Making Democracy Work

New Members

Welcome to the League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham, and Chatham Counties!

Whether you are a new member who just decided to join or a long-time Leaguer, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina welcomes you and thanks you for your dedication to making democracy work in our great state! You belong to one of the nation's most widely recognized, respected and effective citizen organizations.

You can learn about important issues, take actions that will help bring about better government, and contribute to your community, state and nation.

In the League, we are not all brains or organizers. We don't all think alike or support the same political party. We aren't all public speakers. Most of us have little spare time, and we are not all bundles of energy. At different periods in our lives, we have different assets to offer. But together we have the brains, skills, energy and enough time that, when combined, make up an important, effective and purposeful organization.

Here we strive to give you the basic information you need to be an active, vital member. The League can help you be an interested, informed and engaged citizen, and you can help the League.

This is your League. The more time and talent you are willing to invest, the more you will gain from being a member. Be active. Get involved. There is no shortage of opportunities.

League Principles

  • 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 believes that democratic government depends upon the informed and active participation of its citizens 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 the development of international organization and international law is imperative in the promotion of world peace.

What Is the LWV?

The League of Women Voters of the United States was organized in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt shortly before the Women's Suffrage Amendment was ratified. Its principal aim was to help newly enfranchised women become politically educated, responsible voting citizens. Today there are Leagues in every state, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands with about 130,000 members and supporters.

The North Carolina League had an up and down start. The first NC League was formed in 1920 by Miss Gertrude Weil, President of the Equal Suffrage Association of North Carolina. Over the next 10 years there were 4 League chapters developed + Wake, Duke University, Mecklenburg and Goldsboro. The State League faltered in 1932 and ultimately the national League closed them down. In 1951 a new state League was formed and is still in place today.

Over the years, the League has opened a door to intellectual activity and involvement in political life. Local politicians depend on League members to bring them well-researched, valuable opinions. The League has studied many issues and has been active in calling for changes and reforms. It has served as a training ground for many community leaders and is determined to continue to be a pertinent and meaningful citizen voice in local governance.

The stated purposes of the League are to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government, to act on selected governmental issues and to influence public policy through education and advocacy. The League neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office. However, individual members are urged to be as active as possible in the political process.

Voting membership is open to any citizen at least 18 years old living in the United States. Men are welcome as members. A person joining a local League automatically becomes a member of the state and national levels of the organization, as well.

How the League is Organized

The structure of the League, a grassroots organization, parallels the representative system of government under which we live. Just as local, state and national governments are interdependent with the individual citizen as the base, our members determine the policies and program at all League levels. The president of each level speaks for the organization.

At each level of League, Boards of Directors are elected to manage activities. The local agenda-setting meeting is called the Annual Meeting. At this meeting, officers are elected, dues and budgets are set, bylaws are changed, and issues to be studied or acted on are selected.

At the state and national levels, recommendations on officers and program begin with members at local meetings called for this purpose. The final decisions are then made at either the appropriate state or national biennial Convention, composed of delegates elected by Leagues proportionate to their memberships. In alternate years, national and state Councils of Leaders, composed of two delegates from each League or state, are held. Because these Councils are not proportionately representative of the membership, they may not adopt new program emphases.

As a grassroots organization, the League encourages members to express themselves to their leaders on any League concern. Members are always welcome at any Board meeting or state or national Convention, where they can speak up to persuade and to vote if they are Board members or delegates.

What The League Does

The League is an ACTION group. However, it may take action only on issues that have been extensively studied and on which the members are agreed. Such activities have fostered the League's reputation for thorough study, which is pivotal to the League's political effectiveness.

Action may take a number of forms as appropriate but always begins with study.

Each year the League decides on an action agenda, which is called PROGRAM. The action involved may be a first-time League study of an issue, an update of a previous study, or action on an issue on which the League has come to member agreement. Members are encouraged to voice their priorities at program-making meetings. Many considerations come into play as the choices for focus are made: Is governmental action necessary for a solution to the problem? Is the issue important enough to inspire sufficient member interest and commitment? Can the League be effective on the issue? Would League effort duplicate that of another public interest group? Is it an idea whose time has come politically? Is underwriting necessary and/or available? The appropriate-level League Board filters this grassroots input into its recommendations to the Annual Meeting or Convention, which will decide the final program. In the process, the scope, emphasis and methodology of the study or action will be defined.

Once the program items are selected, STUDY or ACTION committees for each focus begin their work. Any member may participate, and these small groups provide wonderful opportunities for growth, networking and friendships. If the focus is a study, once the issue appears to have been adequately explored by members, it's time to see if there is member agreement on which future action can be based. The League, unlike some public-interest organizations, does not rely on majority votes; rather, it tries to find a CONSENSUS. Through member discussion of specific key questions, a "sense of the group" is arrived at by the exchange of ideas and opinions. This parallels the give-and-take of legislative-body decision making. Sometimes, no member agreement is reached.

When a consensus is found, the Board reviews the process and ratifies it. The Board selects the exact wording that best expresses the League's point of view on the issue, and this becomes the basis for League actions. These statements of consensus are called POSITIONS.

Besides consensus, there are two other bases on which the League may act. One is called the CONCURRENCE process. This is reserved for those few issues on which further study seems redundant. A League's membership or its Board may concur with the recommendations of a task force, a League resource committee, decision statements formulated by League boards, or positions reached by other Leagues.

Some years ago, some beliefs about government seemed so basic and incontrovertible that they were formulated into League principles, and action can be based on these also. League positions often are expressed in general terms so that they can be used to take action on many facets of an issue over time. They do not usually spell out one specific solution. Instead, they are often supplemented with a list of criteria that are useful in judging the merits of a particular proposed solution. The League calls these lists of criteria YARDSTICKS. It is not necessary for a proposal to comply with every criterion on a yardstick for it to secure League support.

League positions remain in effect until re-evaluation is appropriate.

Only the president or president's representative speaks in the name of the League. Individual members may not put forth League positions in public testimony or letters-to-the-editor but may suggest that the president do so. They are encouraged to speak or write as informed individual citizens, however.

League action takes many forms. It may be appropriate to lobby, monitor meetings, write letters, make speeches, poll citizens, circulate petitions, put out publications, form coalitions or even go to court. Basically, an action program aims to increase public awareness of an issue and secure a resolution consistent with League goals.

Voter Service and Education

This very important area of League activity helps provide community-wide recognition and support for the entire League. It is often what the community thinks of first when the League is mentioned. Voter service activities take many forms: sponsoring candidate meetings, debates and interviews, publishing candidate responses to questionnaires, registering citizens to vote, making voting information available, sponsoring get-out-the-vote campaigns, and publishing background materials on current public issues and lists of sources of information on these issues.

League citizen information activities, by raising issues and providing information on all sides of the issue, attempt to help voters think through public issues and reach their own decisions. These activities are distinct from the League's action agenda, which may call for League to be working for a particular resolution of an issue. Because voter service activities do not take sides on issues, they may be funded by tax-deductible contributions to the League of Women Voters of North Carolina Education Fund or, on the national level, to the League of Women Voters Education Fund.

How the League is Financed

Dues are a major source of income, although they are kept low enough to allow most interested citizens to join. A large portion of local dues goes to support the state and national levels of League through assessments call per member payments. These PMPs make local fundraising beyond dues absolutely imperative. All members are asked to give of their time or money to local fund drives.

League Meetings

General meetings of the entire membership can be supplemented with committee meetings or a smaller meeting, called a unit, which meets at a place and time convenient to a particular segment of members. The goal is to increase participation opportunities.

League 101 Powerpoint

For a Powerpoint presentation about about the history, traditions, and practices of the League, click here. This includes our commitment to non-partisan action and educating voters about issues in their communities.