Letter to the editor: LWV’s forums are nonpartisan, but one party’s candidates refuse to participate

Incumbent Scott Overland (left) and Sofia Mehaffey (right) at a city council candidate forum hosted by League of Women Voters Linn County on Sept. 26, 2019 at the Czech-Slovak Protective Society. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

By Paula Vaughan and Miriam Timmer-Hackert, co-presidents, League of Women Voters of Johnson County

For many years, the League of Women Voters of Johnson County, as well as Leagues across the nation, have held nonpartisan forums for the public and posted candidate questions and responses to our website The purpose of the forums and the website is to give equal exposure to all candidates so that voters will be able to make informed votes. In the past, most candidates participated. Today those of one major political party are largely absent, either declining our invitations or not responding at all after many attempts to contact them.

The district voting lines in Iowa have been re-drawn due to the 2020 Census. Many of us will see first-time or unfamiliar candidates on our ballot for the midterm election on Nov. 8. The League applauds all candidates who have stepped up to run for office and we are open to working with candidates so they are comfortable at our forums.

Forums in Johnson County are open to the public in person and are live-streamed and filmed by local TV stations for rebroadcast. League Forums and VOTE411 are ways the public can vet candidates for office. Voters elect their officials and have expectations of them. This includes respecting the audience enough to tell them the issues they consider important and being open with their views on issues that are important to the people they will represent. Officials are “hired” by voters through our election system to do a job. They, and voters, deserve interviews, not just campaign ads before the selection process takes place.

Let the candidates in your district know you want them to participate in nonpartisan forums!