A Publication of The League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham
Published November 2005
The League of Women Voters of Alabama Consensus Policy
Our January and February unit meetings will be devoted to reaching consensus on the Legislative Study currently being conducted by LWVAL. Sarah McDonald and Mary Lynn Bates will lead the debate locally. This is an introduction to the process for new members.
Consensus, as explained in the 2002 edition of In League, ?is the technique most often used in the League for reaching member agreement. It is a process whereby members participate in a group discussion of an issue. The ?consensus? reached by members through group discussion is not a simple majority, nor is it unanimity; rather it is the overall ?sense of the group? as expressed through the exchange of ideas and opinions?? (p 10-58)
The State Board determines what constitutes consensus. It considers whether local Leagues report complete member agreement, fairly general agreement or divergent points of view.
Local Leagues are notified in advance when consensus is due. Any kind of consensus requires that members of local Leagues receive a timetable for the study, background materials, and a deadline for reaching consensus. This is part of the job of the state program chairperson or person designated by the State Board to chair the consensus item.
Consensus questions are drafted by representatives of the consensus resource committee and others who can pinpoint areas for consideration and action. The State Board approves all consensus questions. The questions should be clear to the membership, phrased for usable answers, provide a yardstick for judgment, and a framework for action. Questions must be objective and reasonably brief. The questions should be based on the resource material that was used in the study and cover areas that can lead to action. Do not aim consensus questions toward action on specific bills; instead make them general enough to apply over a period of time and changing circumstances.
Sometimes consensus on one or more questions is not reached. This may happen when an insufficient number of members are concerned with the issue or when there is too much basic disagreement among members. In any case, a statement of alternative points of view is included in the report. If no consensus is reached, that fact is reported.
A consensus report prepared by a local board for the State Board includes the following:
- The response sheet (if provided) with the consensus questions, completed to show how opinions were distributed (if such a sheet has been provided).
- A brief statement of the consensus position, if one has been reached, and
- A brief statement of alternative points of view expressed by members who did not agree with the consensus position.
- A brief statement explaining that no consensus could be reached.
In order for a local consensus report to be considered, it must be received by the deadline set by the State Board.
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