The League of Women Voters is a strictly nonpartisan organization that strives to make democracy work for all citizens of the U.S.A. and beyond. It neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any level of government. Nonetheless, the League is wholeheartedly political.
Citizen Responsibility. At its core, the League believes that citizens are responsible for ensuring that our democratic system of governance functions effectively. The Leagues seeks to:
· Inspire citizens to actively participate in the democratic process;
· Educate citizens about democratic principles;
· Develop in-depth understanding of current public policy issues and come to consensus among League members about the best solutions; and
· Advocate for these solutions in the halls of government.
Decentralized, grassroots organization. The League's enduring vitality and resonance comes from its unique decentralized structure that consists of a network of groups working at all levels of government â€“ local, state, and national. (Joining the League at one level automatically makes you a member of all levels.)
There are Leagues in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong. Altogether, some 900 state and local leagues comprise a vast grassroots corps of concerned citizens. While paid staff manage the state and national offices of the League, volunteers do the bulk of the League's work.
Membership Diversity.The League is open to any person who subscribes to LWV principles. It is committed to diversity and welcomes members of varied backgrounds. It recognizes that diverse perspectives are important and necessary for responsible and representative decision-making in a democracy. Since the 1970's, membership in the LWV has been open to men, as well as women, and now men make up a significant part of the organization. (See also the "Join/Donate" page on this website.)
Finances.As a nonprofit organization, the League relies primarily on dues and contributions to operate and to achieve its goals. Support comes from members, non-members, and the community at large. Each local LWV decides the amount of its dues and the method for collecting them. From its funds, the local LWV pays a per-member payment to support the state and national LWVs. The LWV also conducts fundraising campaigns at each level.
Since the LWV is a lobbying organization, donations for advocacy activities and League membership dues are not tax-deductible. However, both the NYS Education Foundation and the national Education Fund qualify as 510(c)(3) organizations under the Internal Revenue Code and may accept tax-deductible contributions. These funds are used exclusively for educational projects.
The League of Women Voters grew out of the women's suffrage movement. In 1920, after passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote, Carrie Chapman Catt, who led the battle, organized the League of Women Voters of the United States. The League's first goal was to equip women to exercise their new right to vote.
Since its founding, the League at all levels has worked on a multitude of issues. These include:
· Election, campaign, and legislative lobbying reform
· Government finances and tax reform
· Local government structure and efficiency
· Judicial reform
· Public education
· Health care
· Equal opportunity in employment and housing
· Welfare reform
· Child care
· Environmental quality
· Consumer protection
The League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County was established in 1939. Beulah Bailey Thull, a suffragette and founding member of the League of Women Voters of New York State, was our first president. Beulah had degrees from Troy High School, Cornell University, and the State Library School and did graduate work at Columbia University. She was a leading expert on tax policy and served as a speech writer for New York State Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. She helped establish the State Civil Service Employees Association, acting as its first president. She also served as state legislative chair for the NYS Federation of Women's Clubs and at one time, held the position of Rensselaer County Historian. In 1959, when well into her sixties, Beulah won a women's perliminary sports car race at Watkins Glen driving an Alpha Romeo at an average speed of 64.4 MPH!! The second president was Cahterine Benson, a trained nurse who became Director of Nurses at Leonard Hospital in Troy.
The LWV believes in representative government and in the individual liberties established in the Constitution of the United States. It believes that:
Part of the Voters Service mission of the League of Women Voters is to conduct and moderate Candidate Forums. The forums serve voters because they give citizens a means of forming first-hand judgments about the candidates. The forums also serve candidates because the contenders have an opportunity to present their views directly to citizens of varied political affiliations.
These forums are not classical debates, but the format we use is somewhat formal. Candidates start by making opening statements. The moderator then asks the candidates a series of written questions collected from the audience, giving all candidates an equal opportunity to respond. In addition to the audience questions, the League and meeting sponsors may also pose questions. It is the responsibility of the moderator to see that the questions reflect the issues of greatest interest to the entire community, cover a broad range of topics, and are worded to elicit the political philosophy of each candidate. The moderator also screens out "soft ball" or inappropriate questions submitted by the audience. Finally each candidate makes a closing statement. The time allowed for a forum depends on the number of candidates present.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan, volunteer, political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. The League does not support or oppose political parties or candidates. We look forward in future election seasons to working with non-partisan community groups who take their civic responsibility seriously by volunteering to sponsor Candidate Forums.
Boards of Directors. The LWV, members elect boards to manage the activities of the League (* see below for members of the Rensselaer LWV Board). In addition to elected officers, boards are composed of elected and appointed directors. The number of directors elected and the manner of their election is outlined in the bylaws of each League organization. Each board member usually has a specific area of responsibility, such as program, voter service, public relations, or advocacy.
Committees. There are two types of committees: study committees and standing committees. Study committees study a public policy issue of LWV concern and develop a focus for League consideration. Standing committees carry out the balance of the LWV's work in voter service, membership and budget.
Meetings. In Rensselaer County, the board meets once a month and holds an annual membership meeting in the spring to elect officers, set dues rates, and adopt a local program of action, bylaw revisions, and an annual budget. Other informative, working and social meetings are held throughout the year. The New York State and national Leagues also hold annual conventions.
· Voter Service/Citizen Information. The LWV is perhaps best known for its services to voters. It directs its efforts toward encouraging citizens to register to vote and to take part in government and politics. Voter service activities include: sponsoring candidate forums ***; conducting voter registration drives; providing information about voting to the public; and getting out the vote on Election Day.
***Part of the Voters Service mission of the League of Women Voters is to conduct and moderate Candidate Forums.
We conduct these forums as a service to voters because it gives them a means of forming a first-hand judgment of the various candidates. [It is also] a service to candidates because it gives them an opportunity to present their views to citizen audiences of varied political affiliations. We do not refer to them as "debates" since no one conducts classical debates.
The format we general use is somewhat formal. Candidates start by making an opening statement. The moderator then asks a series of questions alternating [which candidate gets to make] the first response. ....Finally closing statements are made by each candidate. The time allowed [for the forum] depends on the number of candidates. In addition to the written questions collected from audience members, questions [may also come from] ...... the League and the meeting sponsors. It is the responsibility of the moderator to see that the questions reflect the issues of greatest interest to the entire community, cover a broad range of topics, and are worded to elicit the political philosophy of each candidate. The moderator also screens out "soft ball" or inappropriate questions submitted by the audience.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan volunteer political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. The League does not support or oppose political parties or candidates. We are pleased to work with non-partisan community groups who take their civic responsibility seriously by volunteering to sponsor Candidate Forums.***
· Study of Issues. LWV's at each level choose public policy issues for their members to study. Study committees examine the issues in-depth and present their findings to members. Members discuss the issues and the pro's and con's of potential solutions and then strive to come to a consensus (substantial agreement amongst the members) on a position for the League to promote. The LWV's reputation for fairness rests on this practice of thorough, impartial study and consideration.
Action and Advocacy
Once the LWV has a position on an issue, the LWV board develops a plan of action. Advocacy actions include:
· lobbying, writing letters and sending e-mails to elected officials;
· testifying at public hearings;
· litigating to help clarify laws in the public interest;
· working in coalitions with like-minded organizations;
· monitoring elections and other government activities; and
· using public forums, panel discussions, publications, and the media to provide information to members and the public.
(The LWV always makes a distinction between LWV advocacy of specific positions on issues and the League's nonpartisan voter information activities.)
The LWV uses the Internet, press conferences, radio and television programs, statements to governmental bodies, presence at community events, and the enthusiasm of each of its members to promote the LWV's mission.
The LWV produces publications that are researched, written and distributed by members at every level. Catalogs are available for state and national publications. Many publications are free to members and the public; others are available for purchase.
The Rensselaer LWV produces a newsletter, The Voter, 6 times a year. It is mailed to members and is also available on this website. The state and national Voter newsletters are published quarterly and available in print and on-line.
The LWV maintains observers at many meetings of various local, regional, state and national governmental bodies. Observers do not speak for the LWV but attend these meetings to listen, learn, and make factual reports of the proceedings. The Rensselaer LWV has been attending meetings of the Troy and Rensselaer City Councils and also the Rensselaer County Legislature.
Many LWV's have members who are available to speak on LWV issues to organizations within their communities. Anyone wishing to contact the Rensselaer LWV about speakers should inquire at info@lwvrc.
Reaffirmed by Board of Directors on June 23, 2011
The League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County does not support or oppose any political party or candidate. It does, however, adopt and advocate positions on governmental measures, policies, and issues in the public interest after careful study and substantial agreement among its members.
Adopted May, 2010 at Annual Meeting
Chris Salmon , Co-President
Margaret Story , Co-President
Public Spokesperson, State and National Communication,
Anne E. Burton, Vice President
Steve Muller, Treasurer
Treasurer Reports, Audit, Budget Committee,
Diane Bell, Secretary
Joyce Chupka, Director
Judy Meyer, Director
John Sniezyk, Director
Irene S. Wynnyczuk
Gail DeMarco, Off-Board
Mary Muller, Off-Board
Revised at Annual Meeting on May 20, 2009
Sec. 1. The name of this organization shall be the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County. This local League is an integral part of the League of Women Voters of the United States and of the League of Women Voters of the State of New York.
Sec. 1. Purpose. The purpose of the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County shall be to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens on government.
Sec. 2. Policy. The League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County may take action on local government measures and policies in the public interest in conformity with the Principles of the League of Women Voters of the United States. It shall not support nor oppose any political party or any candidate.
Sec. 1. Eligibility. Any person who subscribes to the purpose and policy of the League shall be eligible for membership.
Sec. 2. Types of Membership. The Membership of the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County shall be composed of Voting members and associate members.
a. Voting members shall be citizens of voting age.
Sec. 1. Number, Manner of Selection and Term of Office. The Board of Directors shall consist of the officers of the League, six elected Directors, and not more than six appointed Directors. One-half of the elected Directors shall be elected by the general membership at each Annual Meeting and shall serve for a term of two years, or until their successors have been elected and qualified. The elected members shall appoint such additional Directors, not exceeding six, as they deem necessary to carry on the work of the League. The Nominating Committee will be charged to recruit candidates for the officers and directors whose positions are open. In addition they may recommend names for appointed Directors, not exceeding six, as is necessary to carry on the work of the League. The terms of office of the appointed Directors shall be one year and shall expire at the conclusion of the next Annual Meeting.
Sec. 2. Qualifications. No person shall be elected nor appointed nor shall continue to serve as an officer or director of this organization unless she or he is a voting member of the LWV of Rensselaer County.
Sec. 3. Vacancies. Any vacancy occurring in the Board of Directors by reason of the resignation, death or disqualification of an officer or elected member may be filled, until the next Annual Meeting, by a majority vote of the remaining members of the Board of Directors. Three consecutive absences from a Board meeting of any member without a valid reason shall be deemed a resignation.
Sec. 4. Powers and Duties. The Board of Directors shall have full charge of the property and business of the organization, and full power and authority to manage and conduct same, subject to the instructions of the general membership. It shall plan and direct the work necessary to carry out the program as adopted by the national Convention, the state Convention and the Annual Meeting, The Board shall create and designate such special committees as ft may deem necessary.
Sec. 5. Meetings. There shall be at least six regular meetings of the Board of Directors annually, The president may call a special meeting upon the written request of five members of the Board.
Sec. 6. Quorum. A majority of the members of the Board of Directors shall constitute a quorum.
Sec. 1. Enumeration and Election of Officers. The Officers of the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County shall be a President or co-equal Co-Presidents, two Vice-Presidents, a Secretary, and a Treasurer who shall be elected for terms of two years, by the general membership at an Annual Meeting and take office immediately. The President or one Co-President, one Vice President and the Secretary shall be elected in odd-numbered years. One Co-President, one Vice-President and the Treasurer shall be elected in even-numbered years.
Sec. 2. The President or Co-Presidents. The President or Co-Presidents shall preside at all Meetings of the organization and of the Board of Directors. She or he may, in the absence or disability of the Treasurer, sign or endorse checks, drafts and notes. She or he shall be, ex-officio, a member of all committees except the Nominating Committee. She or he shall have usual powers of supervision and management as may pertain to the office of the President and perform such duties as may be designated by the Board.
Sec. 3. The Vice-Presidents. The Vice-Presidents shall, in order of rank, in the event of absence, disability or death of the President or Co-Presidents, possess all the powers and perform all the duties of that office, until such time as the Board of Directors shall elect one of its members to fill the vacancy. The Vice-Presidents shall perform such other duties as the President or Co-Presidents and the Board may designate.
Sec. 4. The Secretary. The Secretary shall keep the minutes of all meetings of the League and of all meetings of the Board of Directors. She or he shall notify all officers and Directors of their election. She or he shall sign, with the President or Co-Presidents, all contracts and other instruments when so authorized by the Board and shall perform such other functions as may be incident to her or his office.
Sec. 5. The Treasurer. The Treasurer shall collect and receive all monies due. She or he shall be the custodian of these monies, shall deposit them in a bank designated by the Board of Directors, and shall disburse the same only upon order of the Board. She or he shall present statements to the Board at their regular meetings and an annual report to the Annual Meeting.
Sec. 1. Fiscal Year. The fiscal year of the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County shall commence on the first day of July each year.
Sec. 2. Dues. The amount of annual dues shall be determined by vote of the general membership at the annual meeting. Notification of a proposed change in annual dues shall be mailed to all members four weeks prior to the annual meeting in conjunction with the proposed budget. Any member who fails to pay her or his dues within three months after they become payable shall be dropped from the membership rolls.
Sec. 3. Audit. The Board of Directors shall appoint an auditor to examine the Treasurer's books within the month preceding the Annual Meeting to which the auditor's report shall be presented.
Sec. 4. Budget. A budget for the ensuing year shall be submitted by the Board of Directors to the Annual Meeting for adoption. The budget shall include support for the work of the League as a whole.
Sec. 5. Budget Committee. A Budget Committee shall be appointed at the beginning of the League year to prepare a budget for the ensuing year. The proposed budget shall be sent to all members one month before the Annual Meeting. The Treasurer shall not be eligible to serve as chair of the Budget Committee.
Sec. 1. Membership Meetings. There shall be at least four meetings of the membership each year. Time and place shall be determined by the Board of Directors.
Sec. 2. Annual Meeting. An Annual Meeting shall be held between March 15 and June 1, the exact date to be determined by the Board of Directors. The Annual Meeting shall:
a. Adopt a local Program for the ensuing year,
Sec. 3. Quorum. Fifteen percent of the membership shall constitute a quorum at all business meetings of the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County.
Sec. 1. Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee shall consist of five members, two of whom shall be members of the Board of Directors. The Chair and two members, who shall not be members of the Board, shall be elected at the Annual Meeting. Nominations for these offices shall be made by the current Nominating Committee. The other members shall be appointed by the Board of Directors immediately following the Annual Meeting. Any vacancy on the Nominating Committee shall be filled by the Board of Directors. suggestions for nominations for Officers and Directors may be sent to this Committee by any voting member.
Sec. 2. Report of Nominating Committee and Nominations from the Floor. The report of the Nominating Committee of its nominations for Officers, Directors and the members of the succeeding Nominating Committee shall be sent to all members one month before the date of the Annual Meeting. The report of the Nominating Committee shall be presented to the Annual Meeting. Immediately following the presentation of this report, nominations may be made from the floor by any voting member provided the consent of the nominee shall have been secured.
Sec. 3. Elections. The election shall be by ballot, provided that when there is but one nominee for each office, the secretary may be instructed to cast the ballot for every nominee. A majority vote of those qualified to vote and voting shall constitute an election. Absentee or proxy voting shall not be permitted.
Sec. 1. Authorization. The Governmental principles adopted by the national Convention and supported by the League as a whole, constitute the authorization for the adoption of Program.
Sec. 2. Program. The program of the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County shall consist of those local governmental issues chosen for concerted study and action.
Sec. 3. Action by the Annual Meeting.
a. The Board of Directors shall consider the recommendations sent in by the voting members two months prior to the Annual Meeting and shall formulate a Proposed Program.
b. The Proposed Program shall be sent to all members one month before the Annual Meeting.
c. A majority vote of voting members present and voting at the Annual Meeting shall be required for adoption of subjects in the Proposed Program as presented to the Annual Meeting by the Board of Directors.
d. Recommendations for Program submitted by voting members two months prior to the Annual Meeting but not recommended by the Board of Directors may be considered by the Annual Meeting provided that:
a. Information concerning the proposed changes has been sent to all members at least two weeks prior to a general membership meeting at which the change is to be discussed, and
b. Final action by the membership is taken at a succeeding meeting.
Sec. 5. Membership Action. Members may act in the name of the League of Women Voters only when authorized to do so by the proper Board of Directors.
Sec. 1. National Convention. The membership or the Board of Directors at a meeting before the date on which the names of delegates must be sent to the national office shall select delegates to the Convention in the number allotted the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County under the provisions of the By-Laws of the League of Women Voters of the United States.
Sec. 2. State Convention. The membership or the Board of Directors at the meeting before the date on which the names of the delegates must be sent to the State office shall select delegates to that Convention in the number allotted the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County under the provisions of the By-Laws of the League of Women Voters of New York State.
Sec. 3. State Council. The membership or the Board of Directors at a meeting before the date on which the names of delegates must be sent to the State office shall select delegates to that Council in the number allotted to the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County under provisions of the By-Laws of the League of Women Voters of New York State.
The rules contained in Roberts Rules of Order Revised shall govern the organization in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with these by-laws.
These by-laws may be amended by a two-thirds vote of the voting members present and voting at the Annual Meeting, provided the amendments were submitted to the membership in writing at least one month in advance of the meeting.
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