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May 2022
Message from the Chair

It’s midterm election time! During this midterm election year, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested. In addition, thirty-nine states--including Michigan--will determine who will hold their Gubernatorial position for the next four years. Needless to say, it is going to be an extremely busy election year--not just in Michigan, but throughout the nation. 

During this year’s elections, the steadfast, trusted, and nonpartisan work of the League of Women Voters is needed now more than ever. In the current environment where some are still challenging the results of the 2020 Election, the League is committed to observing and conveying to the public that our elections are safe, secure, and accurate. Our goal is to instill confidence in voters about the election process. 

Our local League will be observing and participating in the entire election process from start to finish. 

This includes:

  • Observing the Public Logic and Accuracy Testing that is required of all jurisdictions prior to Election Day during every election cycle 

  • Serving as Election Workers on Election Day

  • Serving as Poll Watchers on Election Day

  • Observing the County Canvass that is completed after every election 

If you are interested in participating in any of the phases of the electoral process listed above, please let me know. We will need the support of our many volunteers to cover all of these areas throughout the coming months. This is a great way to learn more about all that goes into making our elections possible. 

We appreciate all that goes into ensuring that our elections are safe, secure, and accurate here in Michigan. So many people, including election workers, clerks, election directors, administrative staff, and many others work tirelessly on behalf of Michiganders to make our elections happen. We appreciate all that goes into making our elections possible.

In League,

Courtney Winell

Chair - League of Women Voters of the Greater Grand Rapids Area

We're excited to introduce new LWVGGRA members in this section, celebrate membership anniversaries, and share other updates about membership. 

Do you know someone who might enjoy being part of the League? Invite them to join you for a volunteer opportunity or member event. There is something for everyone! 
Voter Education
Our goal is to help keep our members informed of the latest issues regarding voting and voting rights. Check this section monthly for important updates.

Join Us for A Conversation About Elections in Michigan

The League of Women Voters of the Greater Grand Rapids Area is excited to host Eric-John Szczepaniak for A Conversation About Elections in Michigan on Thursday, May 12 at 7:00 pm. This conversation will be held virtually via Google Meet. This conversation is an opportunity to learn more about the election systems and processes in Michigan and ask any questions that you may have. Eric will also share his perspective as an elections administrator on the ballot proposals that are currently being circulated that would impact elections here in Michigan. 

Eric-John is the Elections Coordinator / Document Management Specialist for Kalamazoo Charter Township. He was elected, at age 18, to the Kenowa Hills school board in 2016, the body’s first LGBTQ+ member. He holds a B.A. in Public & Nonprofit Administration from GVSU and studies Election Administration through the University of Minnesota. He is the board president for the Michigan Center for Civic Education and a collegiate baseball umpire, having directed three Little League programs. You can learn more about Eric-John in this month's interview. 

We hope you will join us for this conversation. Please register here to attend the event. Once you have registered, a link to the meeting will be emailed to you. 

Advocacy & Current Projects
The League is always busy! We'll keep you informed of current activities and advocacy work here.

Promote the Vote Update

Thanks to members who picked up petitions to gather signatures for Promote the Vote 2022. Statewide, approximately 56,000 signatures have been collected so far.

On May 14, Promote the Vote is partnering with the 90 Meijer stores across the state of Michigan. If you are grocery shopping that day, take the opportunity to sign the petition (but only if you haven't yet done so -- double signatures both will be voided!) or to say thank you to the petition circulators for helping with this vital work.

We here on the LWVGGRA board know that collecting signatures can feel intimidating. To say thank you and make the endeavor a bit more fun, we've decided to add a bit of healthy competition to the mix. For every ten signatures collected, members will be entered into a drawing to win a gift card to a local establishment. Stay tuned for more details in the next newsletter. In the meantime, keep collecting those signatures! 

Great Lakes Advocacy

Below, find links to articles to help you stay informed on Great Lakes related issues. If you find current news related to LWVGGRA's advocacy efforts that you would like to share with fellow members, please reply to this email for possible inclusion in an upcoming newsletter.

PFAS is a widespread problem. The solution needs to come from widespread sources – Great Lakes Now

To build a new pipeline or not: Illinois city seeks Lake Michigan water – Great Lakes Now

FUNdraisers Past & Future

Thanks to everyone who participated in our Schuler Books fundraiser. We raised nearly $400--that's a lot of books, and a lot of love for our local League! 

This month, we hope you'll join us for some baked goods or other tasty food at Panera. See below for details on how your easy meal at the cafe or to go will help us power our mission. 

Donate Online to the League of Women Voters GGRA

Did you know that you can make an online donation to the League of Women Voters of the Greater Grand Rapids Area? Your donation will make an impact right here in our community to Empower Voters and Defend Democracy. 

This month, please consider skipping a day (or a week) of takeout coffee and instead donating the money that you would have spent on coffee to the League. Every dollar increases our impact in the community. 

Volunteer Opportunities
There's never been a better time to get involved! Read on to learn how you can help support the League's mission of Empowering Voters and Defending Democracy. Thank you for your support!
"I was at the Northview alternative campus today and registered five young people. As I was leaving, the teacher said that none of these kids would have registered independently, so they appreciated the personal contact. It's exciting to feel like we do make a difference, especially for people who are at the margins." 

League Member Chris VanEyl on her experience volunteering for the MI Vote Matters HS Registration Challenge, which has seen dozens of students register or pledge to register to vote 
Seeking a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader

The League of Women Voters of the Greater Grand Rapids Area is currently looking for a member to serve our local League and membership as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader. The DEI Leader will be a member of the LWVGGRA Board and will work to ensure that our Local League is creating the most inclusive environment possible. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team, a sub-committee of the LWVMI Membership and Leadership Development Committee, is currently working to create a communication network for local League DEI leaders. This network would meet on Zoom four times per year to give DEI leaders the opportunity to share ideas and experiences. In addition, LWVUS will provide additional information and training opportunities throughout the year. If you are interested in filling this role, please contact Courtney Winell at

Observers Needed for Kent County Board of Canvassers 

Observers are needed for the following time slots:

  • May 5th, 9 AM - 12 PM 
  • May 6th, 1 PM - 4 PM 
For more information or to volunteer, please contact Teri Chaplin at

Volunteers Needed for Voter Registration at Grand Rapids Public Library

We are excited to announce that we will be hosting Voter Registration tables at various Grand Rapids Public Library branches ahead of the August 2022 Primary Election to register library patrons to vote and answer questions about the right to vote.

We are seeking LWV volunteers to work at the voter registration tables during the dates and times listed below. If you are willing to devote some time to this important voter registration effort, please contact Courtney Winell at or 616.430.6445 and indicate which date(s) and location(s) where you are able to volunteer. 

  • Wednesday, June 22, 2022 |10:30 am – 2:00 pm | Yankee Clipper Branch – 2025 Leonard NE

  • Thursday, June 23, 2022 | 10:30 am – 2:00 pm | Seymour Branch – 2350 Eastern SE

  • Wednesday, June 29, 2022 | 10:30 am – 2:00 pm | West Side Branch – 713 Bridge St NW

  • Thursday, June 30, 2022 | 10:30 am – 2:00 pm | Van Belkum Branch – 1563 Plainfield Ave NE

  • Thursday, June 30, 2022 | 10:30 am – 2:00 pm | Ottawa Hills Branch – 1150 Giddings Ave SE

  • Wednesday, July 13, 2022 | 10:30 am – 2:00 pm | Madison Square Branch – 1201 Madison SE

  • Wednesday, July 13, 2022 | 10:30 am – 2:00 pm | West Leonard Branch – 1017 Leonard NW

  • Thursday, July 14, 2022 | 10:30 am – 2:00 pm | Main Library – 111 Library Street NE

Community Spotlight
In this section, you'll find interviews highlighting League members, elected or appointed officials, and nonpartisan partners. Do you know of someone who should be featured here? Reply to this email with your ideas!

For this month's Community Spotlight, we are delighted to feature Eric-John Szczepaniak, Elections Coordinator / Document Manager for Kalamazoo Charter Township. Read on to learn more about Eric-John and his work--and be sure to register for our conversation about elections with Eric-John on May 12 (more info in the Voter Education section of this newsletter).

Could you share a little bit about your role as Elections Coordinator / Document Manager for Kalamazoo Charter Township? 

As the Elections Coordinator / Document Manager, I am the hired professional staff within the Clerk’s Office at Kalamazoo Charter Township. Kalamazoo Township is a council-manager form of government, meaning that the Township Board has hired a Township Manager to oversee the staff and most functions of the local government. 

Has the political climate of recent years changed your work related to elections? If so, how? 

It certainly has. We are at record lows in trust in US elections amongst US citizens. Polling shows that Americans are more likely to believe that the elections in their immediate community were run fairly but the trust in election fairness decreases at the state and federal level. Research shows that the most impactful way to reduce one’s belief in fraudulent elections is a positive personal experience at the polling place. This means that we local election administrators, and the heroes that work as poll workers, have a great ability to reduce levels of distrust in elections. It also requires us to think about how to make every experience a positive one for voters, and how to continue building trust in an era of absentee ballots that continue to rise.

As Elections Coordinator, what are your current efforts focused on as we anticipate the 2022 midterm elections? 

November 2020 saw the highest voter turnout in US history. Our office is focused on increasing participation in this year’s elections. To that end we are partnering with WeVote, a Western Michigan University-led coalition that is focused on providing college students with voter information and encouraging students to make a plan to vote. If a voter makes a plan to vote, then they are far more likely to follow through with this. Since many college students are registered at their home address and would need an absentee ballot, this population of voters needs an early reaching out to. 

You’re currently a fellow in the Michigan Political Leadership Program. Could you share a bit about what this is and a highlight or two of your time in the program thus far?

The Michigan Political Leadership Program is a one-of-its-kind training program that aims to equip bipartisan leaders with communication, campaign, and public policy skills to make them well rounded public servants. Each year, 24 fellows are selected to learn aside one another and explore various industries and identities throughout Michigan. In our democracy, building public policy that works for the good of all residents is a noble goal, and one that cannot be fully implemented without an understanding of those it will affect. Learning alongside fellows whose experiences are different than mine has made me a better public servant. 

You serve as President of the Michigan Center for Civic Education and on the Kenowa Hills Public Schools Board of Education, both youth-focused endeavors. What challenges do you see our youth facing today and what gives you hope for the future? 

I believe that every child deserves a champion, someone to tell them that they are enough. All of us deserve this, and our young people today are particularly susceptible to pressures that tell them they are not enough. We all deserve love. Serving on the Kenowa Hills Board of Education and as chair of the Michigan Center for Civic Education have been incredibly rewarding as we are able to empower students. One of the largest challenges facing many young people today is the homework gap, the amount of students that go home to not having wifi access. The digital divide is an issue that we must address, and we must do it alongside those that are the most affected by it. Youth in urban and rural areas lack access to wifi. On the Kenowa Hills Board of Education we were able to secure wifi for 100% of our students during the COVID school closures. 

Until last summer, the LWVGGRA was a geographical unit of the Kalamazoo League (which continues to mentor us in our work). Have you partnered with the LWVKA on any initiatives? Do you have any advice for how the LWVGGRA might collaborate with elected and appointed officials? 

The League of Women Voters is a partner to the MCCE and the Michigan Department of State in the “MI Vote Matters” campaign that is registering high school students to vote in schools across the state! Kenowa Hills High School hosted a voter registration drive with me and some LWV volunteers. I think clerks and election officials all over are looking for more support from trusted community leaders to share that our elections are secure. LWV might have success in helping election administrators dispel some of the rumors about elections. 

When you’re not engaged in your many public service roles, what do you do for fun? 

I am a college and high school baseball and softball umpire, as well as a trainer of youth umpires! The spring season is always an exciting time, once it stops snowing, for rebirth and baseball. I am a lover of RuPaul’s Drag Race and four-wheeling and snowmobiling up at my grandparents house near Baldwin.

Grand Rapids Update
Each month, we'll spotlight current League-relevant news from the City of Grand Rapids. 
Mark Your Calendar
Check this section for upcoming events, deadlines, and educational opportunities hosted by the League and our nonpartisan partners. 

May 1: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month begins

May 1: Law Day 

May 2: Monthly LWVGGRA Board Meeting 7:00 pm via Zoom

May 3: Election Day- Polls open 7 am to 8 pm. Check to see if there is an election in your community. 

May 8: Mother's Day

May 8-14: Michigan Week 

May 12: A Conversation About Elections in Michigan Featuring Eric-John Szczepaniak | 7:00 pm via Zoom Register here

May 18: LWVGGRA Fundraiser at Panera | 4:00-8:00 pm | 2044 Celebration Dr NE, Grand Rapids, MI  49525

May 21: 103-year anniversary of US House passing 19th Amendment

May 30: Memorial Day


June 1: Pride
Month begins

June 4: 103-year anniversary of US Senate passing 19th Amendment

June 5: World Environment Day

June 6: Monthly LWVGGRA Board Meeting 7:00 pm via Zoom

June 19: Juneteenth

June 20: Father's Day

June 23-26: LWV National Convention | Denver, Colorado | In person and virtual options are available for participants 

July 11:
Promote the Vote signatures due by 5:00 pm 


Copyright © 2022 LWVGGRA, All rights reserved.

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PO Box 174
6220 Belmont Ave NE
Belmont, MI  49306

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