Making Democracy Work

Action and Advocacy

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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 (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.

National Public Policy Positions

National League Positions in Brief For the full position see

REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT: Promote an open governmental system that is representative, accountable and responsive.

Voting Rights Citizen's Right to Vote. Protect the right of all citizens to vote; encourage all citizens to vote. DC Self-Government and Full Voting Representation. Secure for the citizens of the District of Columbia the rights of self-government and full voting representation in both houses of Congress.

Election Process Apportionment. Support apportionment of congressional districts and elected legislative bodies at all levels of government based substantially on population.

Campaign Finance. Improve methods of financing political campaigns in order to ensure the public's right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office and promote citizen participation in the political process.

Selection of the President. Promote the election of the President and Vice-President by direct-popular-vote. Support uniform national voting qualifications and procedures for presidential elections. Support efforts to provide voters with sufficient information about candidates.

Citizen Rights Citizen's Right to Know/Citizen Participation. Protect the citizen's right to know and facilitate citizen participation in government decision-making. Individual Liberties. Oppose major threats to basic constitutional rights.

Public Policy on Reproductive Choices. Protect the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices. Congress and the Presidency

Congress. Support responsive legislative processes characterized by accountability, representativeness, decision making capability and effective performance.

The Presidency. Promote a dynamic balance of power between the executive and legislative branches within the framework set by the Constitution.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Promote peace in an interdependent world by working cooperatively with other nations and strengthening international organizations.

United Nations Support a strong, effective United Nations to promote international peace and security and to address the social, economic and humanitarian needs of all people.

Trade Support U.S. trade policies that reduce trade barriers, expand international trade and advance the achievement of humanitarian, environmental and social goals.

U.S. Relations with Developing Countries Promote U.S. policies that meet long-term social and economic needs of developing countries.

Arms Control Reduce the risk of war through support of arms control measures.

Military Policy and Defense Spending Work to limit reliance on military force. Examine defense spending in the context of total national needs.

NATURAL RESOURCES Promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest.

Natural Resources: Promote the management of natural resources as interrelated parts of life-supporting ecosystems.

Resource Management Promote resource conservation, stewardship and long-range planning, with the responsibility for managing natural resources shared by all levels of government.

Environmental Protection and Pollution Control Preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the ecosystem, with maximum protection of public health and the environment.

Air Quality. Promote measures to reduce pollution from mobile and stationary sources.

Energy. Support environmentally sound policies that reduce energy growth rates, emphasize energy conservation and encourage the use of renewable resources. Land Use. Promote policies that manage land as a finite resource and that incorporate principles of stewardship.

Water Resources. Support measures to reduce pollution in order to protect surface water, groundwater and drinking water.

Waste Management. Promote policies to reduce the generation and promote the reuse and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes.

Nuclear Issues. Promote the maximum protection of public health and safety and the environment.

Public Participation Promote public understanding and participation in decision making as essential elements of responsible and responsive management of our natural resources.

Agriculture Policy Promote adequate supplies of food and fiber at reasonable prices to consumers and support economically viable farms, environmentally sound farm practices and increased reliance on the free market.

SOCIAL POLICY Secure equal rights and equal opportunity for all. Promote social and economic justice and the health and safety of all Americans.

Equality of Opportunity

Equal Rights. Support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and efforts to bring laws into compliance with the goals of the ERA.

Education, Employment and Housing. Support equal access to education, employment and housing.

Fiscal Policy

Tax Policy. Support adequate and flexible funding of federal government programs through an equitable tax system that is progressive overall and that relies primarily on a broad-based income tax.

Federal Deficit. Promote responsible deficit policies.

Funding of Entitlements. Support a federal role in providing mandatory, universal, old-age, survivors, disability and health insurance.

Health Care Promote a health care system for the United States that provides access to a basic level of quality care for all U.S. residents and controls health care costs.

Immigration Promote reunification of immediate families; meet the economic, business and employment needs of the United States; be responsive to those facing political persecution or humanitarian crises; and provide for student visas. Ensure fair treatment under the law for all persons. In transition to a reformed system, support provisions for unauthorized immigrants already in the country to earn legal status.

Meeting Basic Human Needs Support programs and policies to prevent or reduce poverty and to promote self-sufficiency for individuals and families.

Income Assistance. Support income assistance programs, based on need, that provide decent, adequate standards for food, clothing and shelter.

Support Services. Provide essential support services.

Housing Supply. Support policies to provide a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.

Child Care Support programs and policies to expand the supply of affordable, quality child care for all who need it.

Early Intervention for Children at Risk Support policies and programs that promote the well-being, development and safety of all children.

Violence Prevention Support violence prevention programs in communities.

Gun Control Protect the health and safety of citizens through limiting the accessibility and regulating the ownership of handguns and semi-automatic weapons. Support regulation of firearms for consumer safety.

Urban Policy Promote the economic health of cities and improve the quality of urban life.

Death Penalty The LWVUS supports abolition of the death penalty. Whatever the issue, the League believes that efficient and economical government requires competent personnel, the clear assignment of responsibilities, adequate financing, coordination among levels of government, effective enforcement and well defined channels for citizen input and review.

State Policy Statements


POSITIONS IN BRIEF for complete position see the State League Policy Page The following are the Positions in Brief for the League of Women Voters of Illinois. Prior to application of the state positions at the local and/or regional level, Leagues should refer to the complete position printed in Where We Stand, including background and previous action.

GOVERNMENT POSITIONS: The Illinois League takes action on the state level in the following public policy areas based on these LWVUS positions: citizen rights, including citizen's right to know/citizen participation, individual liberties and public policy on reproductive choices; Congress and the Presidency; election process, including apportionment, campaign finance, and selection of the President; and voting rights.

CONSTITUTIONAL IMPLEMENTATION AND AMENDMENTS: The League supports implementation of provisions for governmental change in the Local Government Article, and amendments to achieve merit selection of judges, a progressive, graduated income tax, the indirect statutory initiative and the recall of elected judges. The League maintains its support for positions already achieved in the Constitution but which may require effort to preserve.

COUNTY GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE: The League supports expanded citizen initiative powers to change the structure of county government. Petition requirements for citizen-initiated change should be a percentage of actual voters in a recent jurisdiction-wide election. The League supports changes in the Illinois County Executive Act to provide a clear separation of powers between the legislative and the executive branches and easily understood referendum language.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The League supports the increased use of intermediate sanctions in the community. Judges should retain discretion to choose between imprisonment and probation for most offenses. The League supports a sufficient number of trained probation officers and other court personnel, prompt trials, enforcement of jail standards and a system of bail that does not rely on financial ability as a criterion for pretrial release. Correctional services should conform to national professional standards, with programs and services that offer the opportunity for self-improvement. The League believes that the justice system must be adequately funded to carry out its goals. State funds should emphasize community sanctions over the construction of prisons. The League supports the expansion of prevention and treatment programs in order to ease the burden on the criminal justice system.

DEATH PENALTY ABOLITION: The League supports abolition of the death penalty in Illinois.

GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION: The League supports legislative controls to stop the proliferation of private ownership of handguns and their irresponsible use. The League advocates restricting access to automatic and semi-automatic assault type weapons.

SCHOOLS: The League supports a system of high quality elementary and secondary schools for all children in Illinois, which provides for local control of school program and budget within minimum program requirements set by the State. The State should provide leadership to local communities for program development and should set standards for recognition and accreditation of schools. The effectiveness of educational programs should be evaluated regularly. The League favors minimum standards for graduation and promotion of students. The League supports increased professionalism for teachers including stringent teacher preparation standards, comprehensive teacher and principal evaluations, changes in tenure and increased teacher compensation. The State should assume the major responsibility for funding public schools and guarantee an adequate level of financial support. League believes that charters should be established by local school boards and that the Illinois State Board of Education should continue to monitor the progress of existing charter schools before supporting further expansion.

STATE ELECTION LAWS: The League supports uniform election laws and procedures throughout the state to ensure the integrity of the election system and opposes term limits for members of the General Assembly. The League believes that a good election system should provide stability and continuity of governance and should produce a legislature that addresses the problems of society effectively. It should be resistant to both outright fraud and other forms of political manipulation.

STATE FISCAL POLICIES: The League supports a diversified revenue system, which principally relies on a combination of broad-based taxes and user fees, is equitable, progressive, stable, responsive and simple.

STATE REDISTRICTING: The League supports a redistricting process, which is timely, orderly and meets the basic criteria relating to population, compactness and contiguity and the requirements of the 1965 U.S. Voting Rights Act and subsequent amendments.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS POSITIONS: The Illinois League takes action on international relations issues only at the request of the LWVUS. These positions include: arms control; military policy and defense spending; trade; United Nations; and U.S. relations with developing countries.

NATURAL RESOURCES POSITIONS: The Illinois League takes action on the state level in the following public policy areas based on these LWVUS positions: agriculture policy; environmental protection and pollution control; natural resources; public participation; and resource management.

LAND USE: The League supports development of a comprehensive land use policy for Illinois that provides for orderly growth while preserving the environment, conserving natural resources and providing needed open space. The State should identify, plan for and have the final authority over key and critical areas within the state. Standards and guidelines for land use should be developed by the State with local governments making purely local decisions. At every stage there should be citizen input. The State should plan for adequate supplies of low and moderate income housing with every community providing a percentage under some kind of fair share plan. The League favors regional planning agencies with mandatory and continuous funding from local, regional and state sources. The League supports state enabling legislation for development impact fees.

LARGE-SCALE LIVESTOCK FACILITIES: The League supports strict regulation of large-scale livestock facilities on the state, regional and county levels to include statewide environmental controls, public hearings prior to siting and regional and/or county control of siting.

PESTICIDES: The League supports reduction of exposure to all pesticides. The use of non-toxic alternatives should be encouraged.

SOCIAL POLICY POSITIONS: The Illinois League takes action on the state level in the following public policy areas based on these LWVUS positions: child care; early intervention for children at risk; equality of opportunity, including opposition to school vouchers and tuition tax credits, employment issues, affirmative action, fair housing, and equal rights; fiscal policy (see Government); gun control (see Government); health care; meeting basic human needs; urban policy; and violence prevention.

CHILDREN'S SERVICES: The League believes that the State should play the leading role in meeting the needs of children and their families. This responsibility applies across systems of care regardless of age or legal status. The State has the primary role in funding to ensure that quality services are equitably available throughout the state. The League supports a continuum of community-based services that strengthens and preserves families and fosters healthy growth and development of children. Prevention and early intervention should have high priority. The League supports a juvenile court system that provides opportunities for effective protection, treatment, and rehabilitation. Detention should be reserved for delinquent children who meet professional screening criteria and provided separately from adult programs. The League opposes the automatic transfer of children to the criminal court and the death penalty for children.

IMMIGRATION: The League supports State and local community efforts to provide orientation and counseling services for all immigrants. The League supports provisions for educational programs and materials on rights in the workplace for all workers, driving certificates for undocumented workers and the availability of auto insurance for holders of certificates. The League opposes deputizing state and local police to enforce immigration laws, and ordinances that penalize landlords for renting to or prohibit issuance of business permits to the undocumented immigrants. The League opposes extending the right to vote to the undocumented immigrants.

INCOME ASSISTANCE: The League supports income assistance and supportive services for all low-income individuals and families.

MENTAL HEALTH: The League supports a comprehensive and coordinated system of treatment and rehabilitation services for adults and children with mental illness. There should be adequate funding, planning, program standards, and personnel training requirements for both state facilities and community programs. The League supports a broad array of adequate and accessible community services. Although primary responsibility should rest with the state, funding from local, federal, and non-governmental sources should be encouraged. A system of local boards to levy taxes, administer all funds, and to plan and coordinate services should be required throughout the state. The State should require local governments to provide in their zoning ordinances for residential programs for persons with mental illness.

ACTION FOCI and STUDIES FISCAL POLICY AND TAX REFORM: Promote efforts to address the inequities of the state fiscal system in order to provide stable, reliable and adequate revenues for public education and other social services.

CAMPAIGN AND ETHICS REFORM: Promote efforts to impose contribution limits, require full, immediate disclosure of all contributions, and to provide enforcement and monitoring mechanism to assure transparency.

TRUE CENSUS COUNT 2010 AND REDISTRICTING REFORM: Promote full participation of all Illinois residents in the 2010 Census in order to achieve a full count and to promote a redistricting process that is timely, orderly, transparent, and meets the basic criteria relating to population, compactness, contiguity, and the requirements of the 1965 U.S. Voting Rights Act and subsequent amendments.

UPDATE POSITION ON RECALL AND TERM LIMITS: These topics were controversial during discussions relating to the convening of a constitutional convention in 2008 and continue to be discussed in light of efforts in 2009 to impose term limits on legislative leadership. The current LWVIL position supports Recall only for elected judges and is found under the Constitutional Implementation and Amendments Position. LWVIL opposes Term Limits for members of the General Assembly. This position can be found under State Election Laws. This update is conditional upon League members' willingness to serve on a committee that will review these positions and make recommendations.

Local Policy Statement

  • Support a public school system that is equitable both in quality for all students and in financing for the taxpayer
  • Support the implementation of action plans as developed in partnership with school personnel and citizens

  • Support policies/programs through organizations and coalitions that promote the well-being, development, health and safety of all children
  • Focus on prevention of crime and violence by supporting activities of the Violence Prevention Collaborative
  • Support the study of a comprehensive approach on planning and conducting behavioral health services to meet the needs of the citizens of greater Rockford

  • Support improved election services for all citizens of Winnebago county by consolidating the administration of election services in an independent county-wide commission created by the enactment of enabling legislation by the State of Illinois
  • Support home rule in Rockford
  • Support efforts to reduce the size of the Winnebago County Board

  • Support the Winnebago County 2030 Land Resource Management Plan
  • Support improved waste management
  • Support the protection and conservation of natural resources including land, water and air

Take a Seat at the Table!

"If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."
-Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

Take a Seat at the Table. Run for office. Sign up for a campaign training program in your area. There are a whole host of organizations, including the Center for American Women in Politics, She Should Run, Emily's List, Emerge America, Illinois Women's Institute for Leadership (IWIL), Ready to Run Illinois and the Excellence in Public Service Series. Your local officeholders and state party organizations (Chairmen's Association, Illinois Democratic Women, Illinois Federation of Republican Women) might be holding trainings as well.

Ask a woman to run. And then tell her you will help her, and find others to help her. And then ask another woman. Research that shows that women are far less likely than men to get asked to run for office by formal political actors, including other elected officials and party leaders.

Get appointed to office. Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of positions available on state, county and local boards and commissions around the country? Did you also know that appointed positions often have significant policymaking authority? Start researching the boards and commissions in your town, county, or state and find out how to get appointed to the ones that interest you. Find a commission you are interested in and show up at every meeting.

Join your local party organization. In Illinois, it only takes 10 signatures to get on the ballot to become a precinct committeewoman. Many counties have dozens of open slots that you can be appointed to. As a precinct committeewoman, you can vote and run for county party leadership. Committeepersons are often the power base of a local party. Once in office, knock on doors, participate at meetings, and attend fundraisers. Prove that you can turn out your precinct on Election Day.

If you are already a party leader, take the time to mentor women who could come along the leadership ladder with you.

Volunteer on a campaign. Take the time to volunteer and learn as much as you can about the campaign and political campaign organizing. Take a campaign training class (see #1.) Party leaders and elected officials will be grateful for your help, and will soon look to you as a leader.

Talk to an elected woman or a woman party leader. Make an appointment or, if you know her personally, invite her for a cup of coffee. Ask her these questions: why did you run? What is the best thing about public service? How can I be of help to you?

Give money to women candidates. Even if they don't live in your district, it's worth supporting women candidates whose values match yours.

Give money to advocacy organizations focused on issues you believe in. Pick at least one or two causes that are most important to you, and find the organizations that best meet your goals on those issues. Sign up to be a regular supporter + remember, no amount is too small.

Become a Citizen Lobbyist. Write, email and call your elected officials. The only way they know how you feel about an issue is if they hear from you. Find out WHO your state and local representatives are, and make a point to contact them about state and local issues.

Advocate as a team. Elected officials may not have time to meet with every constituent, but they and their staff do often meet with groups of concerned citizens. Form a group around an issue and request a meeting.

Find your own public voice. Lots of people are nervous about public speaking, but you have to be able to articulate your message and inspire your audience. There are five Toastmasters clubs in Rockford. Join one and start practicing!

Thank you to Congresswoman Cheri Bustos for sharing this wonderful list encouraging women to become involved.