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 League of Women 
 Voters of Berrien 
 & Cass Counties
April, 2018

Public Forum with Area School Superintendents
School superintendents will be on the firing line at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, at the RESA Conference Center in Berrien Springs, taking aim at major issues in public education. Shane Peters of the
Shane Peters

Bridgman schools is gathering a panel of superintendents in Berrien and Cass Counties to participate with him in raising and addressing concerns and strengths of the schools they lead. League member Liz Ennis will be the moderator, and there will be ample opportunity for questions from the audience.
     Few institutions are of greater importance to communities than their schools. They tend to operate under the radar, though, despite
administration efforts to bring important issues to public attention. All too easily, we leave education to the professionals--the administrators, teachers, and support staff who make the system work. No matter how good a job they do, though, they want and would welcome our help. This forum is one way to enlist it.
     The event has been scheduled with two other important dates in mind: May 8 and July 24. May 8 is the date on which voters in Berrien Springs, Coloma, Lakeshore, Watervliet, and Dowagiac school districts will cast ballots to approve or reject a millage or bonding measure. And July 24 is the date by which candidates who wish to run for school boards in November need to file an Affidavit of Identity and a nonpartisan nominating petition.
     Through this forum, voters in the five school districts with funding issues likely will get information helpful in deciding how to vote on May 8. Another good result might well be someone's decision to run for a school board or persuading someone else to do so.
     In any case, only good things can happen if we give our schools at least some of the attention they need and deserve. Their leaders are sure to welcome it.
Lunch with an Elections Expert
      You probably won't find anyone anywhere with more understanding, experience, and creative ideas about Michigan election procedures, issues, and security measures than Christopher M. Thomas--our luncheon speaker May 15.
Chris Thomas
Chris retired last year after 40 years with the Michigan Department of State--36 of those years as Director of Elections. In that capacity, he administered Michigan's election law, campaign finance act, and lobbyist disclosure law. He also served twice as President of the National Association of State Election Directors and represented that organization on the Board of Advisors to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for 13 years, serving as chair for two.
      In 2013, President Obama appointed Chris as a Commissioner on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which made recommendations to improve the election day experience of American voters. He and his wife, artist Kristin Hosbein, live in St. Joseph now, but Chris remains active in the world of elections.
      The subjects Chris will talk about with us on May 15 include Michigan's decentralized election administration system, the security of election administration programs including voter registration and ballot tabulation both nationally and in Michigan, online voter registration, line management at polling places, interstate data sharing to keep voter registration files accurate, best practices for training and managing election day workers, what citizens can do to enhance ballot security, and much more.
      We are privileged, indeed to have Christopher Thomas as our speaker at noon on Tuesday, May 15, at a location to be determined.
Migrant/Seasonal Workers Access
to Driver's Licenses or ID Cards
On Wednesday, March 21, LWVBCC hosted a public forum on a question of considerable importance to our agricultural community-farmers, seasonal workers, Four speakers (from left)--Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, Migrant Legal Aid lawyer Teresa Hendricks, farmer Fred Leitz, Jr., and District 78 Representative Dave Pagel (via
speakerphone from Lansing) offered compelling insights on the subject before them at a public forum hosted by LWVBCC on March 21: whether Michigan driver's licenses and identification cards should be available to applicants regardless of their immigration status or only to people "lawfully present."  
      All four speakers acknowledged the impact of agriculture on the economy of our area and the importance of migrant and seasonal workers to the flourishing of that economy. LWVBCC is grateful indeed to the speakers who gave so generously of their time, experience, and wisdom to make this a truly memorable event and to the actively engaged people in the audience who raised questions and offered observations that richly enhanced the learning and insights to be gleaned.
     After the public forum, members of LWVBCC, led by Board member Kathleen Fleming and the PowerPoint she prepared, gathered to consider whether to agree or disagree with a proposed revision to LWVMI's current statement of position on the subject.
     On the understanding that such driver's licenses could not be used to qualify for jury duty, members agreed, by consensus, that the statement should be revised to state as follows: A person should be allowed to apply for or secure and renew a driver's license or obtain an identification card regardless of immigration status. This consensus has been reported to LWVMI.
     If you missed the program, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking on  Migrant Worker Panel Video.

Looking Ahead with Voter Services
     Interest in registering citizens to vote is soaring this year, and LWVBCC is rising to the occasion. Time is short for the first upcoming event. In order to vote in the May 8 local millage and bonding elections, voters must be registered by April 9. 
     May 8 balloting in Berrien County is scheduled for millage and bond funding of Berrien Springs, Coloma, Lakeshore, Watervliet and Dowagiac schools. On the ballot in Cass County May 8 will be a 911 millage and a Volina Township road millage.
      To vote in the August 7 primary election, voters must be registered by July 9. The registration deadline for voting in the November 6 general election is October 9. Thus our registration efforts will extend throughout the summer and even into the school year.   
     Although we focus on schools while they are in session because they are logical sites of so many newly-eligible, first-time voters who can benefit from our help, we do our best to find opportunities to register other populations, as well. If you know of some, please let us know by email to lwvbcc@gmail.com
      The response to our requests in the broader community for help in registering voters has been gratifying. Training sessions for volunteers have been held in Niles, Three Oaks, and Stevensville.
     Another is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 7, at the Buchanan Art Center, 117 West Front Street (Buchanan's main east-west street in the downtown area). More will be offered on request of people interested in the effort. Your participation and support will be welcomed. It's important for Making Democracy Work.
      3 IMPORTANT 
      The League of Women Voters of Berrien & Cass Counties will sponsor a voter registration training session at the Buchanan Art Center on Saturday, April 7, at 10:00 a.m.  Anyone 18 and over interested in helping people register to vote is welcome to attend. The session will take about one hour.
     We also will host a voter registrar training session at the Niles District Library on Tuesday, April 17 at 6:30 p.m. to accommodate those who cannot attend during the day     
      Also, The League will host a voter training and registration table at Niles Community High School for anyone who would like to register to vote and/or learn how to help someone else complete an application.  The League will be set up outside the school cafeteria from 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 13. For access, you will need to go to the main door, be buzzed in, and register in the school office.  The League table will be nearby.
      For more information on these events, email League Voter Service co-chairs Michael McCaffrey at mike@michaelmccaffrey.com or John Ripley at lwvbcc@gmail.com.
     Be sure to bring a pad of paper and pencil on which to take note.
Candidate Forums and Debates
We won't know until later this month--after the April 24 filing deadline--just how many contests or contestants there will be in the August 7 primary election.
     Candidate forums and debates, though, are a major focus of LWVBCC's voter services planning. To decide how to vote, a voter needs to know how a candidate thinks about major issues and how each candidate's thinking fits with the voter's own values and perspectives.
Scheduling of LWVBCC's candidate events, of course, depends on candidates' schedules and willingness to participate. We hope they will be willing and available because we know many in our community anticipate and count on our forums for unbiased, well-planned, and relevant information. We anticipate full schedules in the weeks leading up to both the primary and the general elections.
As soon as we are able to schedule these events, we will let you know. We anticipate a full schedule of forums for primary contests and debates for candidates in the general election. If you have suggestions for participants or venues, feel free to contact us at lwvbcc@gmail.com. What we do matters. We know that and are committed to doing it right. You can be part of that commitment and effort.
Environmental Tidbits
     There is now evidence that not only are the fishes in the sea swallowing unprecedented quantities of plastics that endanger their lives, we humans are swallowing tiny bits of plastic every time we open a bottle of "pure" water.
    Since most of us live in areas where water is treated by municipalities that are pretty tightly regulated, it is better for a multitude of reasons to drink tap water or water from a filtering product you have purchased.
    Plastic of all sorts is the bane of water treatment plants to say nothing about the impact of plastics on birds, sea life, wild animals just about everywhere and, therefore, human life as well.
The most recent news about the "island" of trash swirling away in the Pacific Ocean is that the mass is much larger than realized. Google "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" to learn more.
     On a somewhat related theme, most of us are concerned every time we fill the gas tank of our car. Apparently, that all important liquid is actually a bargain. If recently released figures are correct , a gallon of gasoline is less expensive than a gallon of water, milk or beer. Much less expensive. And if you're buying a "premium" bottled water, you're in for a shock when you compare prices. Check it out!!                                                                     -- Chris Zilke
Annual Meeting 
     The date is set for the annual meeting of the LWVBCC: 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 14. More specifics, including location, will be announced next month. For now, though, please put the date and time on your calendar. If you attended last year, you know it promises to be a delightful evening.
      There will be business to take care of, too, of course, including election of a Board of Directors and approval of a budget for the coming year. As provided in the Amended and Restated Bylaws approved at last year's annual meeting, a Nominating Committee will make recommendations for Board membership, and a Budget and Finance Committee will prepare a proposed budget.
       Each of these committees is to have three members, at least one of whom is not now a member of the Board. This is a great opportunity for active participation in an important process by LWVBCC members who believe in our work but have only limited time to commit to it. The work of these committees will be finished this month after just one or two meetings.
      If you are willing to serve, please contact Mike McCaffrey or John Ripley or Chris Zilke regarding the Budget and Finance Committee, or Karen Ristau regarding the Nominating Committee. You will find their contact information in the LWVBCC Directory that you received in the mail last week.    It's a good opportunity. Please take it.
April Book Group 
      If you read the February newsletter, you already know something about this month's selection for the LWVBCC book group: Elaine Weiss's new book about woman's suffrage: The Woman's Hour. The group will discuss the book at the home of Chris Zilke at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, April 23. If you plan to attend, please call Chris at 269-449-2225 by Friday, April 20, to let her know. The book, just released March 6, is available through Forever Books in St. Joe.
        Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution on 
June 4, 1919. To become part of the Constitution, though, it must be ratified by 36 states. By August of 1920, 35 had done so. Tennessee could bring it over the top. The Woman's Hour is set in Nashville in the final days of that effort. Weiss describes, in vivid detail, the passionate struggle between the "Suffs" supporting ratification and the "Antis" opposing it.
The battle was fought on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate, but just as vigorously on the sidelines by the women who did everything they could to promote the cause they believed in--both for and against ratification. The Suffs prevailed. By the slimmest of margins, Tennessee ratified the Nineteenth Amendment on August 18, 1920. As a result, for the first time, all of the women citizens of the United States could vote in the next election and all succeeding ones--local, state, and national.
A central figure in the struggle was Carrie Chapman Catt, the founder of the League of Women Voters. Isn't it appropriate, then, for members of our League to discuss this tale of the final victory lap in the race for woman's suffrage? Come join us.
Forum on Redistricting/Gerrymandering
     The problem of gerrymandering and how to fix it is a big issue in this election year. On Wednesday, July 11, LWVBCC will host a public forum on the subject featuring Margaret Leary, the Redistricting Outreach Coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Michigan (LWVMI).
     A group named Voters Not Politicians has submitted signatures for a ballot initiative to amend the Michigan Constitution regarding the procedure for redistricting and the makeup of the commission that would oversee it. That initiative has not yet been approved to appear on the November 6 ballot, but 425,000 signatures--over 100,000 more than the minimum required--have been submitted. LWVMI supports the initiative.
     Gerrymandering has been challenged in many states recently, with the support or participation of LWV. Two cases on gerrymandering are before the U.S. Supreme Court this term--one out of Wisconsin and the other out of Maryland . A decision is anticipated within the next couple of months. If one is issued before July 11, our forum should be particularly stimulating.
     Details on location and time of day will be forthcoming. Mark your calendar now, though, for this July 11 public forum.
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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Saturday, April 7
Voter Registrar Training
9:00 a.m.
Buchanan Art Center
117 W. Front St., Buchanan
Tuesday, April 10
League Board Meeting
1:00 p.m.
Lincoln Township Library
2099 W. John Beers Road
Tuesday, April 17
Voter Registrar Training
6:30 p.m.
Niles District Library
620 E Main St, Niles, MI 49120
Monday, April 23
Book Group
10:00 a.m.
Chris Zilke's home
"The Woman's Hour:
The Great Fight To Win The Vote"
Please call Chris if you plan to attend:
Wednesday, April 25
Superintendents' Forum
Berrien RESA Conference Ctr.
6:00 p.m.
Berrien Springs
Tuesday, May 8
League Board Meeting
1:00 p.m.
Board Room
Niles District Library
620 E. Main St., Niles
Tuesday, May 15
"Lunch with the League"
Location: TBD
Speaker: Chris Thomas, Mich.
Director of Elections (ret.)
Wednesday, July 11
Public Forum on Redistricting
Location/Time TBD
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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