See LWVUS Glossary of League Lingo.
Principles are concepts of government supported by the League of Women Voters as a whole. They constitute the authorization for the adoption of national, state, and local programming.
From LWVUS Impact on Issues:
The League of Women Voters believes in representative government and in the individual liberties established in the Constitution of the United States. The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that all powers of the U.S. government should be exercised within the constitutional framework of a balance among the three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial.
The League of Women Voters believes that democratic government depends upon informed and active participation in government and requires that governmental bodies protect the citizen’s right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings and making public records accessible.
The League of Women Voters believes that every citizen should be protected in the right to vote; that every person should have access to free public education that provides equal opportunity for all; and that no person or group should suffer legal, economic or administrative discrimination.
The League of Women Voters believes that efficient and economical government requires competent personnel, the clear assignment of responsibility, adequate financing, and coordination among the different agencies and levels of government.
The League of Women Voters believes that responsible government should be responsive to the will of the people; that government should maintain an equitable and flexible system of taxation, promote the conservation and development of natural resources in the public interest, share in the solution of economic and social problems that affect the general welfare, promote a sound economy and adopt domestic policies that facilitate the solution of international problems.
The League of Women Voters believes that cooperation with other nations is essential in the search for solutions to world problems and that development of international organization and international law is imperative in the promotion of world peace.
Positions are specific statements and guidelines developed as the result of study and provide the basis for action. LWVN only works on issues that have been adopted as official “positions.” Once we have a position, we can act on it. Any position that we support must align with state and national positions.
Steps in adopting a position are:
- Formal adoption (by members at an annual meeting or by state/national convention delegates) of an issue for study.
- Member study and consensus (general agreement) on broad concepts.
- Formulation of a position by the appropriate board of directors.
- Action as directed by the board of directors.
- Annual or biennial re-adoption of the position.
It is essential that members have an opportunity to become educated before making a decision about adopting a new position. This is what makes subsequent League action on that issue uniquely credible and respected. Therefore, the League undertakes a study before considering a new position. During this study, members have an opportunity to examine the facts and key points pro and con, to discuss the political realities of action, and to contribute ideas for the board to consider when it formulates an action strategy after a position is reached.
The technique currently used most often in Leagues for reaching member agreement on new positions is consensus. The League uses the word “consensus” in a very specific way as the “collective opinion of a substantial number of League members, representative of the membership as a whole, after objective study of an issue.” Consensus is not a simple majority, nor is it unanimity; rather it is the overall sense of the group as expressed through the exchange of ideas and opinions, whether in a meeting of the full membership or a series of smaller discussion meetings.
We vote on any proposed changes to our local positions, as well as on our focus for the coming year’s work, at our Annual Meeting, held each spring.
Changes to the state and national positions are made at their respective conventions. The LWVMA Convention is held in the spring during odd-numbered years; the LWVUS Convention is held in even-numbered years. In even-numbered years, LWVMA also holds a one-day Council. LWVN is entitled to send voting delegates to both conventions and the state Council.
The process used in formulating positions and acting at the grassroots level makes the League unique and sets the League apart from other organizations. The fact that we are members not only of a local League, but of a state League, and of the League of Women Voters of the United States, makes us a powerful force.
The positions of the League of Women Voters US are found in Impact on Issues. The LWVUS public policy positions reflect the program adopted by the most recent convention of the League of Women Voters of the United States. Impact on Issues is updated following each biennial convention.
The positions of the Massachusetts League are found in Where We Stand, and fall into the broad categories of Government, including voting and elections; Natural Resources; and Social Policy, including meeting basic human needs and education.
The ongoing Positions of the LWVN fall into the broad categories of City Government, Environmental Quality, Fiscal Policy, Human Services, Land Use, and Transportion, and were approved by the LWVN membership at the 2021 Annual Meeting.
Program consists of governmental issues chosen for concerted study and action.
Local program (the program adopted by the LWVN) arises from the suggestions of members. Any member who introduces a particular program and/or proposal contemplating action on a community issue should consider the following:
- Does the League have an existing position that supports the proposed action?
- Do members understand and would they agree with the proposed action?
- Is it a priority for LWVN?
- Does LWVN have a unique role to play or would the LWVN’s assets (time and money) be better spent on other activities?
- Does it have some chance of success or make an important statement for the League?
- Are other leagues, organizations, or a coalition already working on the issue?
- What action techniques would be most effective?
- How will the League deal with opposition?
- How can members be involved in the proposed action?
- What kind of community involvement would best support the League’s efforts?
If a suggestion for program falls under an existing position, that suggestion can simply be considered by the board and presented for approval by its members at the annual meeting, and action can be taken as appropriate. However, if the suggestion involves a new issue that does not fit under an existing position, members must first adopt an appropriate position.
The board of directors is responsible for reviewing and discussing program suggestions, formulating them in appropriate language, and recommending all or some of them for adoption according to procedures specified in the bylaws.
The 2023-2024 LWVN Program was approved by the members at the annual meeting held on June 15, 2023.