Candidate Forums and Participation Policy
League of Women Voters of New Mexico
Candidate Forums and Participation Policy
Adopted 2011; Revised 2013, 2014, Nov.12, 2016
LWVNM’s goal is to allow certified candidates for electoral offices to participate in forums moderated by the League where they have an equal and fair opportunity to respond to questions from the public. League forums may be held in physical locations and/or on TV or radio. This policy documents the criteria and parameters for conducting candidate forums run by LWVNM, one or more local Leagues, or with other non-partisan organizations. All forums conducted with partner organizations must follow League guidelines.
Candidate forums for statewide office, such as U.S Senate, Governor, Lt. Governor, or Secretary of State will follow this policy. Candidate forums for local offices, including NM State Senate, House of Representatives, NM Commissions, are handled by local Leagues, and guidelines may change to accommodate local requirements.
- All candidates representing recognized parties and whose names are on the ballot will be invited to participate in forums. Dates are scheduled with the major party candidates and announced well in advance.
- Historically, third party and write-in candidates have played critical roles in our democracy by championing issues that were not being adequately addressed by the major parties, and on which, in fact, the major parties would prefer to remain silent. When they are excluded from forums, the issues they champion can also be ignored.
- Each New Mexico League will exercise its "good faith judgment" about which candidates to invite beyond the nominees of the major parties and any other party officially recognized by the NM Secretary of State. Some criteria that may be considered are the constitutional or legal eligibility to be on the ballot, a public announcement of candidacy, clear evidence of a campaign; and level of support as reflected in polling data. If they wish to participate, minor party and write-in candidates have to comply with scheduled forums and League rules.
- If one of the major party candidates declines to participate in a forum for a statewide office or has to cancel, the forum (or section of the forum if for multiple races) may be rescheduled to a time when both major party candidates can attend. A certified minor party candidate or write-in candidate who cannot attend may submit an opening statement that only the League moderator will read aloud.
If time permits, unopposed candidates for single local offices may be allowed to make statements in the interest of introducing themselves and educating the audience about their position. No time will be allotted for audience questions and answers.
Preparations and Invitations: The League sponsoring the forum designates a Forum Committee and moderator who develop guidelines for the conduct of the forum. Candidates are invited via a letter or an email (not just by phone). This written communication makes clear that the candidates’ acceptance of the invitation indicates their acceptance of the guidelines for the conduct of the forum and restrictions, such as placement of campaign literature outside the room where the forum is conducted. The forum is widely promoted so as to attract as many potential voters as possible.
Opening Statements and Remarks: At the forum, the candidates are individually welcomed by the moderator and/or members of the Forum Committee. During the opening remarks, the moderator explains the adopted guidelines to the audience and mentions that the candidates have agreed to the guidelines. The candidates are then asked to make brief, introductory remarks about themselves and their candidacy. These remarks are timed, and each candidate is allocated the same amount of time, usually from 1-3 minutes, depending on the number of candidates present and the length of time available. Every effort is made to stay within the advertised duration of the forum.
The Forum Committee may compose a few questions for the candidates to use at the beginning and/or end of the event as needed.
Questions from the Audience: The League generally requests that questions from the audience be submitted in writing before or during the forum. Members of the Forum Committee distribute 3x5 cards and pencils at the entrance to the forum room. The audience is told that the questions must be addressed to all of the candidates. Extra cards are available if they raise their hands. The moderator explains that the cards are collected, reviewed, and consolidated by League members and partners to ensure that the questions are neither offensive nor repetitive and cover a fairly broad spectrum of issues. If a major topic of local interest is not covered by any of the submitted questions, the reviewers may compose a question on that topic. The questions are then passed to the moderator, who presents them and asks the candidates to respond. The moderator varies the order of questioning to make sure that each of the candidates has an opportunity to go first and last.
Closing Statements: Closing statements are optional but encouraged in order to give candidates an opportunity to have a few last words.
After the forum, the Forum Committee and moderator may conduct a debrief to review the event and determine what changes to the procedure or the venue arrangements, if any, should be made for future forums.
LWVNM will invite all candidates registered with the Secretary of State for the office in question to participate in our Candidate Forums simultaneously using the official campaign email address. If there is no response from a candidate or candidates from that email, additional invitations will be made by regular mail and/or phone using the official SOS registry.
2. If an invited candidate does not respond to the invitation or is unable or decides not to appear at a scheduled event, the forum will still be held unless it is determined that it needs to be rescheduled. In the circumstance that only one candidate agrees to participate or appears, the forum will be held. Unopposed candidates may appear alone.
3. No substitutes or stand-ins for the candidates will be allowed.
4. The moderator will announce that all candidates were invited to participate. In announcing that a candidate is not participating, the moderator will present a brief statement that a candidate either did not respond or declined to participate without any editorial comment.
5. In an extraordinary circumstance and at the discretion of the League, a candidate who may not attend may submit a written statement to be read by the moderator equal in length to the opening statement of the candidate or candidates present.
6. All media outlets that typically cover LWV events will be notified of this policy in the press releases, media interviews, social media, and other communications prior to the events.
7. LWVNM events will be conducted in accordance with other event rules as provided to candidates with their invitations.
For more information about our local and state Leagues, please visit www.lwvnm.org
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.