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.


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

October 27 Benton Harbor Mayoral Debate

The LWVBCC and members of the Benton Harbor NAACP have arranged with the two mayoral candidates, current Mayor James Hightower and his opponent, Marcus Muhammad, to hold a debate on Tuesday, October 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Benton Harbor Public Library. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.

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 & Fernwood Sponsor "A Conversation on Poverty"

Pictured here left to right are Pat Lauth, LWVBCC board member and one of the meeting organizers, Chris Zilke, LWVBCC president, and Robin Emenaker, Steering Committee member of Cass County Bridges Out of Poverty. Bridges was the organization providing the presentation at this special worshop at Fernwood on July 14.

We all learned a lot about poverty, about the hidden rules and what you can and cannot buy with food stamps and about how clever and resourceful poor people are in their struggle to provide for themselves and their families. We also decided the problem is massive and requires fundamental changes in public policy.

Judge Butzbaugh Speaks at June 16 Annual Meeting

Judge Alfred M. Butzbaugh, retired Chief Judge of the Berrien County Court, was the featured speaker at the Annual Meeting & Dinner held the evening of June 16 at Orchard Hills Country Club in Buchanan. The Judge spoke to a full house on "Poverty and Justice". Also attending and speaking briefly were Patti Ceresa Assistant Prosecutor of Berrien County, Mary Drolet of Legal Aid of Western Michigan and Dee Kuelbs, Director of the Self-Help Legal Resource Center.

LWVBCC is studying poverty and decided poverty and the legal system merited a very special speaker like Judge Butzbaugh. While Chief Judge, Butzbaugh instituted the Court's staffed Self-Help Center and the Mental Health Court. He continues to have a strong interest in the plight of those unable to afford a lawyer in both the criminal and civil courts.

Hard copies of the LWVBCC Annual Report for the 2014-15 year were distributed at the meeting. The electronic version of the Report is available here.

LWVBCC Newsletters

View our informative e-newsletter, published almost monthly. The October 2015 newsletter is now available. It is a copy of an e-newsletter and does not have the same professional appearance as the original. If you would like to join our mailing list email webmaster.