President's Message (Jean Aoki)
State Council / Board Actions May 15-16 1998
Honolulu's Loss - Seattle's Gain (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
Guidelines for Maintaining League Nonpartisan Policy
League Local News - Hawaii County (Susan Dursin, Helene Hale & Marian Wilkins)
League Local News - Honolulu (Grace Furukawa)
League Local News - Kauai League (Susan Wilson)
Elections and Campaign Finance Reform Bills
Making Democracy Work - Campaign Finance Reform HICLEAN (Toni Worst)
Hawaii's Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP)
Education Committee Projects 1998-99
Action on Motor Voter!
Rhoda Miller Peace Memorial
On National Issues...
Small Schools and Schools-Within-Schools (insert)
As we enter the election season, both the state and local Leagues of Women Voters will be involved in activities that will bring higher visibility to us. Our activities will be on two fronts - voter service & citizen information and advocacy. People who are not thoroughly familiar with League's goals are sometimes confused by our dual roles. Or they sometimes construe the word "nonpartisan" to mean "nonpolitical."
Our State Board discussed this problem. Using the guidelines from U.S. National League as the basis for our discussion, we adopted them, with a few changes, as our own guidelines. (See Guidelines for Maintaining League Nonpartisan Policy).
The introductory paragraphs of "Distinguishing Between League Advocacy and Voter Service" frame the issue.
"At the League's founding in 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt noted the anomaly of being a political yet non-partisan organization: "We want political things; we want legislation; we are going to educate for citizenship. In that body we have got to be non-partisan and all partisan ..."
Nonpartisan means that the League does not support any candidate or political party. Nonpartisanship is the underpinning for the League's highly regarded and highly valued reputation as a source of accurate and unbiased information on governmental issues and elections.
In addition to the importance of maintaining nonpartisanship, Leagues must distinguish between advocacy and voter service & citizen information. The latter is designed to give our citizens facts on issues so they can make their own decisions; League does not recommend a course of action. In contrast, League advocacy, based on member study and agreement on selected issues, involves action in support of or opposition to, specific measures, and does seek to influence the opinions of others.
Problems can arise in any election year; the League's mission of providing nonpartisan voter service may be compromised by its advocacy on program issues. How can Leagues advocate on a high-profile election issue and remain nonpartisan? What kind of voter information can Leagues provide that is nonpartisan and conforms with voters' service & citizen information requirements?"
One important policy is not to mix the two activities at one event. For example, at a forum or debate to introduce candidates for a particular office, we would not pass out leaflets on our position on Con Con. On the other hand, passing out pro-con leaflets on any ballot issue would be permissible since these are voter service activities.
It would be preferable that members who are highly visible in advocacy not be involved in voter service activities. But, because of the shortage of members who have the time or are willing to take on leadership roles in either activity both at the state and local levels, we are not able to strictly adopt this guideline.
The problem of not eroding the public's perception of our nonpartisanship is especially difficult during an election year. We may find certain candidates agreeing or disagreeing with us on a very controversial issue and the public may infer that we are supporting or opposing certain candidates.
This may be particularly troublesome this year as we advocate against two highly controversial ballot issues: 1) the call for a constitutional convention, and 2) placing in the Bill of Rights article of our state constitution the authority to deny certain rights to a certain segment of the population.
And there is the possibility of other controversial local ballot issues, at least in the City and County of Honolulu.
You can all help in clearing up any confusion on the part of the public. If you become aware of any problems, please call the office and alert us. If someone challenges the League's nonpartisanship in the context of any advocacy activity, you can make the following points:
1) the League is a multi-issue organization that has positions on a myriad of issues and is pleased when lawmaker support any of our positions.
2) League positions on different issues are periodically reviewed and readopted and determine our advocacy agenda. Please review our Guidelines and let me know if you have comments or questions.