Voters Education Fund.
What We Do
STUDY AND ACT
The League of Women Voters is an action group. However, it may take action only on issues which have been extensively studied and on which the members are agreed. One of the reasons for the political effectiveness of the League is its reputation for thorough study.
- providing information to members and the public
- building public opinion
- supporting or opposing legislation
Complete facts, the pros and cons, are researched before acting. Members study and discuss the issues in small units so that everyone has an opportunity to express an opinion.
When a position is reached through
STUDY / DISCUSSION / CONSENSUS
by membership, the League (and members as individuals) work to implement that position. Action methods include lobbying state legislative committee members, testifying at public hearings, use of public forums and the media, panel discussion, League publications and letters to public officials. It is the responsibility of the League Board to direct and plan League Action.
VOTERS SERVICE/CITIZEN INFORMATION
Voters Service/Citizen Information activity is directed toward encouraging citizens to register and vote and to participate in government and politics. League does this by providing factual information about voting procedures, candidates and ballot issues. When the League has a position on any issue, separate material is published to promote the League's stand.
Some of the Voters Service projects involve. . .
- compiling and distributing "Candidates Answers" which gives information about candidates who have filed for office and about ballot issues
- conducting voter registration drives
- sponsoring live and cable-cast candidate forums
- welcoming new citizens and offering them voter information at naturalization ceremonies
- speaking to school and community groups about voting procedures and ways to be informed as a voter.
The League has a large and growing list of educational publications on local, regional, state and national issues. Academically respectable and visually pleasing, League publications are the result of thorough research. Publications Catalogs provide complete information on available materials including films, tapes and slide shows. The Dane County League is well known for its wide distribution of "Candidates Answers" before elections.
The League maintains observers at meetings of various local, regional, state and national governmental bodies. Observers do not speak for the League but attend these meetings to listen, learn and to make factual reports of the proceedings. The League's reputation as a civic watchdog has been earned by the observer program. By reporting back, observers can alert League members of legislative proposals which may conflict with a previously agreed upon position. Official League action can then be taken, such as letter writing, testifying at a meeting, etc.
How We Work
You as a Member...
... attend unit meetings
... elect officers and directors; be an officer or director
... help make the voice of the League heard
... attend general meetings
... volunteer for resource committees: national, state, regional, local
... volunteer for service committees: Voters Service, Fund-raising, Membership, etc.
The League structure is designed to give members every chance to voice their views. Because League is a membership organization, every member is encouraged to become a member of a working committee. This is the key to League success.
The League's program consists of study issues chosen by the membership for concerted study and action. At program-making meetings, the members discuss their ideas for local, regional, state and national program. The proposals are submitted to the Board. Individual members may also submit proposals. The Board considers all proposals and then presents a recommended program for consideration at the annual meeting or convention. Final decision on state and national program is made by delegates to respective biennial conventions. The recommended program requires a majority vote for adoption. A non-recommended item may also be placed before the delegates; it usually requires a larger vote for adoption.
Criteria which must be considered when selecting program. . .
- The issue must be one on which governmental action is needed.
- The issue must fall within the Principles of the League.
Additional considerations which may help members in making a choice. . .
- Is the issue important enough to inspire member interest and commitment?
- Can the League be effective in this field?
- Would it be a duplication of effort?
- Is it timely? Are there funds, time and people available to do a thorough job?
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
LWVDC is governed by an elected Board of Directors composed of 5 officers and elected and appointed directors. Officers and elected directors are chosen by the membership at the Annual Meeting. An Executive Committee conducts League business between Board meetings.
Each member of the Board has a specific area of responsibility: Program, Voters Service, Fundraising, Membership, Communication, Development, etc.
What We Mean When We Say...
Action: The means used for stimulating interest in, giving information about, urging support of League positions: press conferences, lobbying, letters, etc.
Board: The Board of Directors
Briefing: Meeting at which the resource committee briefs on-committee members so they may be discussion leaders at unit meetings.
Bulletin: Local newsletters issued monthly to keep members informed.
Consensus: Substantial agreement of the members developed through study and discussion.
Forward: LWVWI publication
General Meeting: Meetings held by the local League for the entire membership. These are held for many purposes: adopting program, obtaining information from experts in special areas of League interest, discussion of program items, or League operation.
Item/Issue: Any specific topic on the list of program: local, regional, state, or national
LWVDC: League of Women Voters Dane County
LWDUS: League of Women Voters of the United States
LWVWI: League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
National Voter: LWVUS magazine, published monthly.
PMP: Per Member Payment is an established fee paid to LWVWI and LWVUS
Portfolio: Area of responsibility in which a Board member works.
Position/Stand: Body of opinion expressed in consensus upon which Action can be taken.
Program: Local, state, and national items under study as well as those issues on which the League has reached member agreement.
Study Materials: Publications which serve as the basis for League discussion.
Time for Action/Call to Action: Request from a Board member for specific action on a program item.
Unit: Small group which meets regularly to discuss and reach consensus, vote on program issues, support the League in action, etc.