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   League of Women 
 Voters of Berrien 
 & Cass Counties
January, 2018
The League of Women Voters is "making democracy work" for all of us in Berrien and Cass Counties, all over Michigan, and throughout the United States.  Our League has plans underway for this year's programming in Civic Education, Action, and Voter Service. We have 12 new members already this year, eager to support our organization.
      We must submit our annual membership report at the end of January, so please renew your membership TODAY if you haven't yet done so. An individual membership is still $60 and a household is only $85.  You may renew online or by U.S. Mail. To renew online,  Click Here to Renew .  Or if you prefer, you may click on " Membership Form ," print out the membership form, and mail it with your check to PO Box 1032, Niles, MI 49120.
     Many thanks for your help in this important work.
--Your LWVBCC Board of Directors
President's Message



     Thanks to the Michigan League of Women Voters


and 11 individual voters, Michigan now is on a growing list of states whose redistricting practices are being challenged in state or federal courts.  To learn more about the case, you can go to the Michigan League's website: lwvmi.org.  There you will find a brief article about the lawsuit and a link to the Complaint that was filed in a Federal Court in Michigan on December 22. 

     Three cases charging unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering have reached the US Supreme Court now.  In last month's newsletter, we called your attention to Gill v. Whitford, the Wisconsin case that has been argued and is awaiting decision.  Then on December 8, the Supreme Court agreed to hear another case challenging partisan gerrymandering, this one from Maryland: Benisek v. Lamone. A third case, out of North Carolina, has been filed in the Supreme Court, as well; but the Justices have not yet indicated whether they will hear it this term.

     Additional cases challenging either political or racial gerrymandering are pending in either federal or state courts in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas. You can find a summary of these cases and links to pleadings filed in them at www.brennancenter.org/blog/state-redistricting-litigation.

      One of the cases awaiting decision by the Supreme Court (Gill) charges partisan gerrymandering by Republicans.  The other (Benisek) charges partisan gerrymandering by Democrats.  This balance, newly created when Benisek was accepted for hearing just last month, suggests that the Court may be ready to offer substantive guidance on the requirements,  limitations, and procedures for redistricting going forward. 

     Such guidance is badly needed.  The outcomes of these cases can and probably will impact our democracy for decades to come.  The open question is how. We should know the answer to that question within the next few months.

     The issue of redistricting has been receiving a lot of attention in Michigan recently--appropriately so!For several months, a group organized under the name Voters Not Politicians (VNP) has been circulating petitions for a ballot initiative to establish an independent citizen redistricting commission through an amendment to the Michigan constitution.

     On December 18, VNP submitted the required number of petition signatures to the Secretary of State's office. LWVBCC joins LWVMI in congratulating VNP on its successful efforts.

     Concerns about fairness in the process of redistricting are not new to our organization.In 2012, LWVMI adopted a Statement of Position supporting the formation of an independent redistricting commission in lieu of the legislature as the primary redistricting body. The Statement affirms the goals of transparency and citizen partnership in the redistricting process and supports procedures consistent with them.   See http://lwvmi.org/documents/RedistPosit.pdf .

     Procedures for redistricting are of significant importance to the proper functioning of our democracy.  Concerns loom particularly large as we approach the 2020 census.   It is hoped that the Supreme Court will offer valuable guidance when it issues its decisions in Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone.    

Public Education Committee
     In order to include more members into the work of the League, committees have  been formed according to interests indicated on our recent survey of members. The  committee on Public Education met for the first time on November 14th.   The purpose was to brain storm ideas for the committee to pursue.  Many excellent ideas  emerged from a lively discussion.
     One of the ideas was how to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of women's right to vote--possibly through a writing contest on the subject.  We also spoke about the impact on society of women being able to vote. 
     We agreed that voting is crucial to our democracy and that accordingly, we should work to get more voters and address reasons they might not vote. One idea was to possibly visit schools and other venues to familiarize people with voting
machines and ballots. We concurred that it is time to do more for public education, and voting is the key.
     The committee plans to meet again January 24th at noon at Lake Street Eats in downtown Bridgman.  All are welcome to attend and contribute.  
                      --Linda Cheek and Jane Raymond, Coordinators
Book Group
     The next meeting of the LWVBCC book group will be on Monday, January 15, at the home of Annette Van Dusen in New Buffalo. 
     The book for discussion,  Dreamland  by Sam Quinones, is a close study of opiate abuse, drug cartels, and the devastating  consequences to families and the nation.  
     All are welcome.  If you plan to attend, please call Annette at 269-469-0806.
Energy & the Environment
     There was an interesting segment on NPR recently discussing the difference between weather and climate.  I decided to look up some definitions of both.
     From Merriam Webster, Weather is "the state of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, clearness or cloudiness."  In other words, what we experience every day.  Right now we're experiencing some unusually cold weather for this time of year.
     From Dictionary.com, Climate:  The word descends from Greek klima.  The original use of the word climate in English was in reference to one of the sloping zones of the earth from the equator toward the poles.  It is the average weather in a place over many years.  Climate takes hundreds, thousands, even millions of years to change. Unfortunately, this last sentence seems to have been negated by events in the last 50 years or so.
     Two more definitions, these from NASA: "Climate change" refers to any long-term change in Earth's climate, or in the climate of a region or city.  This includes warming, cooling and changes besides temperature.  "Global warming" refers to the long-term increase in Earth's average temperature.
     For now, enjoy the weather, dress sensibly, keep your gas tank full, and be especially aware of road conditions.
     Happy New Year !!
     Chris Zilke, Chair, Environment Committee
LWVBCC Planning Session
On Tuesday, January 9, the LWVBCC Board of Directors will host our organization's annual planning session.  The meeting is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. in the Board Room of the Niles District Library, 620 East Main Street. 

     The national organization (of which you, as a member of LWVBCC, also are a member) encourages that this year's focus be on "making democracy work."  In particular, we are encouraged to include in our planning consideration of voting rights, improving elections, campaign finance / money in politics, and redistricting.
These subjects are at the heart of our mission.  The job now is how to most effectively incorporate them into our programming for the coming year.  Your help and ideas are needed.  We invite you to attend the meeting or (if you can't make it) to pass your ideas on to a Board member or someone else who plans to be there.

Committee Coordinators
Energy and the Environment : Chris Zilke
Health and Social Services: Dorothy Parker & 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: Donna Dutton & 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, Jan. 9
League Board Meeting
1:00 p.m. 
Board Room
Niles District Library
620 E. Main St., Niles
Monday, Jan. 15
Lea gue Book Group
10:00 a.m.
Meet at Annette Van Dusen's home. Call to let her know you are attending: 269-469-0806 by Saturday Jan. 13.
Tuesday, Jan. 24
Public Education Cmte. Mtg.
Lake Street Eats Restaurant
4228 Lake St., 

Board of Directors
Marilyn Klawiter, President
Dorothy Parker, Vice President
Karen Ristau,  Secretary
John Ripley, Treasurer
Linda Cheek
Donna Dutton
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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