Making Democracy Work

The Process

We are truly a grassroots organization...

Taking Action on Positions

The League of Women Voters takes action on an issue or advocates for a cause when there is an existing League position that supports the issue or speaks to the cause.

Positions result from a process of study. Any given study, whether it be National, State, or Local, is thorough in its pursuit of facts and details. As the study progresses, a continuing discussion of pros and cons of each situation occurs. Prior to the results of the study being presented to the general membership, study committee members fashion consensus questions that are then addressed by the membership.

Additional discussion, pro and con, takes place as members (including those who were not part of the study committee) learn the scope of the study. After the members reach consensus, the board forms positions based on that consensus.

It is the consensus statement -- the statement resulting from the consensus questions -- that becomes a position. Firm action or advocacy can then be taken on the particular issue addressed by the position. Without a position, action/advocacy cannot be taken.

The LWVRI has adopted positions on a variety of issues. Background information and publications related to these positions is also available The LWVRI also used positions of the LWVUS to lobby and advocate in Rhode Island. The publication, Impact on Issues published by the LWVUS, lists all of the national positions.

Setting Priorities

The League sets priorities for timely action on local positions before taking action.

How Priorities are Set

When setting priorities, the League considers the following:

  • Does the League have a unique role to play or would the League's assets (time and money) be better spent on other activities?
  • Does the issue conform to League principles or positions?
  • Does the issue have some chance of success or make an important statement for the League?
  • Are other organizations or a coalition already working on the issue?

Advocacy and Lobbying--What's the Difference?

Advocacy vs. Lobbying

Advocacy is a broader concept than lobbying. While lobbying can be part of an advocacy strategy, advocacy does not necessarily include lobbying. Lobbying is defined as an attempt to influence specific legislation, both legislation that has already been introduced in a legislative body and specific legislative proposals that the League or others may either oppose or support.

Lobbying includes action that transmits a point of view on a specific piece of legislation to elected officials or their staffs, as well as action urging the public to contact their legislators about a specific piece of legislation. Lobbying activities must be funded through general operating funds (501(c)4).

Advocacy activities, on the other hand, can sometimes be funded with tax-deductible monies. This is the case even when only one side of an issue is presented, as long as no call to action on a particular piece of legislation is issued. Such activities can include: (1) developing public policy briefs that analyze issues and provide detailed information and recommendations for addressing them through specific reforms and (2) providing forums for discussing issues and educating policymakers and the public.

Affecting Change on Three Levels: National, State, and Local

Leagues at all three levels may develop positions through study and consensus. Local and State Leagues may use positions developed through nation-wide studies to support action on the state and local levels. Much of the LWVRI's lobbying on voting rights, for example, is based on LWVUS positions. One of the most important tenets of the League is "speaking with one voice." State Leagues, for example, may not develop positions that are antithetical to National positions. Local and state Leagues with the permission of the LWVUS may lobby members of the U.S. Congress on state issues and local Leagues may lobby RI state legislators with permission of the LWVRI Board. In fact, local League members are encouraged to do so on the issues that the LWVUS and the LWVRI have prioritized. In fact, Leagues are encouraged to participate as members of the "Grass Roots Lobbying Corps. More information on how lobbying works in League visit the LWVUS web site.