Guidelines to State and Local Leagues Regarding Projects
Involving Presidential Candidates
Each state or local League that wants to undertake a project with presidential candidates during the primary or general election periods must submit a proposal to LWVEF for the LWVUS president’s approval. This is to assure consistent LWVUS/EF standards are uniformly applied to each event.
Information Required for Each Proposal
- Contains an explanation of the specific activity and how it furthers League voter education goals and how the League’s name will be used.
- Contains a timeline (when the project will begin and end) and the responsibilities of the League.
- Indicates that the League will have sufficient control over such important factors as criteria for candidate participation (all League debates must adhere to the same criteria established by LWVEF), the media plan, format and questioning to ensure that League standards for fairness and nonpartisanship are met.
- Provides names of coalition partners, including a media partner if there is one, and information on the role of the League in that context.
- Assurance that LWVEF’s adopted guidelines and criteria (see attached, below) as well as those outlined in Procedures Concerning State and Local Leagues will be followed.
- Outlines resource requirements – people, time and dollars for LWV (local, state and national) – and how the League has or can obtain the resources need to conduct the event.
- A statement on how the League proposes that the event will adhere to all applicable IRS, FCC and FEC regulations.
- Endorsement by a state League if a local League is making the proposal.
- Information regarding the availability of insurance and pro bono legal assistance.
- Information regarding how the event will further League voter education goals.
Requirements for All Approved Activities
- The LWVEF established criteria must be used verbatim in the letter of invitation and all public releases about the event(s).
- An opening and closing statement must be included at each event with or without an audience and included on any reproduction (audio or video) as follows: “A candidate’s participation in this activity does not constitute an endorsement by the League. This is purely an educational activity. The “ground rules” (e.g. all candidates that met XX criteria were invited to participate).” And any other information that may be necessary to protect the League brand.
- All candidates must be advised of how the event will be “utilized” in the letter of invitation. For example: the League will make the audio and/or video available for broadcasting purposes on XX timeline; the League may stream the audio or video on its websites; any use of the tapes requires the express written approval of the League of Women Voters of XX; and the League will only allow audio/video to be broadcast in its entirety, except by the media reporting on the event(s).
- Every candidate must sign an agreement that he/she will not use any portion of a candidate’s tape, his/her own or an opponent’s, in any manner without the express written permission of the LWV of XX.
- No candidate may use the name of the League in any manner in any advertisement.
- If there are multiple events, every tape (audio or video) must be released within the same established timeframe after that candidate’s tape is produced. For example, every tape is released the day after it is taped. All tapes made in one day should be released at the same time. It is incumbent upon LWV of XX to be fair in setting the sequence of taping. Not only is this in the interest of fairness, but it also shows that the League is treating all presidential primary candidates equally.
- The invitation to candidates must include the following statement: “The candidates may receive other requests from the League and are encouraged to participate in other League activities.”
- Additional guidance specific to Presidential debates is available below.
- The LWVUS/EF appointed events coordinator should be involved in the planning and implementation of all approved events. The coordinator must review the letter of invitation as well as the opening/closing statement that will be included at each event.
Even if the LWVEF Board of Trustees approves a request, it is not anticipated that LWVEF or LWVUS will be able to provide financial assistance.
Guidance to State/Local Leagues Regarding Co-Sponsorship
of Presidential Primary Debates
The League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF) Board of Trustees must approve any project involving presidential candidates. Please contact Jeanette Senecal at the LWVUS Office to secure approval.
Statement on the Presidential Debates for the General Election
The debates are firmly in the control of the Presidential Debates Commission for the general elections. Given this fact, there is little incentive for the commission to co-sponsor, and therefore, to share decision-making for the debates with other organizations. Similarly, there is little incentive for the candidates to debate outside the "safe" environment created by the party-controlled commission. Thus, the LWVEF does not anticipate any direct involvement in presidential general election debates.
Presidential Primary Debates
State and local Leagues - particularly in key primary states - may contemplate hosting a presidential primary debate. In order that a League understands what it really takes to host a presidential primary debate, the following questions raise important items to consider:
- Facilities to hold a debate can depend on the partners. Will it be held in a large auditorium (i.e., at a university) or a smaller venue like the studio of a television station? If in an auditorium, do you have appropriate space and technical capacity for the media to cover the event? Is there a proper staging area for candidates and their teams? Do you have appropriate security for a large venue?
- Do you have enough volunteers to assist in running the event? A core, reliable, responsive group to help coordinate in advance with the candidates and media is essential. (The LWVEF used to utilize the help of approximately 100 volunteers to support crowd management, press needs, candidate needs, etc.)
- Do you have sufficient financial and/or in-kind resources to conduct the event? Depending on the venue, costs can range from $50,000 - $500,000 for a single debate.
- Plans for any major debate should include provisions for legal advice in case it is needed. A League should be prepared to secure free or reduced rate assistance from attorneys who provide help to nonprofit organizations.
- Insurance coverage is essential for carrying out most events where the public is invited. Do you have insurance coverage? For example, the LWVUS/EF carries a policy of not less than $1 million coverage for personal injury liability, property damage, and auto liability insurance.
- If the LWV is going to moderate the event, do you have a skilled debate moderator?
After consideration of these factors, if a League wants to sponsor or co-sponsor a presidential primary debate, permission from the LWVEF Board of Trustees must be obtained. Please contact Jeanette Senecal at the LWVUS Office to secure approval.
Guidelines for State and Local Leagues
Adopted September 2007
Revised October 2011
Revised October 2014