The League of Women Voters of Klamath County has been a local voice for local voters for more than 40 years, but it may have to end its tenure if more people don’t sign up.
The league’s local chapter has 11 members, and of those, only six are active and on the board, said president Leslie Lowe. Many of those members are over the age of 70, Lowe added.
“We really want people to be able to have a voice and a vote,” Lowe said. “And if the league of women voters has a place in Klamath, we need people to add their voice to our organization.”
If the league does not get 10 new members signed up by April, the local chapter will close its doors, Lowe said.
“I hate to be a downer, but the bottom line is if we don’t get at least 10 new members, and half of those active and willing to participate, we will fold after the candidate’s night in April,” Lowe said.
The League of Women Voters of Klamath County was founded in 1972. It is nonpartisan, and members can be men and women.
Making a difference
The local league chapter is still very relevant, having affected local politics this year by making county commissioner positions nonpartisan.
The league of women voters first brought up the idea in August 2012. After not gathering enough signatures for the November 2012 ballot, league members and volunteers kept up the effort and gathered the required 1,641 signatures in time for the May 2013 election. Then voters passed it by a nearly two-to-one margin.
Before that, the league was behind the transient room tax increase, which voters passed in 2006. It raised the pre-existing 6 percent tax to 8 percent to include funding for county museums.
The league is active in every candidate election, holding nonpartisan candidate forums.
Unlike debates or partisan appearances, Lowe said the forums are designed around informing voters about the candidates.
“You’re not in a fight with people from the audience and you don’t have one candidate shooting questions at another candidate in debate style,” Lowe said. “We try to help people get an answer to a question we think is relevant to the office … Our format is informational. That’s the point of a forum. You walk out of there with information. It’s not a debate.”
Needing more people
Since Lowe joined the League of Women Voters of Klamath County in the 1980s, she has seen the group’s numbers as high as the 30s. She said having 20 dues-paying members, with nine or 10 active, is what the chapter needs.
When the numbers were larger, the league could send members to county commissioner meetings and city council meetings to make sure local leaders were running things by the book.
The chapters would conduct studies in relevant topics to see if action needed to be taken. Lowe said she would like to complete a study looking into the idea of a county director — someone to run the managerial duties of the county and let the commissioners be the policy-setters.
If there isn’t a red-hot issue, people are less likely to get involved and do the work necessary to keep the local chapter going, Lowe said.
“We don’t have anybody else following in our footsteps,” Lowe lamented. “We need people with a couple hours a month and energy and interest in what’s happening on various issues.”