Forum, online guide help voters learn where candidates stand on the issues
With only a few weeks left until the Nov. 6 general election, voters who have done their homework already might be anxious for the polls. Many others, however, might still need more time to research the ballot.
To help, the League of Women Voters of Richardson and the American Association of University Women of Plano/Collin County will hold a candidate forum from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 at the Schimelpfenig Library, 5024 Custer Rd. in Plano.
The first session will present candidates in contested races for Fifth Court of Appeals, which serves Collin, Dallas, Grayson, Hunt, Kaufman and Rockwall counties. The second session, which will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., will present contenders for Texas Senate District 8.
Candidates will have two minutes for opening remarks, followed by a question-and-answer session and two minutes for closing remarks. Audience members will submit questions in writing during the Q&A, and respondents will have up to one minute to answer each question.
Typically, the LWV of Plano/Collin County holds candidate forums in the last two to three weeks before early voting starts. The chapter has organized similar multi-session forums for the primary and general elections in 2010, and covers city council and ISD races in McKinney, Allen, Frisco and Plano.
The forums have proven beneficial, as attendees can compare responses to questions that are relevant to them, instead of simply listening to what the candidates want to talk about, said Janice Schieffer, forum moderator and voters' service chair for LWV of Plano/Collin County.
"We feel that the more voters know about the candidates, the better they are able to choose between them," Schieffer said. "Seeing a candidate in person, responding to questions, as well as delivering their own remarks, is very different from reading their written responses or looking at campaign brochures."
In addition to live forums, the LWV strives to inform constituents remotely with its online voters' guide, which covers national races and Texas legislative districts that include all or part of Collin County, as well as all Collin County races. The handbook is available at vote411.org and at the LWV of Plano/Collin County's website lwvcollin.org.
The customizable, comprehensive guide not only gives voters an in-depth look into what races will be on the ballot, but also explains the general duties of each elected position and its current annual salary.
On the guide, visitors can scour candidate bios, which include personal statements and their top three goals, photos, contact information and answers to questions in his or her own words.
These personalized ballots can be printed or emailed for future reference, and hard copies of the guide, which includes races in all districts in Collin County, will be available at libraries and other public areas throughout the county.
While the league may sound like a chapter exclusively for women at first glance, Shieffer assured that is certainly not the case, as its members consists of both men and women 18 years of age and older and everyone is welcome to join.
In addition to voter services, the non-partisan league also studies and advocates issues. At the state level, for example, the LWV recently completed a study on water regulations and is currently starting a study on human trafficking across Texas.
"The LWV invites all candidates to participate and never supports or opposes a candidate or party. The choice is up to the voter," Schieffer said. "I don't know of another voters' guide that compares to the LWV for fairness and completeness."
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