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Election

League of Women Voters groups join forces to press candidates into forum participation

DuPage County residents listen Feb. 27 to county board candidates during the Wheaton and Glen Ellyn League of Women Voters candidates forum.David Toney for Shaw Media
DuPage County residents listen Feb. 27 to county board candidates during the Wheaton and Glen Ellyn League of Women Voters candidates forum.David Toney for Shaw Media

Members of the League of Women Voters in DuPage, McHenry and Kane counties are uniting to assemble local politicians for a public forum before the November general elections.

Each year, local leagues of the nonpartisan group bring incumbents and candidates running for those seats together in a public forum to answer questions from moderators and residents.

While candidates for local school boards and councils overwhelmingly attend, many running for state and federal offices don’t come, according to Gail Kalinich of the Glen Ellyn league.

“It’s not too much to ask for from candidates,” she said. “It’s a job interview. ... This is a critical time for our state and our country.”

As leagues across the area geared up for the 2016 round of forums, leaders of the groups began talking among themselves and sharing their frustrations.

Kalinich said some were even considering not holding a forum this year, as previous installments have been slowed by League-wide rule against forums for unchallenged seats and another stipulation limiting candidates to public statements when their opposition doesn’t attend.

League of Women Voters of Wheaton voter service Chairwoman Shannon Burns, who served on the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County Board of Commissioners, said these forums are one of the few times candidates can stand in front of the public and sell their message.

“When an elected person doesn’t show up, it effectively takes away the opportunity for their opponent to stand next to them and either show well or show badly next to the currently elected person,” she said. “America was built on the notion of choice and voting for a candidate you like or want or think would be best.”

Patti Lackman, voter service chair of the league in central Kane County, said both voters and those not in power lost out when public discourse was cut short.

“With the League’s empty chair debate policy, the person that is the incumbent has nothing to lose by not showing up, and it severely handicaps the challenger because they can’t participate,” she said. “Voters don’t get an opportunity to hear what people think and what their opinions are on these things.”

This year, the leagues representing Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, Naperville, Elmhurst, Palatine, Downers Grove, Woodridge, Lisle, McHenry County and central Kane County decided they would use their collective clout to accumulate as many candidates as possible to speak Oct. 16 to the public at a joint forum in Glen Ellyn.

So far, Kalinich said, it has been a success, gaining RSVPs from the vast majority of candidates in contested seats in the districts in their area.

Those that don’t get back to the various leagues in time for the scheduled forum will be hearing from the hundreds of members, Lackman said.

“We can only hope there is power in numbers,” she said. “We don’t care what party they’re in, we just care if they show up.”

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The Oct. 15 forum will be held in an unscheduled location in Glen Ellyn and will feature the following races. For more information, visit lwv.org and visit mysuburbanlife.com for future details.

Sponsored by LWV of Glen Ellyn:

1 to 1:20 p.m. DuPage County Forest Preserve (District 4) Candidate Forum

1 to 1:50 p.m. DuPage County Board (District 4, 4 year term) Candidate Forum

Sponsored by LWV of Naperville, LWV of Wheaton, LWV of Elmhurst, LWV of Downers Grove, Woodridge and Lisle, and LWV of Glen Ellyn:

2 to 2:20 p.m. DuPage County Recorder Candidate Forum

Sponsored by LWV of Elmhurst, LWV of Wheaton, and LWV of Glen Ellyn:

2:30 to 3 p.m. State Representative (Illinois 46th District) Forum

Sponsored by LWV of Wheaton, LWV of Downers Grove, Woodridge and Lisle, and LWV of Glen Ellyn:

3:10 to 3:40 p.m. State Representative (Illinois 48th District) Forum

Sponsored by LWV of Wheaton, LWV of Elmhurst, and LWV of Glen Ellyn:

3:50 to 4:20 p.m. State Senate (Illinois 23rd District) Forum

Sponsored by LWV of Palatine Area, LWV of Naperville, LWV of Wheaton, LWV of McHenry County, LWV of Downers Grove, Woodridge and Lisle, and LWV of Glen Ellyn:

4:30 to 5:15 p.m. United States Congress, 6th Congressional District Forum

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