LWV President: BOE Debate Will Not Include Write-in Candidate

Dear Editor:

Debate season is upon us, and with it questions arise about format and candidate eligibility.  Running a fair and nonpartisan debate that is informative to the voters is not a simple task.  As a 501(c)(3) organization, we take that responsibility seriously.

Our second Zoom debate this election year is scheduled for Tuesday, October 19 for candidates for the Board of Education.  Those interested in attending may register HERE.

Candidates for this year’s debate were invited by the PTA Council, as they are the primary organizers of that debate.  The League and the Greenwich Alliance for Education are co-sponsors.  It is true that PTA Council has looked to us for guidance about debate organization and management.  We have done many over the years and understand our collective responsibility to be fair and nonpartisan.

Recently, we received a request to include a write-in candidate in the Board of Education debate.  We have informed the candidate that League-sponsored debates do not include write-in candidates.  Here’s why.  
All candidates who have achieved ballot access in accordance with Connecticut State Statutes are considered for participation in League debates.  As voters must add the name of a write-in candidate on their ballot, a write-in candidate does not have ballot access and is therefore not invited to participate in a League debate.  

This position is one of long-standing League practice.  No write-in candidate for public office has participated in a League debate.  The LWV Greenwich Board has unanimously reaffirmed this practice.  There are good reasons for this:

  • The only requirement for becoming a write-in candidate for public office is the completion of a form within a specific time frame.  It does not require the same standard as even petitioning candidates.  Simply completing a form and submitting it to the Secretary of State is, in fact, the lowest bar possible for declaring candidacy for public office.
  • There is no limit to the number of individuals who may desire write-in status for an elected position.  To permit one to participate is to permit every write-in candidate to participate.  Potentially, this can lead to a debate format that is both difficult to organize and less informative to the voters.
  • The deadline for submitting registration for write in status in the State of Connecticut is two weeks before the election.  Our volunteers plan our debates months in advance.  We cannot accommodate last minute additions for write-in candidates.

We applaud the interest of any citizen who wishes to run for political office.  Those who wish to do so — and wish to debate their views in public under our auspices — should follow the guidelines outlined in state statute and in the Town Charter to gain ballot access first.  

Sandy Waters
President LWV Greenwich