The following is an announcement from LWVCC President Trisha Crowley.
https://www.lwv.org/league-management/policies-guidelines/guidelines-state-and-local-league-debates-including-emptyAs part of its mission to educate voters, this League presents candidate forums for locally contested races, if 2 or more candidates have agreed to attend the forum. We do not present a forum where only one candidate in a contested race has agreed to appear.
Several members of the League have expressed disappointment about this “empty chair” policy of the League. They have pointed out this policy can lead to manipulation by candidates who refuse to appear based on motives other than availability.
The purpose of these forums is to provide voters with a side-by-side comparison of candidates who are answering the same questions in the same format. Its purpose is not to provide publicity for the one candidate, however informative it may be to the voter. The League does not evaluate the reason or non-reason a candidate who does not wish to appear gives. Maybe it’s a conflict with a previously scheduled event. Maybe the candidate does not wish to appear together with his/ her opponent. We do not ask because the reason is not the point. By giving one candidate in a race a public arena to make his/ her case, the League could arguably appear to be supporting one candidate over another. This is something we go to great lengths to avoid as our non-partisan reputation is one we value highly.
Part of the reason for this policy is legal. The League is a tax-exempt organization and governed by IRS, FEC and FCC regulations which require it to maintain a non-partisan stance in order to maintain its tax exempt status.
Further information about the policy is available at the website of the national League of Women Voters :
We urge those looking for comments directly from candidates to go to VoteChampaign.org, a League- affiliated website which provides a host of informational resources about candidates.