Making Democracy Work

Learn About LWV of SLO County!

About League of Women Voters of SLO County: Who are they? What inspires these members? What does it take to be a dedicated citizen in San Luis Obispo?

Our Mission and Roles

SLO centennial

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging the informed and active participation of citizens in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. We never support or oppose any political party or candidate.

The League of Women Voters has two separate and distinct roles.

  • Voters Service/Citizen Education: We present unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues. To conduct our voter service and citizen education activities, we use funds from the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, which is a 501(c)(3) corporation, a nonprofit educational organization. The League of Women Voters, a membership organization, conducts action and advocacy and is a nonprofit 501(c)(4)corporation.

  • Action/Advocacy: We are nonpartisan, but, after study, we use our positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest.

Our Vision, Beliefs, and Intentions guide our activities.

We Provide Community Services

Community Election Monitoring Services For further information:

Email Us.

Mail inquiries to P. O. Box 4210, San Luis Obispo, CA 93403

Phone: 805-782-4040

LWVSLO Co Chronology

League Chronology Booklet Now Available

Did you know our League held its first candidates forum in October 1962? And it was for candidates for County Sheriff? Did you know we supported the consolidation of municipal and school board elections in 1966 to encourage voting and cut costs? When did we first support a moratorium on off-shore oil drilling? It was 1987. When did we set up our website? It was June 1999.

All this and more is in the updated League Chronology + The League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County: A Chronology: 1962 + 2014. We've been busy these last 52 years and this new booklet gives the highlights. The entire Chronology is available here:

Women and Environmental Issues Merge for Member Jaleah Byrnn

Personal growth in a supportive and ethical community seems to be the theme of Jaleah Byrnn's life and recently spurred her motivation to join the League of Women Voters here in San Luis Obispo County. Jaleah has a long history as a Soroptimist (the Best for Women) club member, serving as local president and attending two international conferences, one in New York and one in Finland; before leaving Finland she took a solo bike trip around the Aland Islands. Read more of Jaleah's story.

As a part of the League, she looks forward to the League's activities in promoting Civil Discourse, registering voters, future informational meetings especially focusing on issues that come up for vote "before being drowned in campaign literature or propaganda."

The SLO League of Women Voters is a Bracken Family Affair

When Sonya and Ray Bracken moved to Los Osos from Los Angeles in 1963, they soon learned that San Luis Obispo has an active League. Said Ray, "We have long admired and respected the League's reputation as fair and effective advocates for voters, and for encouraging citizens to become active participants in local government. Sonya added: "The SLO League is a vital part of the democratic process in the county, with an outstanding record of civic leadership and education, and that it has been and continues to be a privilege to be members." More about the Bracken Family here:

When Vallerie Grabs Hold

From Micronesia, Truk (now Ch'uk) Islands with the Peace Corps to serving in Korea, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands, and in Washington, (of course) with the Foreign Service, Vallerie Steenson has traversed the earth to land in San Luis Obispo with the League of Women Voters. Said Vallerie recently, "I joined the national League in the 1980's while living in Washington, D.C. but wasn't able to do anything until we moved to San Luis Obispo in 1997. Joining the League was one of the first things I did when we moved here." Whether in professional service or as a volunteer, Vallerie admits being interested in government since high school and knew about the League since the Presidential debates of the 1970's.

Not Just a Husband . . .

"I wanted to be a bona fide member of the League of Women Voters," explains, "Elton "Bud Hankins. "Sometime after I retired, Harriett went to a national LWV convention. She brought back a booklet containing detailed descriptions of all of the public policy positions of the LWV. I found that I was in tune with each and every one of them. I wanted to be a contributing member to an organization that shared my views nationally and worldwide, not just a husband of a member." Adds Bud, "I joined sometime in the late nineties. Harriett was a member long before that. She remembers going to hear Eleanor Roosevelt talk at an LWV event in 1957."

Hanging Around Ferries and Four-year-olds

Kris Barnes speaks with a great deal of intensity when the subject is ferries or 4-year olds. She explains as she shares one of her favorite photos, "The ferry in the background is because have a serious love affair with the ferries. Always need to find the time take a ride on one!"

But, Kris' intensity turns serious when she talks about children--specifically 4-year-olds. "What motivated me initially to join the LWV was my professional commitment to make life better for children." Children were essentially Kris' profession as a pediatric and community health nurse. "My jobs" explains Kris, "have included working in programs that serve low income and high-risk families and as nursing faculty teaching pediatrics and/or community health."


Nancy started her conversation by describing why she joined the League of Women Voters "I was really impressed with the panel discussion on Homelessness in the county that the League of Women Voters helped sponsor," said League member Nancy Welts when asked why she joined the League of Women Voters. "This [Homelessness] is an issue that is important to me and I decided the day after to join the local League. I used the trial membership offer that was featured on the website this past spring;I have since paid my dues and am now a full member." She concluded: "I have known about the League of Women Voters for the past couple decades; I used the Smart Voter guide and its research on some candidates and issues during the elections.

Just Something to Do in Retirement

"After I retired in 1986 (my husband had recently retired from Cal Poly) I was invited to join the League of Women Voters. This opened up a new interest area for me," was Elinor Kogan's start to a story that can only awe and amaze. Read the full story here.

"I was particularly impressed with the fact that the organization had a definite purpose and focus," continued, Elinor during a recent conversation. "I was asked to be on the Board of Directors where I stayed for 23 years!" Elinor went on to summarize her League activities. These included: two years as Director of Natural Resources, followed by 14 years as the VOTER editor. This was followed by one year as Director of the Observer Corps and four years as Membership Director.

She Walks Her Talk

Susie Nash joined the League back in Michigan when the local LWV chapter entered a school desegregation suit as an amicus curia party. Said Susie, of that experience, "Our position was to ask the School Board to provide for desegregated schools. That was an important step for me and I learned from the Kalamazoo chapter the importance of reasoned argument in the cause of justice." Susie summarized: "I try to balance work, family, and community service with a commitment to preserving and protecting our American principles of educated citizenry." Susie Nash walks her talk.

Outstanding Volunteer of Hawaii Now in LWVSLO

The League has changed significantly since I joined," declared Pat Shutt as we discussed the importance of League programs during a recent break in the Civil Discourse discussions. She explained: "When I joined in 1966, it was primarily women in their thirties to forties with some younger and some older. Over the years it seemed to age along with me," she laughed. Pat has seen the League through almost 50 years and across many perspectives. She first joined in Honolulu, Hawaii and served twice as president of the Hawaii League--once in 1975 to 1977 and again from 1979 to 1981 after serving and a member of the membership committee and the Hawaii League's water quality and housing committees. Meanwhile, she was recognized as the Outstanding Volunteer in Hawaii by the Citizens for Hawaii for her efforts as Chair of the People's Housing Coalition.


SLO DEMOCRACY: The League's Television Triumvirate:

How LWVSLO created a local public television voice for the people of San Luis Obispo County. The programs were designed and implemented to be educational in nature. The closing statement summarized the program's philosophy: "Good government should be the usual, not the unusual."

For over 10 years, Adele Stern, Sara Horne, and Trudy Jarratt agreed that they felt the programs made a significant contribution to the community. "It was very satisfying work," said Adele. "We enjoyed working together," said Sara. "We focused on the task, but we had fun with each other.""We also trusted each other," added Trudy. "In the end, we always ended up improving each other's contribution until we had a good product."

They Paved the Way: Stories of the Founders

Commitment to Service and Reform: An Interview with Dotty Conner, President 1969-71, and 1975-77. Since joining the LWV in 1963, Dotty Conner has actively participated in all areas of League endeavors. As a league member, she has led the local studies on Law Enforcement, Juvenile Justice, and Public Libraries. When she became president in 1969, she led the league's effort to reform the juvenile justice system in San Luis Obispo County.

She Advanced Education: Interview of Sharon Winslow, President 1968-69. As a student journalist, Sharon Winslow's eighth grade interview with her hometown Barstow congressman ignited a life-long interest in public affairs. She read with interest the formation of LWV of SLO in 1961. However, she was at home with an infant daughter, and waited until 1962 to join. Child care was an important part of the League program in those formative years.

Board Members Who Shine

Nominating Avila Beach resident, Sharon Kimball, as First Vice-President to shape Development and Program to the LWVSLOC Board of Directors was a strategic and prescient decision. First, she boldly proposed "civil discourse" as a program study. Next she managed last year's "Collaboration Soup Workshop" introducing the membership and guests into the secrets of effective and creative collaboration. Now she chairs the Civil Discourse Study Steering Committee propelling our League to the attention of SLO County's local governments. Is there a pattern here?

Do a `google search' on Vera Wallen, long-time Cayucos resident, as I did, and immediately lists of stories, projects, and community work reports flow on the screen. In May of this year, Vera received the Voter Service Award for her exemplary work in that category from the California League of Women Voters Convention held in San Jose. The same search will reveal Vera's name in the minutes or agenda of the San Luis County Board of Supervisors meetings providing information or advocating for community actions.

Important Membership Information

The League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County serves the people of all incorporated and unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County, California. Membership in the League is open to everyone--men as well as women. Members are citizens at least 18 years of age; associate members are persons under 18 years of age or those who are not citizens. You also automatically become a member of the League of Women Voters California (LWVC) and League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) when joining our chapter. The League is truly a grass-roots organization and League members are very protective of this concept.

The San Luis Obispo County League has 116 members. Our membership consists of 73% women and 27% men. Our members are distributed throughout the county; north and south, east and west, incorporated and unincorporated. The city of San Luis Obispo contributes 30% of membership. The north county coastal area contributes about 30%. The south county coastal area about 30%. The balance comes from Atascadero, Santa Margarita and Templeton.

Our county League was established in 1962. The League has a strong history of activism and citizen education. We pushed for unified school districts in the 1960's, led the fight to prevent the cementing over of San Luis Obispo creek in the 1970's; pushed for the construction of a juvenile hall; conducted workshops on off-shore drilling, land use and emergency planning; honored adult community activists through our Rhodes Honorees program (1998-2006); honored youth volunteers who contributed their time and efforts to make their communities a better place through the "SLO Action Heroes" program (2001-2007).

On an ongoing basis we publish "Know Your County: A Guide to San Luis Obispo County Government," and inform voters through "Pro/Con" forums and a website.


To contact the League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County, click here.