The League of Women Voters
Here's What It Is and What It Does
April 10, 1960
By Shannon O'Neil
HAVE you registered to vote yet? During registration periods, this question is asked innumerable times by the 100 members of the League of Women Voters of Honolulu.
The League is a nonpartisan organization whose purpose is to promote political responsibility and active participation of citizens in government.
Outside of the pointblank question mentioned above, just how does the League fulfill its purpose?
Basically, it follows this four-part program:
- Study a government issue selected by members.
- Take a position.
- Try to influence others to agree with their position by holding public and citizen's committee meetings.
- Lobby on the issue.
To accomplish the latter, the members send out letters, talk to legislators and councilmen to influence them, prepare handbills and publications and use the media of radio, television and coffee hours.
They work on two levels, national and City-County of Honolulu.
On the national level, they study such issues as foreign policy and water resources and maintain a list of "national continuing responsibilities," which are selected issues on which the League has already taken a stand and which are being watched with a view to further action.
These continuing responsibilities are:
- Modification of Federal loyalty-security programs to limit scope, standardize procedures, apply "common sense" judgment and provide the greatest possible protection for the individual.
- Self-government for the District of Columbia; extension of national suffrage to citizens of the District.
- Measures granting the President authority to veto items in appropriation bills.
- Opposition to constitutional limitation on tax rates.
- Opposition to constitutional changes that would limit the existing powers of the Executive and the Congress over foreign relations.
On the City-County level, their prime study item currently is waste disposal and other factors contributing to air pollution in Honolulu.
As refuse disposal is considered a major contributor to air pollution, the League is studying land fill, incineration and composting in an attempt to find out which method would be most effective and economical for the City-County.
This study began in its research committee. Members read all they could on the subject, wrote letters to Mainland cities such as Los Angeles and Milwaukee to see how they handled the problem. and interviewed public officials for further information.
The research committee will then present its findings to area unit meetings for discussion.
If, after several unit meetings, they have not reached general agreement, a general membership meeting may be required.
Without this general agreement, the League cannot take a stand on any issue, she added.
The League also carries on a "Voters Service."
During election time, an equal number of candidates from bath parties attend league-sponsored meetings at which they are given an opportunity to speak and answer questions.
At the same time, candidate sketches containing biographies and viewpoints are published in local newspapers.
Voters' Service also holds public meetings to explain both sides of current issues, such as fluoridation and bond issues.
The members then get citizens to register and vote.
During the special election on the City-County charter, Voters' Service passed out 10,000 handbills urging people to register to vote.
And just how much have they accomplished with all this work?
The Honolulu League points with pride to projects that have felt its influence.
In past years, it helped secure enabling legislation for the City-County charter.
It worked for a medico-legal investigative system to replace the Coroner's office. This has been incorporated in the new charter.
Recently, it helped promote a new jail in Halawa. Money has been authorized and plans are being completed by the architects.
Once a project is completed, these women do not sit idle.
There are always new issues to take up, both locally and nationally.
As one of more than 1,000 local Leagues, which together form the League of Women Voters of the United States, the group sends representatives to the national convention, which is held every other year.
In this way, it keeps in touch with new policies and aims of the National League and finds help in resolving local problems.