I am writing to shed some light on an issue that has come to the fore with this elections cycle. It has long been the policy of the Door County League of Women Voters to conduct one candidate forum per race. If there is a primary, all candidates are invited to a forum before the primary election. If there is not a primary, the forum is held during the general election season. In reality multiple forums are often conducted in an election season since we organize them for city, town, village, county, school district, state, and federal level offices.
The Door County League has used this policy for a number of reasons. The first is that while our influence may seem widespread, we have a small number of active members. While voter service is our most visible activity, it is far from the only thing we do. As a result, our active members are busy with a number of projects.
The voter service situation is complicated by the fact that Leaguers by nature like to be involved politically and from time to time exercise their right to participate in campaigns either by running for office, supporting candidates, or working for a political party. Not only is this their right, but it promotes good government.
However, when a League member chooses to be involved in a political race in whatever capacity, they take themselves out of the pool of members who can work on voter service projects. The League’s nonpartisan policy dictates that they can not be involved in organizing or implementing voter service activities during that period of partisan political activity.
To make a long story short – we simply don’t have the numbers to have forums for both parts of a race. And, in fact, a primary forum is not very different from a general election forum in content. The same questions are asked, and the candidates’ positions don’t change. Voters can learn what they need to know from one forum.
There is one other possibility. The Door County League would love to have enough workers to run more forums. We urge all of you to join with us to not only hold more candidate forums but to conduct all the other voter service projects that we rarely have time to do. For more information on how to join contact me at 920.743.1527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Kohout, President