Op-Ed: Issues with the League of Women Voter’s Statement

By Lou Segal

On May 13 the League of Women Voters (LWV) put out a statement to Edhat focusing on a disputed timeline with respect to their release form, which was issued to the two candidates for County Superintendent of Schools. Rather than try to figure out on what day the LWV received or sent emails to the Christy Lozano campaign, I would prefer to focus on the rules the LWV ask the candidates to comply with in their forums.

Before hosting a forum, the LWV requires each of the candidates to sign a release form. In the release form, they have various rules the candidates must promise to obey. The LWV sent two release forms to the Lozano campaign, both of which Ms. Lozano objected to. Apparently, Ms. Lozano rejected the first release form, and subsequently informed the LWV that she couldn’t agree to the language in the second release form either, which had been revised to accommodate her.

I have looked closely at these release forms and was startled to see the restrictions they had placed on the candidates. The first LWV release form prohibited any references to the other candidates’ qualifications or activities, meaning it would have been impossible for candidates to examine the record of their opponents and to expose the apparent contradictions between the representations and assertions of their opponents and their actual performance and track record. The exact language from the first release form reads as follows, “I will not, in any way, make reference to any candidates or to another candidate’s qualifications, character, or activities – either positively or negatively”. Subsequently, the LWV relented and revised this sentence to say, “I will not, in any way, make negative reference to other candidate(s) or their personal qualifications or character. I may state my disagreements with their views on issues or proposed legislation, but only to provide examples of issues on which we disagree. My focus will be on my views, not those of the other candidates(s).”

Although the revised language is far more preferable than the overly restrictive language in the first release form, it still is too vague and could potentially limit the candidate’s ability to criticize their opponent’s record. For instance, what does the LWV mean by “negative reference to other candidates(s)”? If a candidate lied or misrepresented his/her own record and the opponent pointed this out, would this be characterized as a “negative reference” by the LWV?

The problem with the language in the LWV release forms is that you can’t have a real debate/forum if you don’t allow the candidates to talk about the opponents’ qualifications, experience, track record and character. In the end, you need to let the candidates answer the questions any way they like within the time constraints, and let the voters decide if the candidates’ answers were factually accurate or baseless personal attacks. I don’t see why we need to replace the reasoning of the voters with the judgement of the LWV. We don’t need a sponsoring organization to decide what they can hear or not hear.

What the LWV wanted was a stilted forum where the candidates responded to a set list of questions with unreasonable rules as to what the candidates can say, making it nearly impossible to explore the candidates’ views and positions on a wide range of issues. If you were going to do it this way, then just send each candidate the questions and have the answers printed on their website or in the local newspaper. The idea should be to bring the candidates together for an open exchange, giving the voters as much information as possible so they can make an informed decision.
It is quite ironic that LWV proudly states on its letterhead that they empower voters. I would say the Santa Barbara chapter disempowers voters with their overly restrictive rules. Even other chapters disagree with the approach taken by local chapter. Another chapter’s website states, “a good format should make it easy for the candidates to discuss the issues and respond to opponents.” Maybe it would be enlightening for the people running the Santa Barbara chapter to consult with their brothers and sisters in the LWV organization as to how to conduct a substantive and informed candidate forum.

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  1. The rules are pretty simple. Apparently one party can’t understand them or follow them. The intention of the forum is for the candidates to talk about their own experience and qualifications. It is a forum and not a debate. The LWV already released an update on this. Not too hard to understand for many. If you want to host a debate where the candidates can take jabs at each other – then you should do that. The LWV did not.

  2. Generaltree says it well. The LWV forum is not intended as a place where candidates attack or even question each other. It is a place where they can present their own platform to the voters. I believe the League asks questions, and each candidate gets a chance to respond. The voters listen and assess the responses. Other formats can also be useful, but the LWV has their format, and it has worked well for many years.

  3. I don’t agree with the LWV rules, but respect their right to assert them. Having sat through multiple League debates, I find them wonky, long and boring, and I care about local issues! The rules not allowing a challenger to comment on their opponent’s record is a problem. Think about such a forum with Trump as a candidate. You can’t point out he messed up horribly with the Pandemic, or his criminal issues, or his role in the 1/6 assault on the Capitol. You’d only be able to say, “I support not encouraging people to attack the Capitol.” Ummmm

  4. Why are so many supporting the failing status quo? Do they like to keep kids down? Keep an under educated servant class? What is it with failing schools that the incumbent supporters love?

  5. RHS, I would argue the LWV doesn’t really know the difference between a debate and a forum, since they revised the language in the release form to allow more of what you are claiming is actually a debate. Also, it’s interesting that by refusing to sign a form which puts limitations on what you can say is what you call a “temper tantrum”. Hmm

  6. Let’s examine what you call a “unilateral temper tantrum”
    She gets an invitation to a forum. She accepts. A few days later she receives the release form. She objects to the language and gives LWV feedback. Ten days later she receives a second release form with revised language re: allowing more debate-like rules. She asks for further clarification. LWV gives her ultimatum; either sign form or forum is canceled. LWV unilaterally cancels forum. One could argue about who had the “unilateral temper tantrum” (your term).

  7. I have been to a few LWV that these ladies organized forum/debates long before COVID, and the one thing I have noticed, these ladies are one sided. They do have their preferences towards a candidate. I can just tell from looking in their eyes, their smile and their body movement. Ever so often I do sense and pick up these feelings.

  8. Firstly, thank you for the informative article. It sheds some light on previously murky coverage on the topic. As a parent of children that up until recently were in the SB public school system, I have one thing to say: We have 67,000 students in the public school system and half of them are not up to state standards in literacy. I know that first hand from my kids’ experiences. Personally, I don’t need any more debate. Salcido is fired. It’s not acceptable. It’s time for change. Vote Lozano.

  9. 7:34am–Oh apologies, she has even more potential responsibility and impact coordinating countywide policy for multiple school districts. If it’s such a superfluous position, why is she running and why are the CRT chicken littles squawking so loudly? Correction: she has no business running a taco stand.

  10. ” You can’t point out he messed up horribly with the Pandemic, or his criminal issues, or his role in the 1/6 assault on the Capitol. ”
    You don’t actually believe any of that, which is why you went incognito here.

  11. I don’t know why Lozano would bother with the League of Women’s Voters. They haven’t recommended a Republican since the steam engine was invented. I use their work to differentiate between Democrats in the Democratic primaries. On the Propositions they seem so absolutely progressive on tax increases that the only logical conclusion to their progress is when the people have no more money of their own.

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