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 League of Women 
 Voters of Berrien 
 & Cass Counties
July, 2018
Newsletter

Redistricting?  Join Us on July 11.
     
 
Margaret Leary
      Redistricting is both important and complicated. At an upcoming public forum sponsored by LWVBCC, Margaret A. Leary, retired Director of the University of Michigan Law Library, will guide us through the process. The forum will be in the Norris Room of the St. Joseph Library at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11.
      Redistricting will be required again after the census of 2020, lending particular currency to the subject. In Michigan, the process is receiving particular attention in this election year because of a ballot initiative promoted by Voters Not Politicians that would significantly alter the procedures for redistricting and the individuals responsible for that undertaking. Thus when we go to the polls in November, one of the important decisions we may make is how to vote on that proposal. The consequences are great and lasting.
     Be sure to  join us on July 11 to learn more--and bring your friends along. It's sure to be an important and informative afternoon.

Redistricting or Gerrymandering: 
Which Is It?
    
     We will have to wait longer for guidance from the Supreme Court on what constitutes impermissible gerrymandering when a state redraws boundaries of legislative districts to the advantage of one political party at the expense of the other.
           
     On June 18, the Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated opinion in  Gill v. Whitfield , a case out of Wisconsin. The Gill plaintiffs alleged that in drawing a new legislative map in 2011, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature unconstitutionally diluted votes of Democrats by "cracking" (dividing the party's supporters among multiple districts so they fall short of a majority in each one) and "packing" (concentrating supporters in a few districts that they win by overwhelming majorities).
    The unanimous Supreme Court opinion did not address that question, however. Instead, it held that the plaintiffs had "not shown standing under the theory upon which they based their claims for relief." That is, although they alleged that the influence of their votes had been diluted by gerrymandering, they failed to prove individual harm in their own districts at trial: "[N]ot a single plaintiff sought to prove that he or she lives in a cracked or packed district," the Court determined. And it concluded,
That shortcoming confirms the fundamental problem with the plaintiffs' case as presented on this record. It is a case about group political interests, not individual legal rights. But this Court is not responsible for vindicating generalized partisan preferences. The Court's constitutionally prescribed role is to vindicate the individual rights of the people appearing before it.
     Rather than dismiss the case, however, the Supreme Court remanded it to the District Court in Wisconsin "so that the plaintiffs may have an opportunity to prove concrete and particularized injuries using evidence . . . that would tend to demonstrate a burden on their individual votes."
     A week after its Gill decision, the Supreme Court-this time divided 5-4, issued an opinion in Abbott v. Perez, a racial gerrymandering case out of Texas. There, it found the claims of racial gerrymandering unfounded except for one district. Racial gerrymandering, however, has a fairly substantial legal history unlike political gerrymandering; and the principles applied there probably do not offer much guidance on the current issue that continues to receive so much attention-political party gerrymandering.
      A case brought by the League of Women Voters in Michigan may well wind up before the Supreme Court before the Gill case is relitigated in Wisconsin. Perhaps it will be our case that stands as a landmark in the future. A great deal is at stake not only for today, but well into the future, as well. Stay tuned.
           
Upcoming Candidate Debates
     
     Planning is underway now for series of candidate forums that will be scheduled to begin soon after the August 7 primaries. Time will be short in order to complete the debates by the time to cast absentee ballots. Efforts will be made to schedule debates of candidates for at least the following: (a) the U.S. House of Representatives from the 6th District, (b) the Michigan Senate from the 21st District, and (c) the Michigan House of Representatives from the 59th, 78th, and 79th Districts.
 
   These candidate debates are among the most valued and significant activities of LWVBCC in its voter education efforts. Whether they take place depends on several factors including, most importantly, the willingness of candidates to take part. We encourage you to urge candidates to participate. It's a valuable way for voters to hear from candidates and learn which of them best represents goals, principles, and perceptions reflective of their own.
     It's important.
Annual Meeting = Big Success
   

    
Members who attended the annual meeting of LWVBCC heard a report of the year's activities from Secretary Karen Ristau, approved a budget for the coming year presented by Treasurer John Ripley, and voted two-year terms on the Board for Kathleen Fleming and Judy Scully (both of whom had been serving by appointment for several months, as provided in the bylaws, until confirmed by the membership at this annual meeting).
 
   The short business meeting followed a casual array of heavy hors d'oeuvres in the warm environment of the Buchanan Art Center. Many thanks to Judy Scully and Chris Zilke for making the arrangements; to Mary Lister for facilitating use of the Art Center; to other members of the Board who pitched in with setting up, keeping track of attendance, and cleaning up; and to all LWVBCC members who attended and made it a delightful evening.
June Book Group 
         
     It's difficult to say "The Death and Life of the Great Lakes" by Dan Egan was an enjoyable book. What it IS easy to say is that the details and insights set forth are thoroughly documented and thought provoking. This is an epic story covering information dating back to 1634.
     We will discuss this book again in future, so if you haven't yet read it, please do. It's worthwhile and so very important - and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
     
Next up: Jon Meacham's "The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels." 
Possible future reads: "The President in Missing" by Clinton and Patterson and "Origins" by Dan Brown.
     
Tentative Date for the next book discussion: Monday August 6. Location to be determined so be sure to read the early August newsletter. 
     
Mark your calendar and plan to attend. -- 
Chris Zilke
LWVLake Michigan Region News

     The annual meeting of LWVLMR was held in Chicago as June concluded in conjunction with the recently formed LWVUpper Mississippi River Region organization.
     Speakers from Iowa; Palm Beach, FL; Daviess County, MI; Greater Lafayette, IN; LWVOhio; and several Wisconsin counties updated attendees on water issues in their various counties and states.
     We learned about watersheds, the work(s) of various water-focused agencies, and coalitions some of these local chapters have formed with national or regional organizations (Sierra Club, for example).
     One of the speakers addressed "Building Consensus on the Wicked Topic of Water."
     More information to come next month!  -- Chris Zilke  
Too Few People Who Can Vote Do Vote!
   
     The U.S. Census Bureau has some discouraging statistics on voting. In the 2016 election, only 61.4 percent of the U.S. voting-age population voted. That means that more than a third of people who could have voted didn't. Moreover, although 70.9 percent of citizens over age 65 voted, only 46.1 percent of citizens between 18 and 29 did so.
     Those are voices that were not heard. There have been some encouraging signs lately that the turnout may be better this year. Student activists are making their voices heard. They are raising issues important to them, and people are listening-on national television, in Michigan, in Berrien County-indeed throughout our country. That's encouraging.
     This fall, LWVBCC will do all it can to improve voter turnout in Berrien and Cass Counties. It's an important part of our commitment to Making Democracy Work. Your ideas for ways to promote voter turnout will be welcome.
Committee Coordinators
Energy and the Environment : Chris Zilke
Health and Social Services: Judy Scully
Public Education: Linda Cheek & Jane Raymond
Voter Services : Mike McCaffrey & John Ripley
Budget and Finance: Mike McCaffrey, John Ripley, Chris Zilke
Membership: Marilyn Klawiter & Mike McCaffrey
Nominating: Karen Ristau
Special Events: Chris Zilke
Non-Partisan Policy
The League as an organization does not support or oppose any political party, candidate for elected office, or any group that supports candidates. As individuals, though, but not as representatives of the League, members are encouraged to participate in political activity and to run for office.  Our non-partisan policy does require two Board members--the President and the Voter Service Chair--to totally abstain from partisan political activity.  

LWVBCC: Contact Us

P.O. Box 1032
Niles, MI 49120

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Calendar/Notes
 
Monday, July 9
Last day to register to vote in August 7 primary election.
   _________ ______________________
Wednesday, July 11
LWVBCC Board Meeting
12:15 p.m.
Auditorium at St. Joseph 
Public Library
_ _________ ______________________
Wednesday, July 11
Public Forum on Redistricting
2:30 p.m.
Norris Room at St. Joseph 
Public Library
________________________________
Monday, August 6
Book Group
Jon Meacham's " The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels."
_______________________________
Tuesday, August 7 
Primary Election
_________________________
Tuesday, October 9
Last day to register to vote in November 6 general election.
__________________________
Tuesday, November 6
General Election

LWVBCC
Board of Directors
Marilyn Klawiter, President
Dorothy Parker, Vice President
Karen Ristau,  Secretary
John Ripley, Treasurer
Linda Cheek
Kathleen Fleming
Michael McCaffrey
Jane Raymond
Judy Scully
Christiana Zilke

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