Making Democracy Work

About the League

What is our mission? How are we structured? What is our history?

Our Mission and Roles

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. We never support or oppose any political party or candidate.

The League of Women Voters has two separate and distinct roles.

  • Voters Service/Citizen Education: we present unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues. We register voters, educate voters through holding candidate forums and writing objective pro and con materials on ballot measures which we provide free of charge to voters. We also advocate in the public interest, based on positions we develop. We organize our candidate forums locally and prepare written materials on ballot measures locally, at the bay area level, the state level, etc. We also organize other kinds of meetings to educate the community.
  • Action/Advocacy: we are also nonpartisan, but, after study, we use our positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest. We arrive at those position statements based on studies by our members. Studies can take one to two years--or more--and involve a process:
  • a self-selected study committee interviews experts, conducts research, engages in discussion;
  • the study committee prepares informational materials and develops questions to pose to our membership;
  • the membership discusses the questions and arrives at position statements.

Studies take place at every level of LWV. Those position statements then define what we will speak out on.

To conduct our voter service and citizen education activities, we use funds from the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, which is a 501(c)(3) corporation, a nonprofit educational organization. The League of Women Voters, a membership organization, conducts action and advocacy and is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation.

We would like to collaborate with community organizations in organizing candidate forums, discussions on issues and advocacy when our positions allow it.

We want to make Oakland a safer, economically healthier, more convenient and beautiful place to work and live. We would like to see business development and social equity for our citizens.
Our Vision, Beliefs, and Intentions guide our activities.

History of the League of Women Voters

Board Covenant

BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF OAKLAND

COVENANT REAFFIRMED FOR THE BOARD YEAR 2017-2018

Our purpose in meeting is to execute and advance the League objectives, to do the hands-on work that safeguards democracy.

We acknowledge that we are responsible to each other, to the general membership of the League, and to our community, to do this work honestly and to the best of our ability.

When meeting together we will aim to listen appreciatively, speak with care, honor our differences, and assume good intentions.

League Lingo

ACTION: Promoting the League's positions on local, state and national public policy issues to government officials, the media and the public. Techniques used to achieve League goals include lobbying, legislative testimony, monitoring, public statements, media campaigns, public forums, coalitions and litigation.
ACTION ALERT/CALL TO ACTION: Request from national, state, ILO or local League board to take action at a specific time in support of a League position. A request for legislative action is known as a "call to action" by LWVC and an "action alert" by LWVUS.
ADVOCACY: Preferred term for action.
ADVOCACY AGENDA: Priorities for Action on issues to be targeted during a specific time frame.
ANNUAL MEETING: The main business meeting of the year for local Leagues. It is held near the end of the League year. At this time, the membership elects new officers and directors and a nominating committee, adopts a program for the coming year, and approves a budget and any proposed bylaw changes. The agenda is mailed to members as a "Call to the Annual Meeting."
ASSOCIATE MEMBER: A nonvoting member of the League, such as a person under 18 years of age or a non-citizen.
BRIEFING: A training session held prior to unit meetings to prepare discussion leaders, resource persons and/or study committee members and others for presentation and discussion of the subject at units. "Briefing" is also used for meetings held to prepare for conventions, legislative interviews and ballot measure presentations.
CALL TO ACTION: see ACTION ALERT.
COALITION: An action coalition is usually a temporary alliance (for the duration of a campaign) that brings together organizations for joint action toward a limited and well-defined goal. A coalition has a formal structure and established guidelines; member organizations are committed to action in the name of the coalition. In addition, organizations may form a voter service or an information coalition to develop and exchange ideas and materials on their common goal.
CONCURRENCE: Agreement of League members with position statements formulated by another League or Leagues. A position statement must be approved or rejected as written.
CONSENSUS: Consensus is not a simple majority, nor is it unanimity, but refers to the overall "sense of the group." The word refers to the collective opinion of League members on a particular issue, and the deliberative process used to reach that opinion. The League use of consensus does not require unanimity, but allows for minority opinions.
CONSENSUS QUESTIONS: Specific questions prepared by a study committee to stimulate interaction, focus discussion and facilitate conclusions by the group. Questions vary in style from open-ended to multiple choice. Questions are approved by the appropriate League board.
CONVENTION: A biennial meeting held by an ILO, LWVC, LWVUS at which delegates make decisions affecting League goals and operations. The convention elects officers, amends bylaws, and adopts a budget, positions and studies. The number of voting delegates from each League is determined by the League size; however, anyone can attend and participate in non-voting activities.
COUNCIL: A biennial meeting of an ILO, LWVC, LWVUS held in the years between biennial conventions and attended by a small number of delegates (primarily League presidents or a representative). Council adopts a budget and provides delegates an opportunity to exchange ideas in a less formal setting than convention. In an emergency, Council can adopt a study as provided in the bylaws.
COUNTY COUNCIL: A group of representatives of each local League in a county, organized for the purpose of facilitating inter-League communications and cooperation, to study issues within the county, and to take action on issues for which LWVUS, LWVC, LWVBA, and the County Council have positions.
DISCUSSION LEADER (DL): The person who guides the deliberations at a League meeting. Usually a person trained to encourage maximum participation and exchange of ideas.
DPM: Acronym for Duplicate Presidents Mailing, a subscription available to any member, containing the material sent in regular national or state League mailings to local League presidents.
DUES: The annual fee required for membership in the League. The dues amount is set by each local League. (See Per Member Payment [PMP]).
EDUCATION FUND: The tax-deductible arm of national, state and local Leagues, handling funds to be used only for educational purposes, not for action on issues.
ELECTION GUIDE (PROS AND CONS): A concise, comprehensive explanation and pro/con arguments of the propositions on the state ballot published by LWVC in tabloid form. Local Leagues and ILOs purchase the Election Guide from LWVC and may add Pros and Cons of their local or regional ballot propositions.
EMERGENCY STUDY: A study of an issue of such a serious and urgent nature that members believe it must be dealt with before the next regular study adoption time. Bylaws spell out the procedures and circumstances under which such studies can be adopted.
FACTS FOR VOTERS: A brochure printed by the local League that lists the names, addresses and terms of all elected officials, as well as information on elections and voting. LWV Oakland's brochure is called Who Represents Oakland.
FORUM: A League-sponsored public event where issues of community interest are presented and discussed with inclusion of various points of view and input from different sources.
GENERAL MEETING: A meeting to which all members are invited. The agenda may include outside speakers, presentation by a study committee, and information on positions and/or business matters. League business requiring member approval can be conducted only at general meetings.
GRASSROOTS: The League of Women Voters is governed first and foremost by its local Leagues. At state and national conventions, local League delegates decide policy, adopt the budget and bylaws changes, program and action. It is a "bottom up", or grassroots, organization.
HONORARY LIFE MEMBER: A person who has been a member for 50 years or more. Life members are excused from dues payment and their Leagues pay no per member payment (PMP) for them.<br? HOUSEHOLD MEMBERSHIP: A special membership category for two or more members residing at the same address. The first member pays full dues and subsequent members pay half the dues rate.
ILO (INTER-LEAGUE ORGANIZATION): A group of local Leagues with shared interests organized as a separate League to coordinate activities within a county, metropolitan area or region. ILOs hold conventions, at which they adopt bylaws, elect officers and directors, choose studies and adopt a budget. LWV Bay Area is an ILO.
IMPACT ON ISSUES: The national League Program guide; it contains statements of LWVUS Positions with their history and use.
IN DEPTH: An expanded explanation of the propositions on the state ballot along with the main pro and con arguments. Published by LWVC as part of its voters service program. See Election Guide.
IN LEAGUE: An in-depth handbook for League leaders published by LWVUS.
ISSUES COMMITTEE: A group of members interested in a public policy issue (such as human resources, local government, etc.) which meets periodically to follow developments; such members often may have served on an original study committee. They provide information to members at meetings and through bulletin articles, recommend action to the board, prepare statements and, when authorized, present testimony after approval of the board. (Sometimes known as an action committee)
ISSUES FOR EMPHASIS: Timely and critical issues adopted by convention delegates on which League resources for study, action, and citizen education will be concentrated during a specific time frame.
KNOW YOUR TOWN: Every local League, while in its provisional, or new, status prepares a booklet that describes the city in which the League is located. Updates are done periodically thereafter. Oakland, A Guide to Local Government is the booklet prepared by LWV Oakland.
LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES: Issues selected each year by the state board, in consultation with program and legislative directors, consultants, and the legislative advocate, for concerted League action in the Legislature.
LIFE MEMBER: There are two categories of life members: Paid life members are those who have paid a life-membership fee; Honorary Life Members are those who have been members of the League for 50 years or more and are excused from the payment of dues.
LIMITED STUDY: A new study with a narrow scope and usually of short duration adopted by the convention or annual meeting.
LOCAL LEAGUE LIAISON: The state board member assigned to receive and read a local League's board minutes and VOTERs. Primary contact for local League presidents with the state board.
LOCAL LEAGUE: An autonomous organization of League members affiliated with the state and national Leagues. Each member automatically belongs at all three levels.
LOCAL POSITION: A position developed after a local League's study and consensus that applies only to that League's area. These positions cannot be used at the state or national level.
MAL: Acronym for Member-at-Large, a member who resides outside the area of, and is not enrolled in, a local League.
MAL UNIT: A state-recognized group of members-at-large, in an area where there is no local League. Organization of a MAL unit is approved by the state board and the unit functions under state board guidelines and supervision.
MEMBER AGREEMENT: Substantial agreement League-wide on a public policy issue. May be elicited through various decision-making techniques. Member agreement is an essential basis for establishing a position.
MEMBER SUPPORT: Action is approved by a League board only if the relevant position is believed to be understood and supported by members. Member opinion, when in doubt, may be elicited by phone calls, written questionnaire or discussion at meetings.
MONITORING: A form of action in which the League closely follows the administration of public policy and points out needed revisions in law, regulations or procedures.
MTA (MANAGEMENT TRAINING ADVISOR): A longtime League leader who serves as an advisor to a local League Board.
NATIONAL (LWVUS): League of Women Voters of the United States.
NATIONAL MEMBER: Popular but incorrect term. There are no "national" members. Those who join at the national level are referred to the appropriate state League, and by them to a local League if there is one. If not, they become MALs.
NETWORK: An informal group of organizations meeting periodically to share information and strategies. In contrast with a coalition a network is relatively unstructured, with each member organization maintaining its own autonomy and acting in its own name.
NONPARTISAN POLICY: Article II, Section 2 of the LWV-United States bylaws: "The League may take action on governmental measures and policies in the public interest. It shall not support or oppose any political party or candidate."
NONPARTISANSHIP: The policy (as set forth in the bylaws) that the League, as an organization, does not support or oppose any political party or candidate for office. League members, however, are encouraged to work as individuals for the political party or candidate of their choice. Each League board adopts its own nonpartisan policy which interprets for its members and the community any restrictions it places on the political activities of its board members.
OBSERVER: A League member who regularly attends meetings of governmental bodies for the sole purpose of listening (not speaking) and reporting back to the League.
OBSERVER CORPS: League members who observe and report on meetings of public bodies.
OFF BOARD: Any member of League chairing a standing or interim committee who is not a member of the board of directors of League.
ORIENTATION: Basic background material provided in writing or at meetings to help members understand League purposes, policies, and procedures.
PMP (PER MEMBER PAYMENT): An annual assessment for each local League member that is paid (usually quarterly) by the local League to LWVC, LWVUS and, in some areas, an ILO.
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES: These, along with the bylaws, are the primary guide for the board of directors. It contains the policies on nonpartisanship and coalitions, fiscal responsibilities, and pertinent information for certain board members. This document is reviewed annually by the board of directors.
PORTFOLIO: A specific responsibility carried by a board member or an off-board member such as voters service, finance, land use, etc.
POSITION - The stand of the League on a public policy issue and the basis for action. It includes a position summary as well as specific positions established through the study and consensus process. Positions are subject to regular review and the position summary must be readopted by the convention or annual meeting. The appropriate board approves and may act on a new position pending adoption by the convention or annual meeting. The League is said to "have a position," "act on a position," or "take a stand" (based on a position). Local positions are developed by local League and apply to local public policy issues. State Leagues conduct studies of statewide issues and formulate a state League position based on each local League's study and consensus. National League studies and consensus apply to issues of national concern.
POSITION REVIEW: Participation by members, as a preparation for convention or annual meeting, in an evaluation of the League's current positions. League positions at each level are reviewed for clarity, relevance and effectiveness. Members may vote to make any of the following recommendations for each item of their program:
 Retain: members are committed to the position and will continue to support it.
 Drop: position is no longer useful in its present form or is not supported by members. Action will end. Any further action will require adoption of a new study.
 Update: a study of limited scope to reevaluate a position in light of new information, changed circumstances, and/or conflict with another position. The aim is to consider position change.
Changing the substance of any position requires a new or updated study or concurrence process with a board recommended change accompanied by background material. Local League members may ask the appropriate board to undertake such a study or concurrence process if a position appears outdated or inconsistent with other positions.
POSITION SUMMARY: The official statement of League positions within each program area. The position summary is originally adopted and must be readopted thereafter by convention or annual meeting.
POST-BOARD MAILING: LWVUS report to state and local Leagues, including action taken, undated information on current program issues, board activities, legislative report, and announcements, issued after national board meetings.
PRESIDENT'S PACKET: Yearly supplements to "In League," including updated information and leadership aids.
PRINCIPLES: The League's basic philosophy of government as adopted by the national convention that provides authorization for the adoption of League program. Because the principles are broad in scope, they are not usually used as the sole basis for action but can be used in conjunction with applicable League positions.
PROGRAM: Those governmental issues chosen by a League for concerted study and action. League principles provide the authorization for the adoption of program.
PROGRAM PLANNING: Position review(see above) combined with consideration of a possible new study. Proposals made by the planning meeting are considered by the board and then submitted to the convention or annual meeting as either recommended or not recommended.
PROGRAMS: Plans for speakers, discussion or other activities for League meetings.
PROVISIONAL LEAGUE: A recognized group of members serving a probationary period to develop League knowledge and skills and is supervised by the state League board until LWVUS grants it local League status.
RECOGNITION REQUIREMENTS: Standards and activities that must be fulfilled for local Leagues to earn and maintain recognition; adopted by the LWVUS 1986 Convention and supplemented by state Leagues.
RECOMMENDED/NOT RECOMMENDED: A League board decides whether proposals made through the position review and new study consideration shall be submitted to the convention or annual meeting as "recommended" or "not recommended" by the board. Adoption of not recommended proposals may be covered by more stringent rules (see appropriate bylaws).
RECORDER: A League member who takes notes during the consensus discussions at meetings to reflect the majority and minority views expressed and to summarize areas of agreement.
RESOURCE MATERIALS: Program information and publications gathered and/or prepared by League committees as background for discussion.
RESOURCE PERSON: A knowledgeable member (often a study committee member) who provides impartial factual material to members, for discussion. A member serving as resource does not express his/her opinion on the subject so that members participating in the discussion can reach their own conclusions.
SCOPE: A definition of the limits of a study and possible areas of exploration. The scope is developed by the study committee and approved by the appropriate board.
SPEAKERS BUREAU: A group of members trained to present to the public pro and con ballot information, League action positions and topics of citizen information.
STATE (LWVC): League of Women Voters of California. STUDY: In-depth research and information-gathering to answer questions regarding an issue or problem. The League cannot advocate or lobby regarding a public policy issue unless it has first conducted a thorough study of the issue and reached member consensus on the study objectives.
STUDY COMMITTEE: A group of League members that meets regularly to carry out a current League study. The committee researches the subject, prepares the information for members, selects the material for presentation at meetings, determines how the material will be presented and serves as resource. The study committee analyzes recorders' reports and drafts consensus reports for the local board's approval. For local studies the committee develops the consensus questions and drafts positions for local board approval.
STUDY GUIDE: A League publication dealing with a current study prepared by a national, state or inter-League organization committee providing information and suggestions to assist local League study committees. UNIT: A small group of League members and interested persons meeting at regular intervals to discuss subjects and issues of League concern.
UNIT MEETING: A regularly scheduled meeting of a small group of members to obtain and discuss information. Study presentations and consensus discussions are usually held at unit meetings. Duplicate unit meetings are held at different times and locations to enable members to participate in small group discussions. Members attend the unit meeting most convenient for them.
UPDATE: A study of limited scope approved by convention delegates to reevaluate an existing position in light of new information, changed circumstance and/or conflicts with another position, with a view to considering a position change. An update may be proposed by any local League through the position review process. Any new position resulting from an update must be approved by convention delegates. Local Leagues may also undertake an update of a local position.
VERTICAL POSITION: National, state or inter-League organization positions are designated as vertical if they may be used as the basis for action at lower levels of League without prior permission.
VOTER: Newsletter for members and other subscribers, published by local, state, and national Leagues.
VOTERS GUIDE: Nonpartisan information on proposed constitutional amendments and ballot measures published and distributed prior to general elections as part of the League's voters service.
VOTERS SERVICE; Year-round activity to help citizens to be politically effective and to encourage their participation in the political process. Registering voters and presenting election Voters Guides are the two most basic Voters Service activities.
VOTING MEMBER: Any League member who is a U.S. citizen and at least 18