For the last century, the mission of the League of Women Voters has been to empower voters and defend democracy. Recently, a candidate we invited to participate in a candidate forum stated in a paid advertisement that they would not attend a debate hosted by the League, calling it a “liberal farce designed to fool voters.”
This statement could not be farther from the truth. For 102 years, we have successfully encouraged informed and active participation in government at the local, state, and national levels. The League works to increase understanding of policy issues, advocating for legislative changes and policies for the public good. The League does not advocate for or support political parties or candidates.
Although the League is nonpartisan and our work is performed with that as a requirement, the League encourages active participation in the democratic process. Our membership is comprised of all political persuasions; they are Republicans, Libertarians, Democrats, NPAs, Green Party, liberal, conservative, and everyone in between. All are welcome who support the League’s mission, vision, and values.
What unites our members is that we care about educating voters on important issues, so voters can make informed choices. The League has always been a progressive organization; after all our founders secured suffrage for women. While political issues, parties and candidates may shift stances on the issues over time, our nonpartisan approach to educating voters on those issues has not.
For many years the League of Women Voters of Tallahassee has conducted fair and well-executed candidate forums for local and state races. We coordinate with local officials to assure all eligible candidates are invited and we take great care to compose questions representing key interests or hot topics of our community. Every candidate is asked the same question and is given the same amount of time to respond. Candidates are seated alphabetically; questions are asked in rotating order, so no one is always first or last in responding.
Since 2020 our forums have been conducted online and recordings made available; importantly the recordings are as is with no additional commentary about any candidate or his/her/their response. This is how it should be – we are educating, not promoting a candidate or party.
It’s the same with Vote411.org – since 2006 this website has been the League’s one-stop-shop for election related information. We provide nonpartisan information to the public with both general and state-specific information on voting. We send an identical list of questions to all candidates and post responses verbatim. It is a candidate’s prerogative to decline to participate, in which case the information we are able to provide is limited.
Democracy thrives best with open discussion and debate of different ideas. The League is hosting candidate forums for the General Election beginning on October 10. We encourage all candidates to participate and adjust to accommodate all schedules. Now is the time to let differing opinions be shared and let every citizen decide which ideas they agree and disagree with.
League members are volunteers, we do this work because it benefits the community; we have no ulterior motives. We are not here to be swept into party battles or to be a politician’s whipping post.
The League continues to support the issues we believe in, with focus on voting and representative government. We will not slant a debate to provide an advantage of one party over another. For any candidate listening, earn the vote of our community in a fair manner and if you win, remember who you represent. These are the principles and foundations of which we have insisted upon for the last 102 years.
Trish Neely is president of the League of Women Voters of Tallahassee.
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