The League of Women Voters has a proud tradition of educating voters — whether through candidate forums, printed Voters Guides or online resources. For nearly 100 years, voters have depended on local leagues across the country for debates or forums with congressional, state and local candidates.
The voter education efforts of Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters to host candidate forums are once again being restricted by the two incumbent candidates in Congressional districts 1 and 2.
They have provided no alternative dates for forum participation after two invitations were acknowledged by their staffs. The league follows Federal Election Commission regulations to avoid “empty-chair debates” for sole federal-level candidates. The inability to host nonpartisan forums is especially troubling in this era of highly-charged partisanship.
Informed voting is especially vital during midterms, when two-thirds of eligible voters generally do not show up at the polls. Low voter turnout does nothing toward the league’s goal of “Making Democracy Work.”
Today’s voters are cynical enough without incumbents who refuse to address the issues with the public at large. And “town halls by telephone” fail to meet the nonpartisan league’s standard of informing and educating voters about candidates’ positions on issues.
As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day on Sunday, marking the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote, we find the lack of free, public, nonpartisan candidate forums on the Peninsula for Congressional districts 1 and 2 to be regrettable.
As an alternative, the league encourages voters who agree to contact candidates in these Congressional races to strongly urge that they at least participate in the League’s online Voters’ Guide at VOTE411.org which will provide a nonpartisan resource for voters. Contact information can be found at elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/candidate-list/index.html.
President, League of Women Voters – Williamsburg Area