Nonpartisan Policy & Guidelines
The purpose of the League of Women Voters is to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government. The LWV is nonpartisan in that it takes positions on selected governmental issues after member study and agreement, but does not support or oppose candidates for elective office (whether or not under a party designation), office holders, or political parties. While the LWV urges its members to be politically active, certain constraints are necessary in order to maintain the nonpartisanship of the organization.
Having the responsibility of maintaining the fact of nonpartisanship of the organization, the board of directors of the LWV has established the following guidelines.
Public service and political activity
• Members may serve on any public board, commission, committee, or coalition; however, that member does not represent the LWV unless officially designated as an LWV representative by the LWV board. If the appointment is LWV-related, the appointee should be fully aware of the LWV positions as they relate to the body’s responsibilities.
• Members should not undertake any activity which may constitute a public statement of partisan position that could be attributed to the League.
• League members are asked to avoid wearing candidate buttons to League functions, wearing an LWV button while campaigning for candidate(s) or non-League issues, or posting an LWV “Vote” yard sign along with signs advocating a candidate or party.
• Only petitions approved by the board of directors may be circulated at LWV meetings.
• The LWV member roster may not be made available for non-League use without board consent.
Representing the League
• Members representing the LWV in the community must not allow partisanship to be discernable. These members should be fully aware of LWV positions.
• Once the LWV (local, state, or national) takes a position on an issue, members may not identify themselves as LWV members in publicly expressing an opinion that is in opposition to an LWV position.
• Members who lead studies should not have conflicts of interest or partisan biases which would affect the objective conduct of information gathering and analysis.
• Members in leadership and support roles at public LWV meetings are responsible for ensuring the nonpartisanship of the meeting and its environment, including consideration of their own reputation to maintain a nonpartisan event.
Board of Directors & Other Leadership Roles
In addition to the responsibilities of all members, the following policies apply to board members:
Holding office and involvement with political parties:
- Board members may:
• Serve as a poll watcher or election judge, with board approval.
• Recommend people to serve on appointed public commissions and committees.
- Board members may not:
• Run for or hold an elective public office.
• Hold an appointed office or position that has a political party affiliation.
• Serve in any position in a political party or as a delegate to a political party convention.
- Board members are encouraged to avoid partisan activities that may cause confusion by the public about whether the League is endorsing a candidate or party. Members may:
• Engage in the activity as an individual, not as a representative of the League.
• Demonstrate support of a candidate or party, as long as the member’s League affiliation is not also displayed.
• Attend events to meet candidates, raise funds for them, or otherwise support candidates or parties; they should avoid wearing League identification, such as an LWV nametag, at such events.
• Sign, but not circulate, petitions for candidates.
• Make financial contributions to candidates, political parties and issues.
- In addition, the President and any member whose role has high visibility or involves contact with candidates or parties, e.g., Candidate Forum Coordinator and Vote411/Vote Guide Editor, may not:
• Solicit or make contributions for/to candidates or political parties.
• Advise or work for a candidate or political party, including contacting voters or working in a party or campaign committee, event or office.
• Publicly demonstrate support for a candidate or party, e.g., be named in campaign literature, social media or advertising.
• State preferences for parties or candidates in social media, writing, or speech.
• Serve on a board of directors or in a leadership role in an organization which endorses candidates.
• Host, sponsor or attend campaign events unless all candidates for an office are invited.
- Once the League (national, state, or local) takes a position on an issue, the League President, or designee, speaks for the organization.
- Board members may:
• Sign and circulate petitions concerning issues which are in agreement with LWV positions.
- Board members may not:
• Identify themselves as League members when publicly expressing an opinion that is in opposition to a League position.
• Circulate a petition or otherwise publicly support an issue which is in opposition to a League position or principle.
• Be assigned a League portfolio in which there is, or could be, a conflict of interest.
• Be identified with a highly controversial issue on which the League has not taken a stand, since there may be confusion on the part of the public as to the League’s place in the controversy. The Board should review situations on a case-by-case basis.
Political activities of a board member’s spouse/partner or relative are considered independent of the political activities of the board member. If a board member believes that the partisan political activity of a family member may cause the public to doubt the nonpartisanship of the League, the board member should discuss the situation with the board and take action according to the board’s assessment.
Specific League Work
Candidate Forums: Campaign literature in support of candidates are not permitted in the forum room, but may be available outside that area.
Voter Service Materials: Campaign advertisements and statements regarding LWV positions on issues are not permitted in the Voter Guide or other voter service publications.
Prospective Leaders: The Nominating Committee will consider any past partisan affiliation, such as political candidate, office holder or campaign manager, in determining whether a nominee is able to represent the LWV in a nonpartisan manner.
Co-sponsorships: Event co-sponsors must agree to national LWV guidelines for nonpartisanship. All co-sponsored activities must be approved by the Board.
Fundraising: Contributions from candidates or office-holders may be accepted without being construed as endorsements of those individuals. Contributions from campaign committees will not be accepted.
If a member questions whether the League’s nonpartisanship is compromised by an activity, the board should be consulted. A majority vote of the board will resolve the question.
Board members who choose to run for office or take part in other prohibited partisan activity should resign from the board as soon as they decide such a course of action. The member may take an off-board position if there is an activity or project that requires the member’s contribution. As needed, the vacant position should be filled as soon as possible, and the appointment will be in effect for a period of time determined by the board. The resignation should be publicized to members, but written so that it does not suggest a political endorsement.
Any board member who does not comply with this policy will be asked by the board to resign without delay.