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August 31, 2004 > The League of Women Voters - Empowering Citizens through Education and Advocacy

The League of Women Voters - Empowering Citizens through Education and Advocacy

by Reshma Yunus

The League of Women Voters (LWV or the League) is a nonpartisan political organization whose mission is to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government, work to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influence public policy through education and advocacy. The League has national, state, regional and local chapters. The local chapter of LWV is LWV of Fremont, Newark and Union City (LWVFNUC).

LWV is a descendent of the suffragist movement. LWV was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The convention was held only six months before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a 57-year struggle.

According to the organization's web site (www.lwv.org), the 'League began as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. From the beginning, the League was an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy."

League founders chose to be a nonpartisan as they believed that this would protect the organization from becoming embroiled in party politics. Alex Starr, current co-president of LWVFNUC comments that one of the core values and cornerstones of the League has been its strong nonpartisan stand. It is this nonpartisan, fair and balanced stand that gives the League such credibility in citizen education activities such as candidate forums, said Ms. Starr. Ms. Starr continued that although the League is nonpartisan, it does encourage its members to be politically active and to educate citizens and lobby government for social reform legislation.

Members arrive at "positions" or their stand on an issue only through careful study and discussion. LWV believes that citizens who have well researched and unbiased information will make wise decisions for their communities and their nation. The League continues the process of citizen empowerment by helping citizens to make their voices heard at national, state and city levels.

Originally, the League had only female members but later on men were also welcomed as members. Many men who also believed in the League's core values have joined and are active participants. However, the League decided to retain the name "League of Women Voters" or just LWV as it had become widely recognized.

The League of Women Voters has an Education Fund which also is a nonpartisan public policy educational organization. LWVEF has the following key goals as outlined in www.lwvfnuc.org: 1) it builds citizen participation in the democratic process;2) it studies key community issues at all governmental levels in an unbiased manner; 3) it enables people to seek positive solutions to public policy issues through education and conflict management.

The local branch of LWV, LWVFNUC is a small but active organization of about 120 members. LWVFNUC, among other activities, sponsors monthly citizen education forum, has a cable program, holds voter registration drives and organizes candidate forums. LWVFNUC's website also has links to the League's voter education website, Smartvoter.org.

The following activities are slated for the month September/October

September - Finalization of the Candidate Information Booklet

September 20th, 2004: Kick-off forum: Hear and Talk about Utility Users Tax, Hospital Bond and Propositions 59-72; the forum will be held in the Conference Room, Fremont Bank on 37611 Niles Blvd Fremont beginning 6:45 p.m. with a potluck until about 9:00 p.m.

September 27th, will be training for those who want to work in the candidate forums which will be held in October.

September 29th - Voter registration drive at Niles Congregational Church and at Kidango on Isle Royal. A weekend registration drive is pending at Half Price Books, and Ohlone College.

Candidate forums and voter registration drives are to be held at various places throughout the tri-city area and throughout the nation by other League chapters in October 2004. The local voter registration drives are scheduled to be held on October 2,9,16 at Safeway stores in Newark, Union City and Fremont. Candidate forums locations are still to be determined.

For further information about the League or any of its activities, you can visit the website at www.lwvfnuc.org or call (510) 794-5783 or write to: LWFNUC; P.O. Box 3218 Fremont, Ca. 94539.

 
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