A Project of
The League of Women Voters Education Fund
State and Local League Guidelines
for Candidate Participation and Publishing Statements
VOTE411.org (VOTE411) is a website with nationwide electoral information that is made possible by the League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF). The LWVEF has long been a trusted source of objective and nonpartisan information about candidates and issues. VOTE411 is an innovative voter information resource that provides citizens across the country with nonpartisan educational information and addresses the issues foremost in the minds of American voters.
VOTE411 will host online voters’ guides for candidates and ballot measures. The purpose is to educate the nation’s electorate in a nonpartisan manner, and to stimulate voter interest and participation in the electoral process. In an effort to use technology to further its educational goals, the LWVEF has developed the following suggested guidelines for state and local Leagues that choose to participate in VOTE411, which includes online presentations of candidates’ views on issues. These guidelines are designed to apply established principles governing voter education activities to “online” projects.
Leagues participating in VOTE411 are strongly encouraged to adopt a set of criteria and operating procedures based on the following suggested guidelines and adapt them to meet the legal requirements of the relevant jurisdictions. Upon adoption, the sponsoring League is asked to send a copy of their guidelines to firstname.lastname@example.org at the League's national office.
- All legally qualified candidates, as defined by the relevant elections officials, for an office being covered on VOTE411 should be invited to participate in the VOTE411 system.
- The definition of a legally qualified candidate will vary among relevant jurisdictions and needs to be verified by the sponsoring League at the start of each election cycle. As an example, the FEC definition of a legally qualified candidate is an individual who has filed for office, is eligible under the applicable laws to hold the office being sought, and either has qualified to be on the ballot or has publicly committed to be a write-in candidate and can show that the candidacy is bona fide (e.g., by making campaign speeches, distributing literature, issuing press releases, maintaining a campaign committee and/or establishing campaign headquarters).The sponsoring League will issue invitations for candidate participation, once the deadline for registering as a candidate with the relevant elections officials has passed, to all candidates who have filed to run for the office being covered.
- In circumstances where a candidate, although listed by the relevant elections officials or the FEC, has publicly stated that he/she is not running for office, or has publicly announced that he/she is dropping out of the election, the sponsoring League, after verifying that the candidate is not running, may remove the candidate and all of his/her content from VOTE411. Verification can be accomplished by written notification from the candidate, media coverage, written or oral notice from the candidate's party or a well-documented phone call from the candidate's campaign. Removing such individuals, who have publicly stated that they are not candidates, serves the public interest and furthers the LWVEF's mission to provide comprehensive, nonpartisan, educational information to voters.
- In circumstances where it would serve the public interest and further the LWVEF's mission to provide comprehensive, nonpartisan, educational information, a sponsoring League may choose to begin election coverage and invite candidate participation prior to the close of the filing period. Factors to consider when deciding to cover elections early include active campaigning by at least two candidates for a given office, significant media attention and a demonstrated strong public interest in a particular election. In such instances it may be important, as a voter service, for Leagues to get involved in covering the election process at an earlier date.
In such instances the sponsoring League shall use one of the following two criteria to identify those candidates eligible to participate:
1) Candidate has filed official paperwork to run for office with the appropriate election officials.
2) Candidate has filed official paperwork with the appropriate elections officials (i.e. state/municipal/county/city), to establish a campaign committee and/or begin raising or spending campaign funds.
Leagues that begin VOTE411 election coverage prior to the close of the filing period must establish both the date on which they will initiate coverage and a schedule (e.g. every two weeks) for consulting the relevant elections officials to update the list of candidates for any new additions. Once the filing deadline has passed, any person who has not formally registered as a candidate with the relevant elections officials shall be dropped from the VOTE411 system.
Leagues are required to adopt one of the following practices:
1. Publish all candidate data at the same time after the submission deadline passed and neither accept responses from candidates who have not met the deadline nor accept revised responses from candidates who have met the deadline.
-- OR --
2. Publish candidate data as soon as it is submitted and alert candidates that their data will be available shortly after they submit their statements.
Guidelines for State and Local Leagues
Adopted January 2011
Revised October 2014