Three important policies relating to how the League functions and maintains its nonpartisanship approach and avoids conflict of interest.
- Nonpartisanship Policy
- Conflict of Interest Policy and Guidelines
- Policy For Candidates Debates And Forums Sponsored By LWV Westford
Approved at the Steering Committee Meeting October 2019
In this policy, Leadership refers either to members of a Board of Directors or members of a Steering Committee. Specific positions within those groups are noted where applicable.
The bylaws of the League of Women Voters of Westford state that the League “shall not support or oppose any political party or candidate.” Nonpartisanship guarantees the League’s effectiveness and credibility in carrying out its purpose of influencing public policy through action on issues and citizen information.
The League of Women Voters encourages its individual members to be politically active. All members are responsible for subscribing to the League’s nonpartisan stance for distinguishing, when necessary, between their activities as individuals and the League as a nonpartisan organization.
The Leadership is responsible for ensuring community understanding and confidence in the League’s nonpartisanship policy. The President, Spokesperson, and Voter Service Director shall refrain from all partisan political activity. Other members of the Leadership must use their discretion in choosing a level of personal political activity that does not associate the League of Women Voters, as an organization, with a political party or candidate.
Nonpartisanship Policy Guidelines
Every year, the Leadership adopts specific guidelines for itself. All members of the Leadership have the rights and responsibilities of being informed voters, including the right of affiliation with the party of their choice as a registered voter. The Leadership, except for those in President, Spokesperson, or Voter Service roles, may:
- Attend coffees for candidates.
- Hold elected office.
The Leadership may be appointed to government committees and boards.
The Leadership should discuss with the President or Steering Committee:
- Before circulating nomination papers.
- Before visibly supporting a candidate or party (including displaying bumper stickers or signs, wearing buttons, telephoning for a candidate, contributing over $50, making a public endorsement, hosting coffees for candidate, attending candidate fundraisers).
- Before running for elective office.
The Leadership must not:
- Be campaign managers, precinct captains, or hold any other visible positions within any candidate’s organization.
- Use the League’s name in association with any political party or candidate.If a
Leadership member cannot comply with these guidelines, she/he should resign from the Leadership. After resigning from the Leadership in order to comply with these policy guidelines, a member cannot return to the Leadership for at least one year.
The Leadership is encouraged to speak to each other about questions when making choices involving their level of political activity. Leadership can also raise any questions about how these guidelines should be applied.
At all League meetings, the Leadership is responsible for:
- Asking other members to respect the nonpartisanship policy of the League and refrain from partisan political activities (including circulating nomination papers and wearing political buttons).
- Stating clearly the League’s nonpartisanship policy when partisan statements or activities do occur.
This policy shall be reviewed annually by the Leadership. Copies of this policy shall be given to the Leadership.
Approved at the Steering Committee Meeting October 2018
- The President and Spokesperson may not lobby against or take public positions in opposition to or in conflict with an LWVUS, LWVMA or LWVWestford position. Other Leadership members may take these positions, but in doing so much be clear that they are not representing the League.
- In cases in which League program may apply but LWVUS, LWVMA or LWVWestford has not taken a position, Leadership members may publicly state a position that is in accord with League program, but in doing so it must be clear that they are not representing the League.
- In cases in which League program does not apply, Leadership members may publicly express their opinion, but in doing so it must be clear that they are not representing the League.
- Securing Appointments
- LWVWestford may encourage and assist League members in securing appointments to government boards, commissions, and committees. These recommendations shall be approved by the Leadership.
- Recommendations for appointment to politically sensitive positions should be made with care.
- Appointments for which party affiliation is a requirement will not be made.
- Appointees shall serve as individuals rather than as formal representatives of the League unless the position was offered to the League.
- Serving on Boards
The Leadership may serve on the boards of other organizations; however, if a serious conflict arises between the two entities, it should be brought to the Board.
- The Board shall evaluate and resolve any questions of conflict of interest arising from a Leadership member’s employment.
- No Leadereship member may participate in any LWVWestford decision-making process when that person has an interest that may be seen as competing with the interests or concerns of the League.
Leadership may not receive stipends, fees, or grants for League projects while sitting on the policy-making board that is responsible for administering the grant.
Honoraria received by Leadership shall accrue to the LWVWestford.
Off-board specialists are subject to this policy in their area of specialty.
- This policy shall be reviewed annually by the LWVWestford Leadership.
- Copies of this policy shall be given to the Leadership.
Adopted by the Steering Committee March 6, 2019
The League of Women Voters of Westford is nonpartisan; it neither supports nor opposes candidates for office. When planning and running candidates debates and forums, the leadership team of the League of Women Voters of Westford bears the responsibility of safeguarding this nonpartisan policy and the organization’s nonpartisan reputation.
The League of Women Voters of Westford is required to comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including those promulgated by the Federal Elections Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, and the state of Massachusetts. Any conflict between applicable law and the policy contained in this document must be resolved in favor of applicable law.
This policy includes only general principles and rules and is not intended to address all specific determinations to be made in the process of organizing and running debates and forums. For additional information, see the LWVUS publications on debates and forums online.
- Definitions of Debates and Forums
In this policy, “debates” are defined as in the Federal Election Commission regulations: as an event that includes at least two candidates, is staged in a way that does not promote or advance one candidate over another, and allows the candidates to appear concurrently, in face-to-face confrontations, with opportunities to respond to each other. “Forums” in this policy mean any League-sponsored candidate event in any format other than a debate, such as a meet-and-greet event.
- Goals for LWV Westford-sponsored Debates and Forums
The goals of an LWV Westford-sponsored debate or forum will be to:
- promote interest in the election
- ensure fairness for all candidates
- have a format that will attract and educate voters and viewers
- help voters make realistic and informed choices among candidates
- provide voters with an opportunity to judge the candidates’ character, knowledge of public affairs issues, communication skills, sense of humor, and ability to think on their feet
- document candidates’ statements on their positions so they can be on record
- Criteria for Candidate Participation
The leadership team will determine which candidates will be invited to participate in an LWV Westford-sponsored debate/forum. When deciding whom to invite to participate in an LWV Westford-sponsored candidates debate/forum, LWV Westford will adhere to all applicable federal (including the FEC, FCC and IRS) and state laws and regulations. In addition, the following criteria will be used.
- All candidates whose names will appear on the ballot for the contested office(s) covered by the debate/forum, and who meet at least one of the following criteria, will be invited to participate. In addition, all candidates whose names will not appear on the ballot but who have publicly announced a write-in campaign for the contested office(s) covered by the debate/forum, and who meet at least one of the following criteria, will also be invited to participate.
- There is evidence that a formal campaign is being waged, for example, presence of campaign headquarters, campaign staff, issuance of position papers, campaign appearances, campaign ads including literature, bumper stickers, signs, etc., visibility on social media or a webpage, evidence of a significant level of financial support, or receipt of contributions from a significant number of contributors.
- The candidate demonstrates significant voter support and interest, defined as 15% of support in generally recognized and independent polls or the same level of voter support as that received by a major party candidate in those polls, whichever is lower.
- The candidate is eligible for matching funds, where public financing is available.
In determining participation of candidates according to these criteria, the burden of proof will be on the candidate, not the League. LWV Westford may require candidates to provide information to show that they meet the criteria.
- Candidates will meet all the legal qualifications for the office.
- Stand-ins for candidates will not be allowed.
- General Debate and Forum Policies
- The leadership team will decide whether to sponsor or co-sponsor a debate/forum.
- A debate/forum may include more than one segment, each segment consisting of a panel of candidates running for the same office. If any segment does not meet the LWV Westford criteria, the debate/forum may be scheduled with the other segments (that is, other segments consisting of panels of candidates running for other offices).
- LWV Westford may sponsor debates/forums preceding primary elections when there is a contest within a political party/parties. If there is a contest in only one party, LWV Westford may sponsor a debate/forum for that party only. If there are contests within more than one party, LWV Westford may offer to sponsor debates/forums for all parties. If a party declines to participate, LWV Westford may sponsor a debate/forum for other party/parties provided all parties are invited to participate.
- To maintain a clear record, LWV Westford will correspond in writing with candidates concerning all aspects of the debate/forum. All correspondence will be sent to candidates in a traceable form (USPS delivered, signed mail receipt or email returned mail receipt).
- The debate/forum will be open to the public and be held in a place that will not seem to exclude any potential audience members.
- In the case of a debate/forum preceding a primary, if only one candidate in a contested race for a party’s nomination for a particular office agrees to participate, the debate/forum (or that segment of the debate/forum) will not be scheduled. In the case of a debate/forum preceding a general election, if only one candidate for a contested office agrees to participate, the debate/forum (or that segment) will not be scheduled.
- Donations from candidates or political parties will not be solicited or accepted.
- Campaign literature and signs will be placed outside the room.
- The League may provide membership information and orally invite membership during the debate/forum.
- If any candidate cancels well enough in advance of the debate/forum to allow LWV Westford to make other arrangements without charge or penalty, LWV Westford will make every effort to reschedule.
- The closer to the scheduled debate/forum that a candidate cancels his/her appearance, the stronger the arguments for going forward with the debate/forum if at least two other candidates for the office will be participating.
- The debate/forum must be staged in a way that does not promote or advance one candidate over another.
- Empty Chair Debates and Forums
LWV Westford must follow federal (including FEC, FCC and IRS) and state laws and regulations that govern the legality of having a debate/forum with only one participant, often called an “empty chair” debate. In addition, the following policies will apply.
- A debate/forum will not start if only one candidate for a contested office is present. If the debate/forum has more than one segment, the segment featuring candidates running for another office may begin while waiting for the late candidate.
- If a candidate cancels, the debate/forum may proceed if more than one candidate for the office is present. If only one is present, it must be cancelled. An LWV Westford spokesperson may present without editorial comment any reason for the cancellation given by the candidate. If the candidate who cancelled provides a written statement of the factual reasons for the cancellation, the spokesperson may read it. If no reason is given, the League spokesperson will state that the League was contacted by the candidate or his/her campaign and the candidate would not be able to appear. The spokesperson may state that no reason was given for the cancellation. Attempts may be made to reschedule the debate/forum.
If a candidate cancels at the last moment or simply fails to appear and one candidate for the contested office is available, he/she could appear with the cameras or other recording devices shut off, if the event was advertised as a forum or other non-debate candidate appearance (such as a meet-and-greet), but not as a debate and the event will not be broadcast in any form. If these criteria are met, the one candidate who is available may be introduced and may make a statement.
- Co-sponsoring a Debate or Forum
The leadership team will approve any co-sponsorship of a debate/forum. In doing so, it will consider carefully potential effects on the LWV Westford’s nonpartisan status or the public’s perception of its nonpartisanship.
LWV Westford cannot waive its nonpartisan policy, its general debate/forum policies, or any procedures that ensure fair treatment of candidates.
In addition, the following policies will apply.
- Co-sponsors cannot have endorsed or be affiliated with a candidate prior to the debate/forum.
- If possible, LWV Westford will take the lead in contacting the candidates, negotiating disputes, and controlling the format for a debate/forum that is co-sponsored. If at any time during the planning of the debate/forum LWV Westford believes co-sponsorship of the debate/forum will jeopardize its nonpartisanship, LWV Westford will withdraw from its co-sponsorship.
- LWV Westford will provide the moderator and timekeeper or will approve of them in advance. In no event will the moderator be identified as a member of a political party or campaign committee or have any relationship with any of the candidates.
- Broadcasting Debates and Forums
- Any broadcast must comply with all FCC requirements, including that there be at least two candidates for any one office.
- The moderator will announce that unauthorized broadcasts are not allowed, except by media reporting on events.
- The broadcaster must not edit the debate/forum and it must be broadcast in its entirety, either live or reasonably soon after the debate. The exception is news media reporting on the event.
- Candidates may not use or edit the footage in whole or in part for campaign purposes.
- The content of the tape/recording belongs to LWV Westford and any use of these requires the approval of LWV Westford with the caveat that it must be broadcast in its entirety. The footage may be posted as streaming audio/video or as a transcription on the League’s website and the website of the broadcaster. LWV Westford may agree to requests by other websites if such a broadcast would not conflict with or might appear to conflict with the LWV Westford nonpartisan policy.
- LWV Westford takes no responsibility for use of any live or recorded footage in any social or other media.
- Annual Review and Approval
The leadership team will review and vote on this policy annual.