On Friday, a reader called the Centre Daily Times, worried that she had missed something.
“When is the voters guide going to be in the paper?” she asked.
The League of Women Voters Centre County collaborates on the guide before each election, providing key information every voter can use to make important decisions about which candidates to pick at the polls.
But in a year when the election is everywhere, does anyone really need more information? And what exactly is the group compiling in the guide?
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“The League of Women Voters has been, for 95 years, a nonprofit voter education organization,” said LWVCC President Candy Dannaker.
The league was founded in 1920 to help the roughly 20 million ladies who had just won the right to vote get the information they needed to cast their ballots. Today, that mission has evolved beyond educating women to helping everyone make those calls. As the population has expanded, so has their reach. That 20 million in 1920? That’s roughly the population of the state of New York today.
In Centre County alone, there are 121,629 registered voters.
There are chapters in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and even Hong Kong. Pennsylvania has 35 separate chapters.
For the guide, the LWVCC steering committee comes up with questions for every race. Each candidate is asked to answer in 100 words or less.
“The answers can be quite telling,” said voters guide editor Jackie Ribby. “You get a really good feel for who the candidate is, and what their hopes and dreams are.”
That is without prejudice or bias. The group does not take a position on a race or endorse a candidate, simply presenting the information dispassionately.
“Many of the members don’t even tell you if they are registered one way or the other,” said Dannaker.
Today, there are about three dozen members, down from a height of 85, and more are always welcome. After all, as soon as the November election is over, the LWVCC has to start preparing for its next election. In Pennsylvania, primaries and general elections are scheduled about six months apart.
And we know those voters are looking for their guide.
“If people don’t get the guide, I have calls,” said Dannaker. “It’s depended upon.”