A recent guest column presented several concerns about League of Women Voters Legislative forums. One concern was about the nonpartisanship of the League. The term “nonpartisan” can be confusing. The League of Women Voters and other “nonpartisan” groups use the well-established IRS definition. A summary of that definition states that the organization “neither supports nor opposes any party or candidate.” LWV takes care to remain within that definition. It might be helpful to know that the questions presented at League forums come from the audience, not from LWV. Questions are checked for civility and no personal questions are ever presented. Often a number of questions address the same topic so those questions are presented to the moderator as a group. All respectful questions are accepted and presented as time allows.
The actions the League takes are always based on issues, never party. League members research issues, discuss them and their implications, and take a position on those issues often long before any related legislation is proposed. The League never acts on an issue we have not studied, but we often use our well-established positions as the basis to support or oppose related legislative proposals as they arise.
At a League legislative forum, all legislators and community members are invited. Our purpose is to provide an opportunity for communication between citizens and those who represent them in government. Legislative representation is not limited to the geographic area of a legislative district. Legislators pass laws that affect us all, those who live within the boundary of a legislator’s district and every other Iowan who is expected to obey all Iowa laws.
Forum locations are selected for geographic and personal accessibility. Cedar Rapids is convenient to the majority of Linn County residents, it is accessible by bus, and it is a place residents often travel to for services such as medical care, governmental services, recreation, and others. Facilities are chosen for quality, convenience, and, affordability.
The League continually evaluates the effectiveness of our efforts. Over the past few years, the current combination of format and location of our legislative forums has been the best option for our community. However, in the future, we may find a format or location that serves our community in better ways. Whatever changes may come, we will always welcome participants who agree or disagree with positions we have taken.
The LWV forum is 75 minutes out of one Saturday of each month the Legislature is in session. We question the timing chosen for the March forum in Lowe Park. Plenty of time is available that does not create a direct time conflict with the LWV forum.
Democracy requires the informed participation of every citizen. The more citizens talk with each other the better our democracy will be. LWV offers a civil, respectful, sometimes robust, always open setting for such a conversation. Our goal is to return to full participation by all our legislators. In this way, our entire community will have a good opportunity to hear all points of view.
• Myrna Loehrlein is president of the League of Women Voters Linn County.