Only to the extent that League members, the public, and elected officials understand the League's nonpartisanship will the League be able to render effective voter service and gain support for its positions on governmental issues. It is important that all LWV members and the public understand that:
- The League of Women Voters does not support or oppose political parties or individual candidates for government office. The League does support or oppose public policy issues based on positions and principles of government established through studies and member agreement. These positions and principles are printed in the local membership handbook and state and national handbooks. Membership handbooks are available to all members at the monthly program meetings or online. The local Board of Directors applies the positions and principles to current issues and determines the League's position. A Board-designated person, usually the President, is the spokesperson for the League.
- The League is nonpartisan, not bipartisan. Bipartisan means representing both parties. The League represents no party.
- All LWV members are expected to keep their League activity and their partisan political activity completely separate and distinct. For example, members may not distribute League materials at the same time as they distribute material for a candidate or a party. Discussion of a member's partisan activity is inappropriate at a League meeting.
- The League encourages all of its members to be informed about candidates and issues and to vote. The League also encourages its members, except as noted below, to work actively in the party or for the candidates of their choice and to run for and hold political office if they choose. This partisan activity of League members must be done in their own names and not in the name of the League. A League member's partisan political activity must be left outside the door of any League meeting.
Political Activity of Board Members
Guiding principle: LWVFNUC Board members have the same responsibility as all citizens to be informed and active participants in the political process. However, as a result of close identification with the League, Board members have a special responsibility to maintain the nonpartisanship of the organization. They must exercise particular care to keep their League activity and their partisan political activity completely separate and distinct.
The following examples are presented as an aid to the Board in applying this principle. This is not intended as a comprehensive list. Board members who question whether an activity violates the League’s nonpartisan policy should bring the question to the Board.
Board members may:
- Serve on an appointed board, commission, or committee as a private citizen as long as they do not state or imply that they are representing the League.
- Sign or circulate petitions that reflect their own point of view as long as they do not state or imply that they are representing the League.
- Attend candidate campaign functions as long as they do not state or imply that they are representing the League.
Board Members may not:
- Board members may not hold, or actively seek, an elected office.
- The President and Voter Service Vice President may not circulate or sign nomination papers or petitions involving office holders.
- The President and Voter Service Vice President may not publicly support or oppose a partisan political campaign or candidate.
- The President and Voter Service Vice President may not serve on the board of a partisan organization.
- The President and Voter Service Vice President may not attend candidate campaign functions or party fundraisers.
Political Activity of Relatives
The League considers the political activities of families and household members of Board members to be separate and distinct from those of the Board Members.
- Each Board member is responsible for managing her/his budget category. The most recently adopted budget is the maximum amount authorized. Expenditures/purchases that exceed the current year budgeted amount in each budget category must be approved by the local League board prior to the expenditure or purchase. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that the expenditure amount will be reimbursed.
- Reimbursements for League expenditures should be presented to the Treasurer within three months of the expenditure. A voucher must be completed for each expenditure that is reimbursed. The Treasurer will provide Board members with vouchers and an accounting process for keeping track of their budgets.
- Reimbursements for expenditures will be made in the fiscal year in which the expenditure took place. Expenditures not presented for reimbursement within the fiscal year of the expenditure will be considered "in kind" contributions to LWVFNUC. The fiscal year of LWVFNUC begins on July 1 and ends on June 30.
- To facilitate the maintenance of accurate records of the cost of running LWVFNUC, all board members and others who choose to make their expenditures "in kind" contributions, should note the amount of the contribution and the budget category and record the information with the Treasurer.
- LWVFNUC is the owner of any capital equipment or materials reimbursed with or purchased with League funds.
- Annually, the Administrative Vice-President will arrange for the review of the financial records of the League and report the results to the Board and at the Annual Meeting.
Participation in Public Meetings with Other Organizations
The League may participate with other organizations at various levels. For co-sponsorship, support, or provision of moderators and facilitators, the following guidelines apply.
At the beginning of all Voter articles and publicity, LWVFNUC should state whether the event is a citizen education, an advocacy event, or a Voter Service activity.
The LWVFNUC Board must approve participation in public meetings before a commitment can be made. If there is not sufficient time, the President and the Executive Committee may approve participation. The activity must meet the following criteria:
- Participation promotes the mission of the League.
- The event focuses on citizen education and/or community dialogue with input to decision-makers.
- If the event is citizen education, not advocacy, it must be non-partisan, with balanced representation of major viewpoints on an issue.
- The issue is timely and important to the community.
- LWVFNUC has experience, abilities, or interests that make co-sponsorship appropriate.
- Association with the sponsor(s) maintains the reputation of the League.
- LWVFNUC members are available to do the required work.
- Significant financial commitment from LWVFNUC is not required.
The League may function at three levels of participation. At the beginning, League representatives (negotiators) should be very clear whether LWVFNUC is the primary sponsor, a co-sponsor, or a supporter.
- League representatives must meet with all primary sponsors and participate in decisions on time, place, format, etc.
- Representatives of all primary sponsors must approve any significant changes in plans.
- The League reserves the right to veto plans or withdraw its name or sponsorship from any printed material, press release and/or project.
- In Voter Service activities, the League must always be a primary participant and the activity must conform to Voter Service guidelines.
- The League may not cosponsor candidate forums with advocacy or partisan groups since the League does not mix Voter Service and advocacy.
- The co-sponsoring organization(s) of any candidate forum must not endorse candidates represented in that forum.
- In all cases, LWVFNUC needs to consider how participation might affect its non-partisan status or the public's perception of the League's non-partisanship.
These guidelines apply whether LWVFNUC is the primary sponsor or is supporting another group.
- A statement of plans for the event must be presented in writing to the Board.
- A League member must be an official liaison between the primary sponsors and the Board, and must secure approval of the Board or Executive Committee for any significant changes in plans.
- The League reserves the right to withdraw its name and/or support from any printed materials, press release and/or project.
- The co-sponsoring organization(s) of any candidate forum must not endorse candidates represented in that forum.
- For Voter Service activities, LWVFNUC must consider how participation might affect its nonpartisan status or the public's perception of the League's non-partisanship.
Provision of Moderators and Facilitators
Moderators and Facilitators must ensure that:
- The structure of the event promotes fairness.
- The event is not organized to promote an issue that conflicts with League positions or principles. Even if the event is presenting both sides of an issue, if the League is strongly identified with one side, LWVFNUC should not participate.
- The group requesting League assistance shall pay a reasonable fee. In special cases, the President, Executive Committee, or Board may reduce or waive the LWV fee.
Guidelines for Joining a Coalition or Association
Note: When considering association policy at its November,1996 meeting, the LWVFNUC Board decided that the League's rules for joining any action group should be the same.
An action coalition is usually a temporary alliance that brings together organizations for joint action toward a limited and well-defined goal.
An association is different from a coalition in that an association may be a long-term, continuing relationship to support efforts related to a major goal. Nevertheless, the same fundamental criteria for joining a coalition must apply to joining and continuing an association.
Approval and Criteria
The LWVFNUC Board must approve participation prior to joining any coalition or association. The coalition or association shall meet the following criteria:
- LWVFNUC has position(s), experience, abilities, and interests that make joining the coalition or association appropriate.
- The coalition or association may be more persuasive than the League operating separately.
- The coalition or association can finance the activities necessary for success.
- The coalition or association will not endorse candidates.
- League members are available to do the required work, including active representation and leadership in the coalition or association.
- The LWVFNUC Board will review participation in the coalition or association annually at Board retreat.
- Participation in the coalition or association will not compromise the League's nonpartisanship.
Coalition/Association Ground Rules
Ground rules must be established so the parties understand what they may and may not do in the name of the Coalition or Association. Ground rules include:
- The group must define the general parameters of the issue or issues.
- The group must agree on specific strategies.
- A LWVFNUC member must be one of the designated leaders and decision-makers.
- The group must approve any persons(s) who speak for the coalition or association.
- Member groups must have the opportunity to approve published materials distributed by people or organizations in the coalition or association, including statements to the press.
- LWVFNUC will not be responsible for any coalition or association expenses beyond the amount specifically approved by the LWVFNUC Board.
- The coalition or association must report campaign finance expenses in accordance with the law.
- LWVFNUC reserves the right to withdraw from the coalition or association at any time.
Representing LWVFNUC on Community Advisory Boards and Commissions
The Board must evaluate the qualifications of potential League representatives based on their:
- Understanding of League principles of "good" government (open, accountable, responsible, and responsive government).
- Specialized knowledge about and interest in the commission's/committee’s purpose.
- Ability to attend meetings and perform tasks of the commission/committee.
- Willingness to report to the Board and Membership on the work of the commission/committee and the League's participation in the work.
- League representation should be reviewed and reapproved by the Board annually at the Board retreat.
Use of Membership Roster by Other Organizations
- Only the League for League purposes may use the roster.
- A notice that the roster is for League use only and that the LWVFNUC Board of Directors must specifically grant permission for any other use shall be printed on the roster.
Delegates to State and National Convention
Money shall be budgeted to cover reasonable convention-related expenses (transportation, registration, and hotel) so that any member, regardless of financial ability, may represent the League at state and national conventions. If financially feasible, the LWVFNUC will send the number of delegates for which it is eligible to both state and national conventions.
Criteria for Selecting Delegates
- The President shall have the opportunity to be one of the delegates.
- Commitment to League work in the past and coming two years shall be considered a qualification to be a delegate.
- The Board should assess the probability of future League leadership of potential delegates.
- Potential delegates shall agree to participate in convention activities (workshops, caucuses, plenary sessions, etc.) and upon returning to share the information gathered at convention with the Board and local membership.
Fee Waiver to League Events
LWVFNUC will waive the cost of attending a League event for elected officials or other attendees only if they are part of the program. The waiver does not apply to spouses or companions of program participants.
Selection of Articles for the Voter
The following categories of articles are LWVFNUC priorities for inclusion in the Voter:
- A calendar of League events.
- President's message.
- Upcoming local, state, regional, and national League events.
- Priority issues for study and action on all League levels (Includes League Notebook).
- Observers’ reports.
- Voter Service report.
- Membership report, profiles, recruitment tools-gift certificates, mentor pledge, dues form.
- Summaries of League events already held.
- Fundraising activities.
- Board meeting reports.
Space Available Categories
- News about League members (that does not increase the size of the Voter enough to incur additional printing/weight expense).
- Calendar additions-election dates, public meetings, public events related to the League, League issues or women's issues.
- Non-League information and opinions which do not promote activities or policies in conflict with League positions. Sources should be clearly attributed to the authors with appropriate disclaimers (i.e. League cannot guarantee the accuracy of the material in the article.) If appropriate, League positions on the subject should be clearly stated. .
- Fillers: women in history, factual information related to League issues and positions.
Advertising in the Voter
- Cannot have: finance, travel, or insurance business cards, which negate the League nonprofit bulk rates. (U.S. postal regulations).
- Need to advise Voter editor of date ad was paid so number of issues can be correlated with payment.
- Does not promote activities or policies in conflict with League positions.
Voter Mailing List
The LWVFNUC Voter mailing list should include the following:
- All current members of LWVFNUC.
- Prospective local League members for a 3-month period. (A Member can request extension).
- Members of the LWVC Board of Directors or those designated to read our Voters.
- Our LWVUS Board liaison.
- The Bay Area League office.
- Members of the Alameda County Council of League presidents.
- Officials for the Tri-Cities: City Councils, School Boards, School Superintendents, City Managers, Planning Commissioners, ACWD, County Supervisor, Police Chiefs, State Assembly person(s) and State Senator. This list should be updated after each election and in January for Commissioners.
- School liaisons: PTA president, high school social studies dept. heads, Ohlone History Department.
- Local Newspaper editors. Tri-City Voice.
- Organizations with common interests or that we want to interest in the League.
- E-Voter available to anyone who requests it.
Guidelines for LWVFNUC Committees
League Committees should review the guidelines below annually.
League committees are expected to pursue local and/or state or national League goals and to abide by League standards. Committees may not operate under the League name in pursuit of an agenda separate from that of the League. Committees have the responsibility to address issues identified by the Board when those issues are relevant to the Committee's subject area.
Only the local League Annual Meeting or the Bay Area, LWVC, or LWVUS Conventions may adopt official League studies. The ACC may adopt studies by the vote of five of the seven leagues. Committees may recommend studies to the local League Board for consideration as Board recommendations to the local Annual Meeting or may submit non- Board recommended studies to the Annual Meeting by following the established procedures contained in the LWVFNUC Bylaws*1.
1* Local Bylaws: Article XI, Section 3. (a) "Members may make recommendations for a Program to the Board no later than two (2) months prior to the Annual Meeting. [Program refers to studies or to action activity.] (d.) "Any recommendation for the Program submitted to the Board at least two (2) months before the Annual Meeting, but not proposed by the Board, may be adopted by the Annual Meeting provided consideration is ordered by a majority vote and the proposal for adoption received a two-thirds vote; . . ."
Committees may also submit recommendations to the local Board for ACC, Bay Area, state or national studies. League principles (see over) are the basis for adopting League studies. Positions are established only after study and member consensus or concurrence. The role of lobbying is under the purview of the Board and its designee, usually the President.
- Study committees are expected to research all sides of an issue, identify sources of research materials, present balanced information to the membership, and withhold reaching positions before the membership consensus process. League publications on how to conduct studies are made available to study committees.
- Advocacy committees are authorized by the LWVFNUC Board of Directors and are expected to follow issues of League interest and to recommend action strategies to the Board on established League positions.
- All League committee members have the responsibility to see that discussions are well rounded, and that all points of view on the issues are represented. The League encourages all members of committees to participate in committee discussions and to express their opinions. Individual points of view should be identified as such. To achieve balance, the chair should solicit other points of view prior to adopting a League position so that impartiality is maintained.
- League Committees must maintain/protect the League's credibility when conducting League research or organizing a League project. Committee members must be aware that their words and deeds are perceived to represent the League. Therefore, as Committee members are conducting research or doing other League work, they must uphold League standards and League credibility in their contacts with the community.
Committee Chair Responsibility
Chairs of League committees have the responsibility to see that League standards for committee operation are implemented. If a committee tends to support one position or ideological base, the Chair should see to it that other points of view are given equal standing and attention.
Committees operate under the supervision of the Program Vice-President and the Board of Directors. The Program VP should approve the committees' annual agendas and keep the Board informed of committee activities. The Program VP is responsible to the Board to see that League standards for committee operation are implemented. The Board should disband any League committee that does not abide by League standards.