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.

June 15 -- Mark Your Calendar! One of Our Biggest Events

The June 15, 2017, "Celebration of Participation and Community" will commemorate our local League's 60th anniversary. It will be held at Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor. More details to come.

May 9 -- Grand Rapids Two-Part Field Trip

Hurry! Tickets are going fast for the League's May 9 day trip to the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum and Meijer Gardens.

We are looking forward to spending the day with members and their friends. Reservations are limited for the May 9 event. The price could simply not be better. Fifty dollars paid in advance by close of day on Friday, April 21, will guarantee your seat and entry fees to both venues. Lunch will be on your own at the Meijer Gardens.

Our group will travel by way of 21 EXPRESS, a small bus for 25 persons. We have traveled with this driver in the past and had a great time. Our departure is 9 o'clock sharp! Meet the group in Benton Harbor at the Celebration movie theater parking lot. We will be to the side of the lot. Just look for the bus. Our return will be at approximately 5:15 pm.

Snail mail, email, or phone John Ripley or Liz Ennis to make a reservation. Your new 2017 League Directory was just sent to you so we will be easy to find. Nonetheless, John is at lwvbcc@gmail.com Liz is at lennis34@hotmail.com. Send your check now to P. O. Box 1032, Niles, MI 49120, and come along. We don't want you to miss out.

Lunch at Lakeland April 26

Good News! The date is April 26 in Upton Rooms 5 & 6 for the luncheon at Lakeland Hospital on the subjects of "Pain Management and Opioides."

There is a new Pavilion being built at Lakeland now, and we will hear an update on this new project. The parking situation is not good.and will not be good for another four years. Any members needing handicap accessibility can park on campus. Lakeland is making arrangements for alternative parking for us with shuttle service to the hospital. A shuttle service will pick us up beginning at 11:20 at Cedarwood Medical Center, 820 Lester Avenue. Please park in the lot and wait underneath the building overhang for pick up. The shuttle will come at approximately 11:20, 11:30, and 11:40. We will be dropped off at the corner by the parking garage. That same shuttle will take us back beginning about 1:15pm.

Our arrival time for the luncheon should begin at 11:15. Lunch will be provided at 11:40. Dr Hamel and other doctors will give their presentation from 12:45 to 1:30 and then allow time for Q&A. Space is limited to 80.

Our thanks to Lakeland for extending this wonderful opportunity to us.

Access to Justice

The presumption of innocence is the bedrock of our criminal justice system. According to Carl Macpherson, it also is the guiding principle of Berrien County's new Public Defender's Office--a service that has been in place only since December 15, 2016. Mr. Macpherson, the county's Chief Public Defender, spoke at an LWVBCC luncheon at Coach's restaurant on March 16. His presentation may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_vtStUeYf0.

A Michigan native, Mr. Macpherson has spent virtually his entire legal career in indigent defense--from one coast to the other, and now in between. The Berrien County Public Defender's Office is staffed with nine attorneys, two secretaries, an office manager, and a part-time investigator. Mr. Macpherson, who said the organizing principle of the office is collaboration and teamwork, hopes to add staff as funding becomes available. The case load now is heavy--partly because 77 percent of felony charges, he said, are against indigent individuals.

With the advent of our Public Defenders Office, an indigent client now may have access to an attorney at his or her initial court appearance, the arraignment, at which important decisions such as pleas and the setting of bond are made. This, according to Mr. Macpherson, is a particularly important component of his office's work. Without access to legal advice at an arraignment, a defendant can make decisions that prove disadvantageous in later proceedings--decisions that may have been avoided with timely access to legal advice.

Berrien County is one of only eight counties in Michigan that have offices for indigent defense. Elsewhere, legal services are provided, as they were here until last December 12, only by attorneys in private practice working under contracts with the court system to provide specified services. Because the cost of incarceration is high--about $28,000 per incarcerated person per year--improving outcomes for indigent defendants is not only just and fair; it also can be cost-effective in the long run.

More information about the Berrien County Public Defenders Office and principles and practices that gave rise to it can be found at https://www.berriencounty.org/PublicDefender.

Michigan Taxation: How it Affects Local Government

Our Meeting on Michigan Taxation and Budget Explored Many Issues, Enlightened Details of Great Interest to Citizens. Both Treasurers from Berrien and Cass Counties were present. During discussion, everyone had an opportunity to express their viewpoints, and multiple issues were examined from all sides. Members discussed the pros and cons of 22 issues.

Millions of League Members March

On January 21, 2017 millions of women and men around the world turned out to make our voices heard. The Women's March was an historic day that brought attention to important issues - but our work is just beginning. Here are some actions you can take RIGHT NOW to make a difference in your community and beyond.

1. Join the League of Women Voters!

The League is working to make a difference and actively engaging people in more than 700 communities around the country. Attend a local League event to get involved in our work to engage with elected officials, empower new voters and to learn about issues that impact your community. Join us by clicking here: http://lwvbcc.org/join2.html

2. Call Congress and call them often!

Elected officials work for the people and need to hear from concerned citizens like you. Whether you marched to protect voting rights, healthcare or the environment, make sure Congress knows YOUR priorities. You may be interested in this new system that helps with calling: https://5calls.org/

3. Register to Vote-and help your friends get registered!

It might not be an election year where you live + but it's never too early to make sure your registration is up to date. The League works year-round in hundreds of communities to prepare eligible voters. Check out http://www.VOTE411.org for more information.

4. Make a Donation to Defend our Democracy!

Your support makes it possible for the League to take a stand in statehouses and courtrooms across the country.

5. Become an e-Activist!

Read updates from the League and take action by holding your elected officials accountable on the League's key priorities like voting rights and money in politics.

Making your voice heard never goes out of style and we were so proud to stand strong as an official partner of the Women's March on Washington. Now let's keep the momentum going!


League Gets 11/15 Update on Pipeline Under Mackinaw called "Line 5"

Nov. 15's showing of the documentary, "Great Lake, Bad Lines," was a huge success with a great crowd, a fascinating speaker who led us through an interesting discussion, and a little money was even raised for our continuing programs. We were educated on the history of the pipeline, referred to as Line 5 and owned by Canadian firm Enbridge, Inc. It carries oil from Canada, crossing into the UP and "runs along" Lake Michigan for over 600 miles before traveling through the lake from somewhere near St. Ignace to Mackinaw City and then southeast through Michigan until it joins another pipeline near Sarnia. Kestrel Marcel did a fine job with her presentation after the documentary. If you missed the film, you can see it here: https://vimeo.com/180350618

Maintaining our Wonderful Watershed in Berrien and Cass Counties.

On Thursday, October 20, 2016, at a Noon luncheon we watched a detailed presentation by Marcy Hamilton, Senior Planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission on the Importance of Maintaining Septic Systems and the impact on our watersheds along with other important programs at the SWMPC. She works with communities and non-profits to facilitate land use planning, advance sustainable development, foster collaboration, increase citizen participation, develop grants and implement projects around the Southwest Michigan region. A video recording of her fascinating presentation is available on our YouTube website.

4 Election Forums Held on 2 Nights


New York Times: Supreme Court Allows 'Straight Ticket' Voting in Michigan

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Sept. 9 refused to revive a Michigan law that barred straight-ticket voting.

The court's brief order gave no reasons. Two justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., said they would have granted a request from state officials to allow them to enforce the law in the coming election.

Straight-ticket voting, in which voters may choose a party's entire slate with a single notation, had been available as an option in Michigan since 1891. The new law, signed in January by Gov. Rick Snyder, required voters to cast votes for individual candidates -- but it was blocked in July by a federal judge.

"The reason I signed it is I think it's a good part of the process that people look at each individual office and they look at each candidate," Mr. Snyder told The Detroit News. "It's not just about partisan politics."

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.

Nonpartisan Yet Political

The League and Nonpartisanship by Susan Gilbert, 45-year League member

It is not uncommon for outsiders, and even some members, to question how the League can be nonpartisan yet advocate on positions that, in the slice of time that is now, appear to be partisan. In the highly partisan climate that has developed in recent years, the League is one of the very few political organizations that is not in either the liberal/Democratic camp or the conservative/Republican camp. And we have members of all political persuasions and encourage them to get involved in politics.

So, members may be partisan, but the organization is not. All this is hard for many to wrap their minds around. The League is nonpartisan in that we do not endorse or support any political party or candidate for office. We don't rate legislators, we don't track their votes, and we don't threaten them if they don't vote our way.

Voter service is one of our main missions, and we publish nonpartisan voter guides and hold candidate forums to help voters educate themselves beyond TV ads. Education is an important League function, and we try in our meetings and in this newsletter and on this website to inform our attendees/readers and stimulate them to think about issues in our world.

However, the League is also an advocacy group, and we have positions on issues that have been developed over the years since our founding in 1920 and are the result of study and consensus of the local Leagues nationwide. These positions are updated from time to time, but are basically consistent.

The positions and platforms of the political parties, on the other hand, do change and at times they resemble our League position, or not. But the League doesn't change or drop its positions because they are currently those of one party or the other.

And we do speak out! An example is healthcare. The League has a position on comprehensive healthcare for all Americans. President Truman liked that idea, too, and President Eisenhower delivered a special message to Congress on January 31, 1955, recommending a comprehensive healthcare program for Americans. Lyndon Johnson got Medicare passed and that took the pressure off for a while. But President Nixon encouraged HMOs as a way to rein in costs and provide healthcare for more people. Then President Reagan came along and decided the free market was the best way to manage health care, and the Republicans have basically supported this idea since.

But clearly both parties have been on both sides of the issue. The key is not to confuse politics with position advocacy.

LWVBCC Newsletters

View our informative e-newsletter, published almost monthly. 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.