Making Democracy Work

Study and Advocacy

We are truly a grassroots organization...

You can become more informed and involved in making change!

  • Attend a local area meeting or a study committee meeting to learn about an issue or help develop a position.
  • Communicate with your legislator.
  • Help to write testimony for a hearing.
There's lots to do. You can give just a few hours or many.

The League of Women Voters takes action on an issue or advocates for a cause when there is an existing League position that supports the issue or speaks to the cause.

Positions result from a process of study. Any given study, whether it be National, State, or Local, is thorough in its pursuit of facts and details. As the study progresses, a continuing discussion of pros and cons of each situation occurs. Prior to the results of the study being presented to the general membership, study committee members fashion consensus questions that are then addressed by the membership.

Additional discussion, pro and con, takes place as members (not part of the study committee) learn the scope of the study. After the members reach consensus, the board forms positions based on that consensus.

It is the consensus statement -- the statement resulting from the consensus questions -- that becomes a position. Firm action or advocacy can then be taken on the particular issue addressed by the position. Without a position, action/advocacy cannot be taken.

Public Policy Positions

The League of Women Voters is organized at three levels: national, state and local. Leagues at each level develop policy positions that apply to governmental issues that are addressed at the governmental level on which they are organized.
  • National-level positions of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. are found in the LWVUS publication Impact on Issues.
  • State-level positions of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania are found in the LWVPS publication Where We Stand.
  • Local-level positions of the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh are found in our Public Policy Positions document. The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh was formed by the merger of five local Leagues. These League became units of LWVGP. Many of the positions of those Leagues were merged to form LWVGP positions, and some positions were added after the merger by subsequent study. However, a few positions of the original Leagues applied only to a specific municipality. These positions are shown as unit positions and can be applied only within that municipality.

Election Laws Review and Update

Delegates to the June 2015 League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania State Convention voted to approve a review and update of current election law positions, "focusing specifically on apportionment and redistricting, election procedures, registration requirements, alternatives to closed primaries and alternatives to `winner take all' election systems." The topic is timely, given concern about 2016 primaries and caucuses, interest in alternatives to Pennsylvania's current closed primary system and discussions about other ways to ensure responsive government. The study guide containing background information for this study can be found here. The resulting position can be found here.

Study of Pennsylvania's Criminal Justice System

The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh has participated in a study conducted by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania to understand the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania and develop a position to recommend any needed changes. The background information for this study can be found here. Facts that became evident during the study and the resulting position can be found here.

Study of Money in Politics

The LWV of Greater Pittsburgh participated in a study of Money in Politics in which many local Leagues across the country participated. This study developed a position of the LWV of the United States that can be used for advocacy to national, state and local governments. The position statement can be found here.

Some background material available on this issue:

  • A paper describing limitations that have been applied to first amendment rights in the past here.
  • A list of definitions for Money in Politics terms here
  • A history of campaign finance regulation here.
  • An article called Hard, Soft and Dark Money that includes a chart showing the kind of organizations that can influence campaigns as they relate to agencies that oversee them and to each other here.
  • A article on Options for Reforming Money in Politics here.
  • A discussion of citizens actions to control Money in Politics here
  • A study guide that describes the study scope and process here.

Study to Update the Pennsylvania League's Education Position

The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh participated in a study conducted by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania to update the League's position on education policy that applies to actions taken by government at the state level. The study was undertaken to address the issues around the "high-stakes testing" that have become controversial.

Testing has traditionally been a teaching tool to see how much each student learned. That has changed. The pressure and policies now focus on using tests to measure teacher/school district performance to establish pay scales and Federal/State funding formulae.

Materials prepared by LWVPA for this study are: The resulting position can be found here.

Ongoing Study and Action Committees

Opportunities to participate, learn, and act:
  • We have a local study committee on "Stormwater and Wastewater" that has looked into the challenges and opportunities created by the EPA-mandated upgrades to sewer systems and storm water collection systems in Allegheny County. (This committee is currently inactive, but may be reactivated in 2016.)
  • We have a standing Education Committee that is gathering information on a wide variety of topics relating to education.
  • A multi-league committee on Shale and Public Health, hosted by our League, is gathering information and making presentations on the health effects of gas extraction from shale formations. This committee, operating under a grant received by the LWV of Pennsylvania, has presented several conferences bringing together leading public-health experts. The committee's work is ongoing and includes making presentations of its findings to organizations requesting them.
We also receive action alerts from both our state-level and national-level organizations about opportunities to advocate on issues at those levels. Some examples are redistricting of the state legislature, restoring the Voting Rights Act, and addressing climate change.

An Example of Advocacy

The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh recommends the acquisition of the Hart InterCivic configuration which uses hand-marked paper ballots, the Verity Touch Writer ballot marking device and the Verity Scan precinct level optical scanner. Full text here