These last months before a November election are always a busy time for League. The last weeks of September saw our League members registering voters.
League participated in National Voter Registration Day on September 23rd with a table for most of the day at Green Acres Mall. Thanks to the many volunteers and also to Peter Rosenthal who organized this event. Marjorie Latz also registered voters at Key Foods in Valley Stream on Saturday September 20th. Thanks Marjorie and to her volunteers as well!
We had Candidate Forums scheduled in October at the Elmont Library and the Hewlett Woodmere Library. Candidate Forums are the foundation of League work. Our Candidate Forum for Assembly District 20and 21 at the Hewlett Woodmere Library and had a good turnout.
The Board had to decide to cancel the Elmont Forum due to lack of full participation by each party in each race. This was a sad day for our League. Candidates from each party in each race would not confirm they would participate.
And this unwillingness to commit was from both the Democratic and Republican side of the aisle. Because League is non-partisan and wants to provide both candidates’ positions for the office they are running, LWVSWN will not hold forums for races where both parties do not agree to participate.
There is the thought that this allows a candidate running for an office to say he/she will not participate, knowing our League will then NOT hold the forum; that candidate then appears to be “controlling” the forum process where citizens are allowed to hear their viewpoints on issues and to ask questions of the candidate.
There are many, many other venues available for citizens to hear only one of the candidates running for an office, from a Democratic or Republican club, to other civic organizations, to a local Temple or gathering at a library. Our League’s position is to educate and inform with non-partisanship as our guideline and not to provide a “one-sided” forum or gathering for an office. Were we to do so, League would become just like all the others organizations, losing its identity and integrity as being an organization that continues to educate and inform the public with non-partisan information.
The County League also had to cancel the Candidate’s Forum at Hofstra University for Congressional District #4 (Carolyn McCarthy’s seat) with Kathleen Rice (D) and Bruce Blakeman (R). Kathleen Rice agreed to participate and Bruce Blakeman did not agree.
At the National level, League, or any other organization, is not allowed to conduct a Forum for any Federal office when only one candidate agrees to participate; this decision is based on Federal Election Commission rules which do not allow an “Empty Chair” Forum for Federal offices (meaning only one candidate running for an office agrees to participate and the opposing party does not, thus, the “empty chair”).
Let’s hope that in future races, voters will have the opportunity–such as these just lost–to witness two or more candidates together, person-to-person, battling it out, putting forth their firmly-held beliefs, allowing our residents to choose between them and proudly acting as the embodiment of what democracy in America is all about. To lose this opportunity is a disservice to our citizens, frustrating for the League and simply wrong on the face of it.