Letter to the Editor

LWVTC Response to Remarks by Pete Vander Poel

Dear editor,

The League of Women Voters Tulare County (LWVTC) is committed to democracy and fair, informed elections.  Because of this, we consider Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel’s statement quoted in the January 31 print edition of The Sun-Gazette newspaper to be libelous.

In that issue it states, ‘“The League of Women Voters has claimed to strive to put on an unbiased and informative event and there has been no effort whatsoever to make that happen,’ said Vander Poel his reasoning being that three or four of the six planning organizations working with the league are allegedly backing his opponent.”

Mr. Vander Poel impugned the integrity and non-partisanship of us and our partners, making an accusation that he knew at the time to be untrue: that some (unspecified by him) co-sponsoring organizations were endorsing his opponent.  

Following the appearance of this article, the reporter was fired, and the Publisher of The Sun-Gazette, Reggie Ellis, apologized.

We had invited Mr. Vander Poel to a public candidates forum and, on December 18, 2023, informed him by letter who our partners for this event were—none of which endorse candidates.  Yet, in speaking to a reporter in late January 2024, he made this baseless claim.

Mr. Vander Poel also complained of the venue planned for the forum.  On January 17, 2024, we invited him to a new forum, on a new date, at a different venue.  He still chose not to participate.  Whatever his reasons for not wanting to participate in such a public forum, groundless remarks regarding our integrity should not be used as an excuse.

As part of our effort to encourage and enable broad participation in our democracy, the League works with a wide umbrella of nonpartisan organizations.  We have strict nonpartisan policies, and organizations wanting to cosponsor with us are always made aware that we cannot, and do not, partner with any groups who endorse candidates.  In the rare instances when a co-sponsoring organization does endorse a candidate (for any race), they must cease to be a co-sponsor.  This is our long-held standard.

The protocols governing these events are strictly determined by the League of Women Voters, and have been developed over a century of experience nationwide.  They include: inviting all candidates in a race, regardless of party; free and convenient access to the public; no campaign materials in the forum space; no cheering or jeering; encouraging written questions from the audience, sorted to eliminate redundancy, irrelevancy, hostile language, etc.; equitable time for each candidate to respond; and other such rules designed to ensure a comfortable, respectful, meaningful experience for the public and candidates alike.  

We take our nonpartisan mandate extremely seriously.


The League of Women Voters

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The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan, non-profit educational organization, which encourages informed and active participation in government, and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.

Letters to the editor are not news articles but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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