Making Democracy Work

Helping to Make Democracy Work Since 1920!

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.

From the Detroit News: Michigan's straight-ticket fight echoes national debate

Jonathan Oosting, Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Michigan's high-stakes battle over straight-ticket voting echoes a national fight over new laws critics argue could disenfranchise minorities and affect the outcome of the 2016 elections.

Much of the national debate centers on strict voter identification laws backed by Republicans as a means to curb election fraud. Federal courts recently struck down strict ID and other voting rules in North Carolina and Texas. An appeals court last week reinstated a Wisconsin version.

The North Carolina law "required in-person voters to show certain photo IDs, beginning in 2016, which African-Americans disproportionately lacked, and eliminated or reduced registration and voting access tools that African Americans disproportionately used," a three-judge appeals court panel of all Democratic appointees ruled in July.

Democrats and allies have pushed legal challenges to new voting rules in several states they say could limit participation by minority voters more likely to support presidential nominee Hillary Clinton than Republican businessman Donald Trump.

Click here for the complete story. The following article contains external links which may lead to websites over which LWVBCC has no control regarding content, advertising, etc.

Voting rights in the U.S.

A federal appeals court has ruled that Texas' voter identification law, one of the strictest in the country, violates the Voting Rights Act. Voting rights advocates are praising the decision as a significant victory. It was the fourth time in nearly four years that a federal court found that the Texas law discriminated against or disproportionately affected black and Hispanic voters.

Repair the Voting Rights Act

TAKE ACTION: Repair the Voting Rights Act
By: Chris Carson

We recently marked the three-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to gut key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). We've had three years of bad laws that make voting harder in states all across the country. But there is a solution. Tell Congress to repair and modernize the Voting Rights Act TODAY!

The Voting Rights Advancement Act was introduced to address the voting discrimination unleashed in the wake of the Shelby County v. Holder decision. Yet the legislation is being held up on both sides of Congress. It is an unfortunate fact that discrimination in voting against racial, ethnic and language minorities continues in America. This should be unacceptable in the greatest democracy in the world.

Add your voice! Tell your Senators and Representatives to move the Voting Rights Advancement Act forward.

Without congressional action to repair the VRA, 2016 will mark the first presidential election in 50 years without its full protections. Throughout the 2016 primaries we saw voters face a variety of obstacles, from reduced polling places, to long lines, to removal of registered voters from the rolls, and these challengers are just a canary in the coalmine for what's to come in November without the VRA's protections.

It's time we all call on our Senators and Representatives to take action and end voting discrimination in this country.

Annual Meeting for 2016 Pebblewood Country Club

The annual dinner held June 23 was enjoyed by all. Our honorees, Sara Bode, Fred Lighthall, Bonnie Pollack, Judy Scully, and Jean Sharp (absent), were surprised - pleasantly - with the accolades showered upon them for their many significant contributions to the League over the years.

Many of the "Fund Raising Ideas" slips distributed among the tables were returned. Ideas ranged from holding a raffle to another tour of Cook Nuclear. I'm sure more of you have additional ideas. Please let us know when anything occurs to you that may be of help to us in raising the funds we need to assure a balanced budget. I am happy to report that we did get one generous donation at the dinner. It's a start. You know who you are. Thank you!!

As part of our dinner program, we learned from member Fred Lighthall about the contents of and the time, energy and extraordinary efforts required in writing his newly-published book, "Disastrous High-tech Decision Making".

We also aeard from board members Liz Ennis and Barb Lackner about their experiences at the LWVUS convention in Washington, DC, earlier in June. And we elected Bette Pierman and Lorraine Stepanek to two-year terms on the board. Then we recognized continuing board members Dutton, Clapper, Ennis, Klawiter, Lackner, Ripley, Ristau and Zilke.

Schedule for the coming months:

Monday, July 11, 10:00 a.m.

League Book Club
Dark Money by Jane Mayer
Chris Zilke's house, 10726 Red Arrow Hwy., Bridgman
(S of the Bridgman I94 interchange - look for balloons on mailbox)

Tuesday, July 19, 1:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting

Board meetings take place at the Lakewood Estate Club House
8000 Warren Woods Road. You do not need to be a board Member to attend.

Tuesday, August 16, 1:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting

Watch for other important dates and events in the August newsletter.

Visit The Vickers Theater website for information on the upcoming showing of the movie "The True Cost." Admission is free to this showing.

John Rappaport, University of Chicago Assistant Professor of Law, Discusses U.S. Supreme Court Makeup and Workings on April 29

When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly in February, questions about the makeup and workings of that court came into sharp focus. John Rappaport, Assistant Professor of Law at University of Chicago, visited us to discuss "Our U.S. Supreme Court: Who they are, How they got there, What they do, and Why it matters" at a forum sponsored by our League on April 29. This forum is part of the LWV's nonpartisan education project. A question and answer period followed his presentation. You can see our event at .

John Rappaport clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and is currently on the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School. His teaching and research interests include criminal procedure, criminal law, constitutional law, federal jurisdiction, and evidence.

Judges of the state court system in Michigan are elected by voters to specified terms. By contrast, judges of the federal courts, including the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, are not elected. Rather, they are nominated by the President and appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. Once appointed, they serve "during good behavior"--in effect, until they either die or resign.

In March, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacant position on the Supreme Court. Unless the pending nomination is approved by the current Senate, responsibility for filling that vacancy will rest with the President and Senators holding office next year. Consequently, the composition, duties, and role of the U.S. Supreme Court remain major issues in this election cycle.

The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. The LWV promotes an informed electorate by providing information at .


Liz Ennis, LWVBCC Board member, past president, and current Education Director of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, participated as a panelist in this local production by South Bend's Public Broadcasting station, WNIT, Sunday, Nov. 15. Liz made a superbly educational presentation not only about redistricting in Michigan but also about the League's mission, especially with regard to voter rights and other current issues citizens need to know about.

You can watch the 57-minute program by clicking here.

The panel included Liz Ennis, Brandon Smith, State News Reporter, Indiana Public Broadcasting, and Julia Vaughn, Policy Director, Common Cause of Indiana.


Candidates in the Nov. 3 election Mayor James Hightower (left) and Marcus Muhammad with Moderator Denise Bohn.Tuesday, October 27, was the night of Benton Harbor's Mayoral Debate between incumbent Mayor James Hightower (left in the photo at left) and Commissioner Marcus Muhammad. Moderator Denise Bohn is in the center. The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties in cooperation with the Twin Cities Chapter of the NAACP, the Benton Harbor Library, and radio station WSJM (FM 94.9). WSJM broadcast the debate live over its airwaves, and also provided the sound system in the Benton Harbor Library Community Room.

The 75-minute debate included introductory and concluding statements from the candidates, nine questions from the sponsors, and written questions from an audience estimated at about 80 citizens. Questions focused on leadership, Benton Harbor's future, cooperation between local businesses and city government, etc.

Thanks to League members Barb Lackner (left) and Melissa Clapper and NAACP members Larry Feldman and Charles Jennings for helping to organize and coordinate this event. The debate is now available via podcast online at WSJM will also have a video news story in an upcoming edition of their Week in Review.


Elvin Gonzalez, Administrator in the Family Division of the Berrien County Trial Court, spoke volumes in his recent presentation when he discussed our County's innovative programs for youngsters as young as those in 1st grade who can be identified and diverted away from a possible life of drugs and other crime + getting booked into "the system" + and converted into productive citizens. His talk included his work spearheading improvements in the area of juvenile justice and family intervention treatment models.

You may see his presentation --and questions that came from the audience -- on our YouTube video website. Click here to find his presentation once again made possible by video equipment purchased through the generosity of The Pokagon Fund.

You may also choose to see Mr. Gonzalez" PowerPoint presentation which is available by Clicking Here

League Explores Complex Michigan Redistricting Issues

TownHallLizEnnisOur League hosted a "Town Hall" meeting (one of 30 across the state of Michigan being presented by LWVMI) to educate voters on the importance of redistricting. The presentation explored how legislative lines are drawn in Michigan, who draws them, and why it is a critically important question for those who care about fair representation.

In Michigan the district lines are drawn by the legislature, effectively allowing politicians to choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their legislators. This system gives the political party in power at the time a tremendous advantage, but is this the best system for the voters?

Presented at the Berrien RESA Conference Center by Board Members Liz Ennis (see photo) and Melissa Clapper, our lively Town Hall explored central questions such as: What are the consequences of partisan drawn districts that favor one party over another? Is there a better and fairer way to do this? What are the alternatives?

Luncheon Speaker Entertains and Educates League of Women Voters

Author Brian Kissman at League LunchWhat a teacher! Brian Kissman, a local man who has spent his career teaching around the world was home for a while and generously spent time with a room full of Leaguers and their friends. Although most no longer had children in elementary schools, they had their grandchildren in mind and took instantly to learning about Kissman's driving passion which is to solve the problems that keep so many young children from learning to read. In Michigan for example, 4 of 10 third graders are unable to master third grade reading literacy. It is known that if a child cannot read well by third grade, the potential for dropping out of high school begins and increases every grade thereafter. The risk is too great for this to continue and Kissman believes that the problem can be solved.

Brian's methods provide learning experiences across the communications spectrum including reading, writing, speaking, and presenting. As he demonstrated his teaching methods it became obvious that by integrating all of the language arts, a learner would benefit from the overlap of experiences and reading would become easier. And with practice the meaning of language and its uses would continue to develop. Kissman has been training teachers in his methods and has seen success grow both here in the U.S. and Japan, Qatar, and Liberia to name only some. The members at the luncheon expressed their enthusiasm for Brian's program, bought several of his teaching books and hoped that his methods could be made known to more teachers and schools. The good news is that he intends to produce on-line programs of his "Phonics Things" and "Literacy Mats: The ABC'S of Literacy." You may learn more @

LWVBCC Newsletters

View our informative e-newsletter, published almost monthly. The August 2016 newsletter is now available. Links to past newsletters can be found here. The newsletters are copies of an e-newsletter and do not have the same professional appearance as the originals. If you would like to join our mailing list email webmaster.