Voting is a fundamental right and for nearly 100 years the League of Women has assisted citizens in exercising that right. LWV believes that all eligible voters should have an equal opportunity to exercise their right to vote. As a nonpartisan organization, the League cannot tell people for whom to vote, nor can it endorse candidates or give them money. The League does advocate for policies that ensure that our elections remain free, fair and accessible.
As part of its voter educational effort the League has long sponsored non-partisan candidate forums to help voters get acquainted with issues and meet and hear from candidates seeking their vote. The League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear (LWVLCF) has successfully conducted such forums for decades in this region. Over the last several elections we have added forums for Brunswick County voters. For the 2018 election the LWVLCF planned forums in Leland, Shallotte and Southport to give residents living in all parts of the county an opportunity to hear and learn from candidates for legislative and county offices.
Unfortunately, implementing these Brunswick County forums this year proved to be difficult as the candidates of one major party (the Republican Party) refused to participate. For the most part, they just ignored our invitations to participate. We have not had the courtesy of them even initiating a discussion about their concerns with the forums.
When candidates decline to participate in these nonpartisan forums, democracy suffers. People want to hear from their elected officials before they cast their votes. They want to understand how candidates would address issues of concern to them. Elected officials who choose to listen only to their supporters and avoid people who might not agree with them, do themselves as candidates a disfavor and certainly don’t help enlighten the voters on their views.
The format of the League’s forums involves inviting all candidates for elected offices in the local area to participate and provide participating candidates with equal time to answer questions. The questions come from a variety of sources, including from members of the community, League Action Teams and League co-sponsors. Our professional moderators review the questions to ensure they are presented in a non-biased manner. The Alliance of Brunswick County Property Owners Association and the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce offered to co-sponsor these forums this year. Jon Evans, WECT anchor, agreed to moderate two of the forums as he has done in the past and WWAY-TV offered to moderate the third forum. The League mandates that at least two candidates for an office must be included to have a forum for a particular office.
The League’s forums have been very positively received in previous election years with participation from all parties’ candidates. Elections matter! Elected officials make significant choices that affect our daily lives. Local and state officials make decisions that affect how we plan for the rapidly growing community we call home. They will decide matters affecting our pocketbooks, transportation choices, natural resources, health care and public schools. When one party ignores invitations to participate in a nonpartisan professionally run forum in which all candidates are given the same opportunity to present their ideas it is saying an informed electorate does not matter. It is a shame.
Carol Roberts, President, LWV of the Lower Cape Fear Barbara Burrell, Brunswick County Voter Services Chair
For more information, contact Mary Ellen Cole, LWVLCF - Communications Director.