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 League of Women 
 Voters of Berrien 
 & Cass Counties
February, 2018
President's Message

Sign Up. Find Out. And Do It.
    That, in seven short words, is our focus for 2018: helping people in Berrien and Cass Counties 
* register to vote (sign up),
* learn about issues and candidates 
        (find out), and
* get out to vote (do it).

    Much of the "sign-up" groundwork already has been laid. The Voter Services committee has scheduled voter registration events at local colleges and high schools in partnership with other civic organizations. More will be scheduled in the future. If you have suggestions for another site, let us know by contacting lwvbcc.org .
    The "find-out" infrastructure already is in place with www.Vote411.org ready to supply information to the public once candidates and ballot initiatives are finalized. That information also will give momentum to some of LWVBCC's most important functions: public candidate forums. Planning for and hosting the forums will absorb much of LWVBCC's time and attention during the second half of 2018.
    Casting the ballot--voting--is the essence of our democracy. When we exercise that right, we citizens deserve to know that our ballots will be counted fairly and will matter just as much as the vote of someone in another district. Issues surrounding that--gerryman-dering--will be front and center this year. 
    The Michigan League--and LWVBCC as part of it--is deeply invested in that issue in two regards: through support for the Voters Not Politicians ballot initiative and through the lawsuit pending in a federal court in our state. And like voters throughout the country, we await with great anticipation the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in gerrymandering cases pending before it.
    The program focus of LWVUS for the year has four components: voting rights, improving elections, campaign finance/money in politics, and redistricting. That will be our focus, too. There's lots of heavy lifting to be done. Welcome to the work crew.

Hunger Is a Health Issue
And Your Vote Matters

Special event: noon Wednesday, February 21
Conference room,  Berrien County Health Department
2149 East Napier, Benton Harbor (just east of I 94 exit 30)
Soup and sandwich lunch, $9.50
Reservations required by February 13 
To reserve your place at this special event, please phone (269-471-1393), text (269-362-1871), or email (klawiter@hughes.net)

Food on the table three times a day--at least if we want it. That's a choice most Americans take for granted. But some--even in such a bountiful agricultural area as Berrien and Cass Counties--don't always have a choice about what to eat. The consequences can be dire.
      At noon on February 21, LWVBCC member Linda Strohl will focus on hunger in our area, whom it impacts, what those impacts are, how it is being addressed now, and current funding issues (including governmental sources). Linda is Executive Director of Senior Nutrition Services / Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan and a member of the Berrien County Board of Health.
      All members of LWVBCC and interested people who are not members, as well, are welcome to attend. Because a soup and sandwich lunch is being offered, though, we need to tell the food service how many people to prepare for. Please let us know no later than  noon on Tuesday, February 13 , that you plan to attend and who (if anyone) will be coming with you. You can do so by phone (269-471-1393), text (269-362-1871), or email klawiter@hughes.net . The $9.50 charge (cash or check only, please) will be collected at the door.
Do n't miss it.
Agricultural/Seasonal Worker 
Consensus Question
       At the 2017 state meeting of the League, delegates decided to conduct a study to update LWVMI's position on Agricultural/Seasonal Workers in Michigan. 
     The result of the study could revise Section 1. B. of the LWVMI Agricultural/Seasonal Worker Position from "Should allow a lawfully present, qualifying person to apply for or secure and renew a driver's license or obtain identification card" to "Should allow a person to apply for or secure and renew a driver's license or obtain an identification card regardless of immigration status."
      The LWVBCC has been asked to study the issue and send our local league vote to LWVMI by April 1, 2018. We will hold our Consensus meeting on this question from 1:00-3:30 in the Niles District Library Community Room on Wednesday, March 21. Please put it on your calendar and plan to attend. Resource materials on this topic can be found by clicking here.
     Panelists for this event will be drawn from the legal, law enforcement and migrant worker services communities. Look for more information in next month's newsletter.     -- Kathleen Fleming
Letter to the Herald-Palladium Editor 

     What follows is a "Letter to the Editor" sent to the Herald-Palladium about recent front-page coverage of local and statewide voting issues.  The H-P coverage was published Sunday, January 21, and our letter on Tuesday, January 30.  Our letter also provides details of planned Voter Service activities for 2018.
To the Managing Editor of the Herald-Palladium:
     You are to be commended for the excellent, front-page coverage of the election process in your January 21 edition.  All citizens must take seriously their right to choose our leaders, as your coverage so clearly points out.  No election is ever unimportant, from a millage to a bond issue, or the choosing of candidates for local, state and national office. 
      In this age of the internet, we highly recommend the vote411.org website maintained by our League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties.  It offers candidates the opportunity to present their credentials and plans if elected -- side by side with other candidates running against them.  It also allows citizens to verify that they are in fact registered to vote.  Voters also can become better informed about local candidates by attending nonpartisan forums and debates conducted by the League.  We will be announcing these activities for 2018 as the availability of absentee ballots and the time for local elections draws near.
      When it comes to voter registration, our local city and township clerks and their deputies are the very best at what they do.  It is no small task to run an election following the guidelines set by the Michigan Secretary of State's office.  (Here, too, is a fountain of information every citizen should study, either on a home computer, at their local library, or elsewhere.)  The integrity of the voting process is indeed very important.  But it's good to know, as your coverage so correctly points out, that responsible officials have taken necessary steps to ensure that election results are accurate.
      Thank you again for your attention to voter registration, participation, and education.  It is the job of every citizen, and we appreciate having the chance to help register voters (including young people who are 17 but will be 18 by the next election) and provide them with information so that they can become active participants in our democracy.
                     -- John Ripley, Communications Coordinator, 
                     League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties 
"The Woman's Hour"

      "Anyone interested in the history of our country's ongoing fight to put its founding values into practice--as well as those seeking the roots of current political fault lines--would be well-served by picking up Elaine Weiss's The Woman's Hour." 
-- Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller "Hidden Figures."  
     And indeed we, the LWVBCC, are just those interested people. Elaine Weiss tells the incredible story of one of the greatest political battles in American history: the fight to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote.
     Interested? LWVBCC is partnering with Robin Allen, owner of Forever Books in St. Joseph, to bring Elaine Weiss to Berrien County to talk about women's suffrage. We are delighted that the author has agreed to visit sometime in September 2018 (date to be determined shortly).
    What an event this could be! College students, high school students, Forever Books patrons, LWVBCC members- the League registering voters! We can't begin planning this event any too soon. Won't you join me March 29th at 5:00 pm at my home in Lakeside to begin planning this exciting event? I promise a reminder closer to the planning date, a glass of wine or a cup of tea on the day of our meeting.
     FYI: "The Woman's Hour:The Great Fight To Win The Vote" will be our April Book Group selection. Consider giving Robin Allen your business by ordering "The Woman's Hour" from Forever Books: (click here to order).                                                       -- Judy Scully
Book Group

     Recently, several LWV Book Group members gathered to discuss Sam Quinones book " Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic ." 
     This book is a sobering look at the opiate crisis in the United States. Quinones carefully traces the many strands that have led to the crisis from advertising, to pharmaceutical companies, to pain clinic pill mills, to the rise of black tar heroin and Fentanyl, and to law enforcement efforts to curb the growing spread of drug use. No one in the group that met had not been touched in some way by drugs-most usually because of knowing a family who had lost a loved one to an accidental overdose.
      In many ways, even with growing news coverage, this is still a hidden problem. If the true extent of the loss of life were known, public outrage would drive a greater response to the crisis. Perhaps a weekly count of overdose deaths must be published like the weekend murder rates to gain everyone's attention.
      Real money must be put into programs for rehabilitation rather than incarceration of low level users and drug dealers. Until the true depth of the problem is recognized, I fear that we will continue to rock along with Band-Aid fixes, punishing the users instead of drug companies whose greed for profits and the pill mill proprietors are among the basic causes of destruction of communities and people.
      The Book Group welcomes all who enjoy reading and discussing books on the issues citizens are faced with on a daily basis.  
     "The Women's Hour: The Great Fight To Win The Vote" by Elaine Weiss (to be released on March 6) will be our April Book Group selection.  We will announce here the home where the meeting will take place.                                                  -- Annette Van Dusen
Public Education Committee
     On January 24, the Education Committee met to discuss goals for 2018.  Suggested ideas were to contact the State and National League to see if material existed that covered the suffragette movement, voter how-to procedures, and ideas on how to mobilize voters.  
     Presentations could be done in churches, schools, libraries and senior centers.  We spoke about making a grant application in order to aid in this work.  We talked about the need to educate voters on legislation proposed and passed in Lansing regarding education.
     People can subscribe to such services as Gongwer, MLive, Capital Comments and the Herald-Palladium.  Any program we present must have advertising/promotion to be effective.
      Members present:  Liz Ennis, Judy Truesdell, Jane Raymond and Linda Cheek
      Our next meeting is scheduled for February 22 at Lake Street Eats at noon.           -- Linda Cheek and Jane Raymond, Coordinators
"We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest"

     The third Monday in January--the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--fell on the 15th of the month this year, the actual date of his birth in 1929.         
      One of the events honoring Dr. King last month opened with a performance of "Ella's Song," written by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon and made famous by Sweet Honey in the Rock's beautiful a cappella performance.  I had heard it many times before.  But I didn't know until last month that the "Ella" of the song is Ella Baker--a woman the speaker at that event last month, Darryl Heller, called "arguably the most significant, under-recognized leader of the movement that gave birth to Dr. Martin Luther King."
      Dr. Heller highlighted some of Ella Baker's significant roles with the NAACP, the National Urban League, SCLC, and other civil rights organizations; and he encouraged listeners "to learn more about this powerful woman on whose shoulders the Civil Rights Movement was built."  I plan to do that, beginning with a visit to the Civil Rights Heritage Center in South Bend, where Dr. Heller, on the staff of IUSB, has a significant role.
Ella Baker lingers in my mind because of her words in the unforgettable refrain of that song that bears her name: "We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes."  You can find it on YouTube: Ella's Song. 
      The celebrations and commemorations honoring Dr. King were particularly wide-spread this year. That, I believe, is because of a watershed date two months from now. On April 4, 2018, 50 years will have passed since the assassination of the remarkable man whose birth we celebrated on January 15.  Many of us vividly remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the tragic news.
      In that context, as we reflect on what has happened since then, the refrain from "Ella's Song" has compelling urgency. Do we believe in freedom?  My guess is that since you are reading this, you will say "yes" with conviction and without hesitation, as I do.  But I'm guessing you also will agree that there is a good distance to go before we can rest--if, indeed, that day ever can come. 
      But we keep plugging away, doing what we can to reach the goal.  That is why  we work together as the League.  My hope is that what we do together in 2018 will take us a few more steps in that direction.                                                                      
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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Tuesday, Feb. 13
League Board Meeting
1:00 p.m. 
Quiet Reading Room B
Lincoln Township Library
2099 W. John Beers Road Stevensville
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Luncheon Meeting on Hunger and Health
RSVP by Feb. 13 
(see article at left) 
Berrien County Health Dept.
2149 E. Napier 
Benton Harbor
Thursday, Feb. 22
Public Education Cmte. Mtg.
Lake Street Eats Restaurant
4228 Lake St., 
Wednesday, March 21
General Consensus Mtg.
Studying Seasonal Workers 
and Drivers' Licenses
Niles District Library
1:00 p.m.
Community Room
620 E. Main St., Niles
Thursday, March 29
Planning special event in Sept. w/author of new book on women's suffrage
5:00 p.m.
Home of Judy Scully
269-469-5430 if you plan to attend.
April, 2018
Book Group
Location TBA
10:00 a.m.
"The Woman's Hour:The Great Fight To Win The Vote"

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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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.

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