League Matters: Making Democracy Work
The League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge is beginning its 2014-2015 year, and we would like to use this opportunity to talk about the League—who we are and what we do.
The League is a nonpartisan political organization for women and men, but we neither support nor oppose any candidate, party, or political appointee. Our mission is to encourage informed and active participation in the democratic process, increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influence policy making through education and advocacy.
Voting is the most powerful way to make our citizens’ voices heard. And educated and informed voters are the key to making our democracy work. The League works all year, every year, to empower all eligible voters to participate in our political system. We have many voter registration drives each year, and will be joining other local leagues and like-minded organizations in the National Voter Registration Day on September 23. We especially seek to aid those from traditionally underrepresented or underserved communities.
We work to educate voters about candidates in federal, state, and local races each year through our candidate and voter forums. The forums provide straightforward information on candidates and ballot issues, free of any partisan import. We distribute many types of educational materials such as voter guides, elected official directories, information on polling places, and state and local election rules. A voter forum about the constitutional amendments on the November election ballot will be held at Pollard Auditorium on October 7. A series of pre-election candidate forums are planned for September.
We work to protect voting rights to ensure a free, fair, and accessible electoral system for all eligible voters and to improve the election process. We advocate for proactive reforms such as expanded early voting and online registration; ensure pro-voter laws are being followed; and challenge all efforts of voter suppression that limit the voters’ access to this basic right and responsibility. We work to modernize our voting systems and promote transparent and accountable redistricting. We will be implementing VOTE411.org—a national online information and registration tool for future election cycles.
The second focus of our mission is action and advocacy. After a study of public policy issues in local leagues, the League of Women Voters of the United States develops a position based on the consensus of the participating leagues. Among the wide variety of public policy issues that impact the lives of all Americans, the League has taken positions (to name a few) related to improving education quality and funding; reforming the federal campaign finance system to combat corruption and undue influence; defending the environment by supporting legislation to manage and preserve our nation’s natural resources, protect public health, and manage waste responsibly; reforming immigration policy; advancing affordable and quality health care; promoting peace in an interdependent world; and promoting policies to reduce the generation of waste, support reuse and recycling, and safe disposal of solid and hazardous wastes.
These public policy positions result in action at every level of the League. The LWVOR has established advocacy/action groups that will work in collaboration with other local and regional organizations that have similar interest and goals. Actions of these groups will be goal-oriented and will encompass educating the public, lobbying our legislators, and serving as subject matter experts within the League and to other organizations.
Mary Ann Reeves
League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge