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The Date of the Annual Meeting is Tuesday, June 17 and the venue is Orchard Hills Country Club in Buchanan. Put the date on your calendar now!
THREE OAKS, Mich.- The power of the ballot is coming to a high school or community college near you.
The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties is conducting a student voter registration drive now through the end of April. Michigan residents who are 18, or who will turn 18 by either the Aug. 5 primary election or the Nov. 4 general election, are eligible to vote in those elections.
The local chapter of the League, based in Three Oaks, is using grant money from the national organization to run this nonpartisan drive among potential young voters in the two counties in southwest Michigan. The national campaign is titled The 2014 Youth Voter Registration Project.
John Ripley of Niles, the local chapter's Voter Service Chair, said the organization has so far gotten commitments from seven high schools and the two community colleges to have League members spend a few hours at each school registering students. Ripley said the League welcomes any other schools that would like to have a Voter Registration Day. School officials may contact him. (See contact information above.)
Here is the schedule of the high school voter registration drives. In the high schools, students will be registering in or near their cafeterias during the lunch period. Posters in the hallways several days in advance will give students specific information about the drives in their schools. Among other things, the posters will tell students to bring their driver's license or Social Security number.
March 26: Benton Harbor and Niles high schools
April 9: Buchanan High School
April 10: Lakeshore High School
April 15: Berrien Springs High School
April 21: Ross Beatty High School in Cassopolis
April 23: Edwardsburg High School
Lake Michigan College will have its Voter Registration Day on April 16 at its main campus along Napier Avenue in Benton Township. Registration will take place in the hallway outside the bookstore.
Southwestern Michigan College will have its registration drive that same day during the spring Campus Bash festivities outdoors at the Dowagiac campus.
In addition to the necessary Michigan voter registration applications, students and faculty will have the opportunity to pick up a variety of nonpartisan League literature. One handout has this long but provocative title: "VOTE (Sometimes It Takes a Four-letter Word) + A Step-by-Step Guide to Voting and Why You Should Vote on Election Day."
One memento that each newly registered student will be offered is an "I Registered to Vote" sticker + a nod to the "I Voted" stickers that many polling places have offered for years.
League officials say research demonstrates that the earlier a person gets involved in the democratic process, the greater the chance that he or she will become a lifelong voter. And members of the Berrien and Cass Counties organization are hoping that voter registration will gather steam among young potential voters as they see their peers registering to vote.
State Representative Al Pscholka (District 79) does not have any "coffee hours" scheduled but will be meeting with the public about landfill issues. More details forthcoming.
Senator John Proos does not have any "office hours" scheduled (these informal meetings with the public have many different names).
The Book Group meeting will be held on Monday, April 28 at 10:00 am at the home of Lorraine Stepanek in New Buffalo.
It is not uncommon for outsiders, and even some members, to question how the League can be nonpartisan yet advocate on positions that, in the slice of time that is now, appear to be partisan. In the highly partisan climate that has developed in recent years, the League is one of the very few political organizations that is not in either the liberal/Democratic camp or the conservative/Republican camp. And we have members of all political persuasions and encourage them to get involved in politics. So members may be partisan but the organization is not. All this is hard for many to wrap their minds around.
The League is nonpartisan in that we do not endorse or support any political party or candidate for office. We don't rate legislators, we don't track their votes and we don't threaten them if they don't vote our way. Voter service is one of our main missions and we publish nonpartisan voter guides and hold candidate forums to help voters educate themselves beyond TV ads. Education is an important League function, and we try in our meetings and in this newsletter to inform our attendees/readers and stimulate them to think about issues in our world.
However, the League is also an advocacy group, and we have positions on issues that have been developed over the years since our founding in 1920 and are the result of study and consensus of the local Leagues nationwide. These positions are updated from time to time, but are basically consistent. The positions and platforms of the political parties, on the other hand, do change and at times they resemble our League positions, or not. But the League doesn't change or drop it's positions because they are currently those of one party or the other. And we do speak out!
An example is health care. The League has a position on comprehensive health care for all Americans. President Truman liked that idea too and President Eisenhower delivered a special message to Congress on January 31, 1955 recommending a comprehensive health program for Americans. Read it here. Lyndon Johnson got Medicare passed and that took the pressure off for awhile. But President Nixon encouraged HMOs as a way to rein in costs and provide health care for more people. Then President Reagan came along and decided the free market was the best way to manage health care and the Republicans have basically supported this idea since. But clearly both parties have been on both sides of the issue.
The key is not to confuse politics with position advocacy.