With only 30 days left until the general election, candidates should be doing all they can to educate voters and encourage them to get out and vote.
However, the League of Women Voters of Indiana says that isn’t happening everywhere.
The League of Women Voters’ mission includes voter education, so with each election cycle they sponsor candidate forums and debates throughout the state. The debates are hosted by the 20 local league chapters in various towns and districts.
State League president Amy Miller says some candidates are refusing to debate their opponents, especially if they are incumbents. Miller says candidates are also doing a type of “mini-extortion,” where a candidate from one of the major parties refuses to attend after the Libertarian candidate in the race is invited or agrees to attend.
“We have been fairly lucky in Indianapolis, where our General Assembly candidate forums have had decent attendance and the public really comes out for these events,” says Miller. But in other parts of the state, high profile races have not had the same cooperation.
“The incumbent was invited in May and the local high school has been a site of a candidate debate for about 14 yrs,” says Miller. “She will not agree to a debate.”
Miller issued the following statement to illustrate the League’s frustration with the situation.
"The League of Women Voters of Indiana has a long history of conducting nonpartisan candidate forums and has always taken very seriously its role of educating Hoosiers about the importance of voting and how to gather independent information on candidates so that voters can make an informed decision as to whom they want to represent them in elected office. That’s why we are particularly concerned about candidates who refuse to show up for a debate or participate in online or printed voters’ guides.
Candidates running for public office are applying for a job and part of that process is being interviewed by their potential employer, the public – the voters. We ask all candidates if they were in a position to hire someone, would they hire an individual without interviewing them first? A good employer would wonder what the individual was trying to hide by avoiding the interview. We think we know the answer. Hoosier voters deserve answers too.
When a candidate decides to not participate in a public debate or forum, it is a lost opportunity for all voters. Declining any opportunity to inform voters is contrary to the public interest and the League maintains that voters deserve more discussions and information on where the candidates stand on the issues that are so important in their lives.
Research conducted on voter behavior and participation shows that not only does the public expect candidates to participate in voter education activities, but it also found that voter participation is directly impacted by whether or not voters know who the candidates are and where they stand on the issues. So when candidates choose not to participate, it’s the voters that are harmed.
The League welcomes and encourages citizens to participate in the November 4 election and to remember to register or update your voter registration by Monday, October 6."