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.

2016 ANNUAL DINNER Thursday, June 23, Pebblewood Country Club, Bridgman, Cocktails: 5:30 - 6:15 Dinner Immediately following.

Once again, it is time to make plans for our annual general meeting and dinner. Please "save the date," Thursday, June 23, and plan to join friends and other members for this event. This year we will meet at the Pebblewood Golf and Banquet Hall. It is located at 9794 Jericho Rd. in Bridgman, MI. Cocktails: 5:30 - 6:15 Dinner Immediately following.

The Annual Meeting provides an opportunity for the membership to approve the annual budget, approve new board members, and learn of our yearly plans and goals. This year the board will recognize some individuals who have made a significant contribution to the ongoing success of our League. We will also enjoy an introduction to a recently published book by our fellow member Fred Lighthall. His book, Disastrous High Tech Decision Making, takes a look at the tragic Challenger space mission.

Reservations for the Annual Dinner Meeting must be made by June 14.

Three dinner entrees will be available: Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Tuscany Chicken, or Vegetable Lasagna. The cost per person is $28. Reservations can be made by sending a check for number of guests and menu choices directly to treasurer John Ripley at P.O. Box 1032, Niles, MI 49120.

Click here for a handy RSVP form to print and send to John.

To reserve and pay by credit card online, click on the following choices and give us the names of each person ordering each dish:

For pork, click here.
For chicken, click here.
For vegetarian lasagna, click here.

Also, during the meeting an election of officers will be held. The following members have been proposed for terms on our Board of Directors:


Bette Pierman
Lorraine Stepanek

Continuing Board Members

Melissa Clapper
Donna Dutton
Liz Ennis
Marilyn Klawiter
Barbara Lackner
John Ripley
Karen Ristau
Christiana Zilke


Earl Bickett
Susan Gilbert
Pat Lauth
Jean Sharp


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 June 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.