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League Basics

Mission

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Membership

The League is open to any person who subscribes to the purpose and policy of the League. There are three types of membership:

There are over 90,000 members of the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS). There are Leagues in every state, Puerto Rico, Washington, DC. and the Virgin Islands.

Organization

The structure of the League parallels the representative system of government under which we live. Our local, state and national governments are dependent one upon the other; the base is the individual citizen. The several League levels are also interdependent. Members determine the policies and program of all league levels. Membership is simultaneous on all three levels where applicable.

Nonpartisanship

The League acts in support of, or in opposition to, selected governmental issues which its members have studied. It does not support or oppose candidates, factions or political parties. League members, as individuals, are urged to work in the political party of their choice. In order to protect the League's nonpartisanship policy, guidelines regarding the political activities of the Board of Directors are reviewed frequently.

Financing

The League is a non-profit organization financed by member dues and contributions, and through community and national finance drives which enable public-spirited citizens to help support the work of the League. Dues are collected at the local League level with Per Member Payment (PMP's) assessments made by National and State Leagues upon the local Leagues. A tax deductible LWV Education Fund can be used for publications and Voter Service information.

Principles

The League of Women Voters Believes...

What We Do

Voter Services/Citizen Information

Activity is directed toward encouraging citizens to register and vote and to participate in government and politics. The League does this by sponsoring debates and providing nonpartisan information about voting procedures, candidates and ballot issues. Voter Service projects are eligible for funding through LWV Education Fund.

Study

One of the reasons for the political effectiveness of the League is its reputation for thorough study. Complete facts, the pros and cons, are researched before consensus and action. Members study and discuss the issues in small units so that everyone has an opportunity to express an opinion.

Action

The League of Women Voters is an action group. However, it may take action only on issues which have been extensively studied and on which the members are agreed. When the League has a position on any issue, separate material is published to promote the League's stand. This is not funded by the Education Fund to ensure the distinction between League Action and Voters Service information.

Action includes:

Action methods include:

It is the responsibility of each League Board to direct and plan League Action which may include "calls for Action" to the membership.

You as a Member May
The Member

The League structure is designed to give members every chance to voice their views. Because League is a grassroots organization, every member is encouraged to become a member of a study or action committee. This is the key to League success.

The Program

The League's program consists of governmental issues chosen by the members for concerted study and action. At program-making meetings the members discuss their ideas for local, state and national program. The proposals are submitted to the Board. Individual members may also submit proposals. The Board considers all proposals and then presents a recommended program for consideration at the annual meeting or convention. Final decision on state and national program is made by delegates to respective biennial conventions. The recommended program requires a majority vote for adoption. A non-recommended item may also be placed before the delegates; it usually requires a larger vote for adoption.

Criteria which must be considered when selecting program

Board of Directors

At each level of League, Boards are elected by the membership to manage the activities of the League. There are usually five elected officers: President, two Vice Presidents, Secretary and Treasurer. The remainder of the Board (depending on the size of the League) is composed of a number of elected and appointed directors. Each member of the Board has a portfolio (a specific area of responsibility). - Study, Program, Voters Service, Finance, Membership, Legislative, Organization, Public Relations, Publications, Voter Registration, Observers.

Study Committees

Established to study a public issues of League concern, a study committee researches, clarifies, and develops a focus for League consideration. It then becomes a resource committee with responsibility to present facts to the members. In small Leagues the material is presented directly to the membership. In large Leagues where there are several units, the material is presented at a briefing session which is attended by representatives from each unit. They in turn present the material to the members of their unit.

Other Committees

There are also committees for other categories of League work (Voters Service, Membership, Budget, etc.). These committees carry out the balance of the League's work.

Ovserver Corps

The League maintains observers at meetings of various local, regional, state and national governmental bodies. Observers do not speak for the League but attend these meetings to listen, learn and to make factual reports of the proceedings. The League's reputation as a civic monitor has been earned by the Observer Corps of the local Leagues.

Public Relations

Voters Service and results of League studies and League action are conveyed to the public via the printed and electronic media. Press conferences, public service announcements and programs on radio/television, educational material in the form of brochures and pamphlets, statements given to governmental bodies, speakers bureaus-and beyond this, the members' enthusiasm as they build community respect for League opinion; meeting friends, fellow employees, potential contributors-all are a part of the plans and techniques to promote the League's purpose.

Publications

The League has a large and growing list of educational publications on local, state and national issues. Highly respected, League publications are the result of thorough research.

What We Have Done
How We Began

Arthur Denny, founder of Seattle, proposed woman suffrage in the first legislative meeting in Olympia in 1854. He lost on an eight to nine vote. The Washington Territory Woman Suffrage Association was formed in 1871 in Olympia. The territorial legislature gave women the vote in 1883. Women lost their vote in 1887 when the Territorial Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not intend to give territories the power to enfranchise women.
Women were unable to vote for delegates to the State Constitutional Convention in 1889. Woman suffrage was submitted to the voters as a separate amendment to ratification of the constitution. It failed again in an 1897 vote.
In 1895 the first convention of Washington State's Equal Suffrage Association was held. Washington Territory was known for its suffragists. With differing styles, the persistent Emma Smith DeVoe and the direct and indomitable May Arkwright Hutton worked for the common cause of women's suffrage in Washington State. By 1907, the Washington Equal Suffrage Association had several thousand members, and in November of 1910 the amendment to the state constitution allowing women to vote carried by nearly two to one. This made Washington the fifth state to give women the right to vote - nine years before the 19th Amendment to the US. Constitution extended the vote to all the nation's women.

The League of Women Voters of the United States was first projected at the Jubilee Convention of the National American Women Suffrage Association in 1919. The League of Women Voters of Washington was organized the next year. Seattle and Tacoma were the first two local Leagues in the state. In the early days the League of Women Voters of Washington supported state legislation pertaining to protection of children in fields of labor, health and education. At the present time there are twenty-one local Leagues around the state.

League Lingo