The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
The League of Women Voters was established in February 1920, six months before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, which gave women the right to vote following a 70 year struggle. The League of Women Voters of Amherst was founded in 1939, when the League reorganized to parallel the three levels of government: national, state and local.
The League of Women Voters promotes political responsibility through its Voter Service and Citizen Education activities. Members register voters, organize candidates’ forums, publish voting guides and disseminate general information on the legislative process and the function of government on the local, state, and national levels. Voter Service and Citizen Education are designed to provide citizens with unbiased, factual information as a basis for reaching their own decisions.
League Action, on the other hand, is based on member study and agreement on selected issues and involves concerted efforts to achieve public policies consistent with League positions. However, the League neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office. The League is thus political but nonpartisan. This policy, adopted in 1920, has added strength to the League's positions on issues while enabling wide acceptance of League voters service and other educational activities.
The League does encourage members to participate fully in the party of their choice as individuals. It is an advantage to the League to have politically active members and, equally important, it can be a personally satisfying experience.
From the spirit of the suffrage movement and the shock of the first World War came a great idea the idea that a nonpartisan organization could provide political education and experience that would contribute to the growth of the citizen and thus assure the success of democracy. The League of Women Voters was founded on that idea.
League Principles are concepts of government to which the League subscribes. These concepts are a direct descendant of the Platform, which served the League from 1942 to 1956 as the national repository for principles supported and positions taken by the League as a whole in fields of government to which it has given sustained attention. Since the 1950s, the Principles have served two functions, according to Article XII of the LWVUS bylaws: (1) as authorization for adoption of national, state and local program, and (2) as a basis for taking action at the national, state and local levels.
The League’s program consists of those issues that the League has chosen for study and action at the national, state or local level.
League action is based on positions and priorities adopted by its members annually (local Leagues) or biennially (state and national Leagues.)
The League emphasizes the involvement of its members in every aspect of League program. Its process for formulating positions and taking action at the grassroots level sets the League apart from other advocacy organizations.
Study: In order to arrive at a position, the League engages in a unique process that involves members at every stage:
— The original suggestion of an issue to be addressed.
—Research and study, serving to inform the members not only prior to adoption of the position but for eventual action based on the position.
—Consensus on the general principles to be embodied in a position.
—Annual or biennial re-adoption of a detailed position that reflects this consensus.
How we can take action...
Following the adoption of a position, members may act on it through:
Advocacy: citizen education and development of specific recommendations.
Lobbying: promotion of, or opposition to, specific legislation or executive action Members are involved in League action through:
—Annual or biennial setting of action priorities.
—Continuing research, for example, the preparation of policy briefs or position papers to be published or presented as official statements or testimony by the League.
—Citizen education, for example, arranging public forums.
—Citizen lobbying by members speaking as individuals (not as representatives of the League).