Documents for Members of the League of Women Voters

Speaking with One Voice


The following letter from LWVAL President Kathryn Byrd was sent to all local League presidents and spokespersons.

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September 12, 2011

MEMO: TO ALABAMA LOCAL LEAGUE PRESIDENTS/SPOKESPERSONS


    FROM: KATHRYN BYRD, LWVAL PRESIDENT

    RE: REMINDERS ABOUT LWV POLICIES REGARDING “SPEAKING WITH
    ONE VOICE”

    A key to the continued strength of the League of Women Voters at all levels—national, state, and local—is developing our leadership. This list above lists six new local league presidents (with Charlotte Ward reprising her role as a local league president as the Co-President and advisor to a new president, and former president Pat Laraway assisting the BC president when she is away). I hope your boards also reflect new talent as well.

    Already 2011 has presented us with plenty of issues of interest and opportunities for the League to consider. But, as you know, much of the League’s outstanding credibility and reputation comes from the fact that we follow specific protocols. These include determining (1) who should speak for the League in the public arena, (2) deciding whether certain positions addressed in legislation or in public events (such as rallies/coalitions,etc.) align properly with the League positions before we attach our name to them, (3) deciding whether we should ally with other groups on selected issues (in rallies, position letters, comments to the media, etc.), and (4) ensuring that all levels of the League are speaking with one voice. I am sure I am speaking to the choir, but I think it is important to review some key points, especially for those who are new to League policies.

    Please take time to go over these points with your board members and perhaps via the newsletter, etc., so that we can all be “on the same page.” I am also sending a copy of the LWVUS “State and Local Request Form for Federal Issues.”

    Who should speak for the League in the public arena?

    Some years ago a situation arose in my local league in which an individual member spoke “for the League” with information based on her perception of a situation (which differed from the perception of some others), although she was not our official spokesperson or even a board member, and the comments were made at her instigation. An embarrassing situation ensued, and I was asked to prepare an article in the local
    Voter, which I entitled, “Speaking of the League….”
    In that article, I emphasized the League policy that the President/Spokesperson of the League is the sole voice of the League, except when another member has been officially asked to speak. (An example would be Joyce Lanning of the Greater Birmingham League, who often testifies on environmental issues for the LWVAL because of her exceptional expertise and the fact she is recognized as an authority by many agencies and organizations. But Joyce
    never speaks, writes, etc., without advance approval.)

    The part seems straight forward. However, there may be times when members speak on a topic on which the League has a position that is not the same as their own, or members may wish to become involved in a specific candidate’s or political party’s campaign—maybe even run for office themselves. That is great! The LWV wants citizens to become as involved in government as they want. But those must make it clear that they speaking/campaigning on their own behalves. Those so visibly involved in partisan politics should also avoid certain highly visible League positions, such as President or Voter Service Chair. Ideally each local league has a position statement addressing this very issue.


    Who should deciding whether certain positions addressed in legislation or in public events (such as rallies/coalitions,etc.) align (or oppose) so closely with League positions that we can offer our support/opposition (in the case of legislation) or participation/sponsorship (in the event of rallies, coalitions, etc.)?


      Permission from LWVUS is obtained by completing the
      “State and Local League Form for Federal Issues,” located in the “Take Action” section of the LWVUS website (www.lwv.org). A copy is attached with its instructions, although it is designed to complete online.

      To reinforce what has been said above, here is what is stated on the LWVUS website:

      Requests from State/Local Leagues for Permission to Act at the Federal Level All action at the federal level must be authorized by the LWVUS board. This includes any effort aimed at influencing a decision on a federal issue, such as communicating with an elected or appointed official, joining a coalition, taking part in a press conference or rally, or writing a letter-to-the-editor. A state or local League wishing to work in this way on a federal issue or at the national level must consult with the LWVUS about the intended action.
      Thus, participation in an activity on an issue such as an immigration rally should obtain advance clearance from national. Why, when, for example, HB 56 (Alabama’s recent highly restrictive immigration act), the bill comes from the Alabama legislature, must we receive LWVUS permission? Because we are operating under a national position statement, because LWVUS and other state and local leagues are working on this issue, and because we want to be sure to speak with a unified voice. One alternative activity could be to sponsor a public forum that presents a variety of viewpoints and speakers, such as the one developed by the LWV of East Alabama.
      Please understand: The LWVUS does not want to prevent state or local leagues from participating in events or actions related to such important topics. In fact, if done through the coordination and helpful suggestions of the LWVUS grassroots advocacy staff, we can be more effective. Just check in first.
      How do we decide about participation in coalitions, cosponsorships, etc.?
      The LWVAL Position statement on this point was adopted in 2005, and is available on the LWVAL website, lwval.org. on page 14 under “Positions.”

      The League of Women Voters of Alabama
      State Coalition Guidelines

      The following guidelines will be considered when deciding whether to join a coalition, whether formally or informally organized:

      1. The coalition's major issues should mesh with League positions and be
      nonpartisan, though there need not be a League position on every issue with which the coalition is concerned. The overall aims of the coalition must not conflict with League positions.

      2. The major goals of the coalition should be in accord with the state program.

      3. The coalition's activities should bring added effectiveness so the overall efforts to achieve the League's organization, advocacy or educational goals.

      4. The members of the coalition should be organizations with which the
      League can work effectively. The League should have confidence in the
      leadership of the coalition and may serve in a leadership capacity.

      5. Expenditures for work with the coalition (including staff and volunteer time,
      as well as cash and in-kind expenses) should be worth the investment and approved by the State Board.

      6. The League representative to a coalition, of which the League is a member,
      must have the prior approval of the state League president before making any formal or public statement of League position on a specific issue. If the League disagrees with the majority opinion of the coalition, a public statement of the League's dissension should be issued.

      7. The representative in a coalition must be a State Board member or a State
      Board designee.

      8. Joining a coalition must be a State Board decision.

      9. If any coalition materials identify League participation, the materials must
      indicate that League membership in the coalition does not necessarily indicate
      League agreement with all positions taken by the coalition. When the League does decide so join a coalition, a state League board member, or League
      member designated by the State Board, must represent the League. In a formal
      organizational alliance or membership, the designated League representative should regularly attend meetings of the group in order to participate in and stay abreast of activities and decisions and to safeguard the credibility of the League relative to state and national positions and nonpartisanship.
      It is suggested that coalitions organized at the local level shall apply the same guidelines.

      LWVUS Instructions on Actions Related to National/Federal Positions:
      (See lwv.org website under “Advocacy”)


      The LWVUS Bylaws provide that Leagues may act on national program only in conformity with positions taken by the LWVUS. State Leagues are responsible for determining action policies and strategies on state issues and ensuring that the League’s message is consistent throughout the state. The LWVUS is responsible for a consistent national message. This helps ensure that the League speaks with one voice and is essential for our effectiveness as an advocacy organization.
      Each state and local League is expected to take whatever official action is requested in response to a national Action Alert. A League board may choose not to respond to a particular call to action, but may not take action in opposition to a position articulated by the LWVUS on federal or national issues, or the state League on state issues. Individual League members of course are always free to take action on whatever they choose; as long as they do so in their own name, and leave no impression that they speak for the League.  
      Requests from State/Local Leagues for Permission to Act at the Federal Level All action at the federal level must be authorized by the LWVUS board. This includes any effort aimed at influencing a decision on a federal issue, such as communicating with an elected or appointed official, joining a coalition, taking part in a press conference or rally, or writing a letter-to-the-editor. A state or local League wishing to work in this way on a federal issue or at the national level must consult with the LWVUS about the intended action.
      As part of this consultation process, the state/local League is asked to provide the following information in writing:

        Leagues are asked to provide this information on the State and Local League Request Form for Federal Issues which can be found in the Take Action section of www.lwv.org. [Also attached to this memo. KB]
        If a local League is requesting permission to contact its U.S. Senator(s) on an issue that has not been the subject of an LWVUS Action Alert, it should also provide evidence that the action has been authorized by its state League. Appropriate LWVUS Board and staff will review the action request to determine that it is consistent with League positions and that it will not interfere with LWVUS action on a priority issue. Requests should be sent to
        lobbying @lwv.org.


        State and Local League Request Form for Federal Issues
        Effective congressional lobbying on national legislative issues depends on a partnership at all League levels—lobbying in Washington and constituent lobbying at home. The Advocacy Department leads the organization’s federal lobbying work and provides information to state and local Leagues about advocacy priorities.
        All action at the federal level must be authorized by the LWVUS board. This includes any effort aimed at influencing a decision on a federal issue, such as communicating with an elected or appointed official, joining a coalition, taking part in a press conference or rally, or writing a letter-to-the-editor. A state or local League wishing to work on a federal issue or at the national level on an issue that has not been the subject of an LWVUS Action Alert must consult with the LWVUS about the intended action. As part of this consultation process, the state/local League is asked to provide the following information in writing:
          If a local League is requesting permission to contact its U.S. Senator(s) on an issue that has not been the subject of an LWVUS Action Alert, it should provide evidence that the action has been authorized by its state League. Appropriate LWVUS Board and staff will review the action request to determine that it is consistent with League positions and that it will not interfere with LWVUS action on a priority issue.
          Please read the statement below and click next to continue.


          I have reviewed and understand the above information and wish to complete the form to take action on federal issues.