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Your Monthly

November 2021
Message from the Chair

Dear Members,

We are excited to present you with our first official monthly newsletter from the League of Women Voters of the Greater Grand Rapids Area. What a busy year it has been! Typically, in a year where there is not a presidential election, or midterm elections, it is a little quieter time for LWV. Well, not this year! As we continue to see voting rights under attack nationwide, including right here in Michigan, the League is needed now more than ever.
In April 2021, our local League attained an incredible – and probably our most noteworthy - achievement of the past year. Our small but mighty group that formed a few years ago moved from a Geographical Unit under the mentorship of the LWVKA to a MAL League under the guidance of LWVMI. This achievement came after years of dedication and hard work, a comprehensive application, and a presentation before the state board. We are now one step away from becoming an independent League. We are very proud of achieving this status and hope you will join us in celebrating this milestone.
The nonpartisan and steadfast work of the League of Women Voters is vitally important to our democracy. We appreciate the commitment of our many volunteers as we fulfill the League’s mission to ‘Empower Voters and Defend Democracy.’ There are numerous volunteer opportunities available with the League to meet the broad range of talent and time that our members have to offer. If you would like to volunteer, please contact me at to talk about how you can further support the League. Whether you are interested in an existing opportunity or have an idea to support the work of the League, we have a place for you. Our volunteers are essential to fulfilling our mission right here in our community.
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. 
Please join us in welcoming our new members!
- Janice Scalza
- Audrey Craft
- Kristi Van Howe
Happy 5th anniversary to the following members! 
- Elianna Bootzin & Jeffery Thomas Family – 3/9/2016
- Karen Joseph – 7/1/2016
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.
New Michigan Voter Election Hotline: 855 I VOTE MI 
Please enter this new election information in your phone contacts, post it on your bulletin board, or save it wherever you can find it quickly when needed. It is the new call center with Michigan election lawyers ready to answer Michigan-specific election questions concerning voting rights or election issues.
Advocacy & Current Projects
The League is always busy! We'll keep you informed of current activities and advocacy work in this section of the newsletter.
Great Lakes Advocacy: At our September member meeting, members voted to focus our advocacy efforts on the Great Lakes.

Below you will find links to articles that will help you stay up to date on issues related to this precious resource.
- Community Assistance: Report finds disparities in drinking water fund distribution (Great Lakes Now)
- As Drought Grips American West, Irrigation Becomes Selling Point for Michigan (Great Lakes Now)
Line 5 opponents criticize Canada’s treaty maneuver, ask Biden to reject move (MLive)

Photo credit: Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
Website Coming Soon: We continue to refine our website before we release it later this year. We could use 2-3 members to test it out over the next month and give us feedback. We will test both PC and mobile devices. E-mail if you would like to help. We are also soliciting any photos members have of registration events for posting to the website.
MI Vote Matters High School Challenge: The League of Women Voters of Michigan, as well as several other voting rights groups have partnered with the Michigan Secretary of State on MI Vote Matters High School Challenge. This exciting initiative encourages high schools across Michigan to help connect students with their right to vote through civic education and nonpartisan voter registration drives. Schools can strive for the highest voter registration rate and earn recognition from the Secretary of State for the percentage of eligible seniors who have registered or pre-registered. There are three tiers of recognition:
  • Gold for 90% and above
  • Silver for 70 % and above
  • Bronze for 50% and above
In the MI Vote Matters program, once students have registered or pre-registered to vote, they submit a pledge to vote card to count towards their school's participant numbers. The League of Women Voters also has a voter registration presentation that is available for use, or League members can present the program in person if requested. This program runs through June 30, 2022.
LWVGGRA hosted our first voter registration event through the MI Vote Matters program at Kenowa Hills High School. We did so at the invitation of Kenowa Hills School Board Member Eric-John Szczepaniak. During the lunch periods we registered several students to vote. We also provided informational materials and QR codes to many more students who were not quite eligible to register yet but wanted to make sure they knew how to do so once they turned 17.5 years.
Additional nonpartisan partners of this program include Inspire2Vote, Michigan Center for Civic Education, and When We All Vote.
If you would like to volunteer to work on this program here in the Greater Grand Rapids Area, please email Courtney Winell at In many instances, volunteering to assist with this program will mean hosting a voter registration table during a lunch period at the school.
In photo (L-R): Kenowa Hills School Board Member Eric-John Szczepaniak, Courtney Winell, and Joan Long
Catchy Slogan Needed! Our fundraising committee is seeking ideas for a phrase to feature on some LWV swag. We're hoping for something with broad appeal beyond our membership. Please email Karen Legault at to share your ideas! 
Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC): On Friday, October 22, the MICRC held a public hearing in Grand Rapids as part of their second round of public hearings. The hearings were required by the Michigan Constitutional Amendment that established the commission in 2018.

The MICRC released their draft proposed maps in advance. The public hearing provided the community an opportunity to comment on the proposed maps, as well as share any feedback they had with the MICRC.
Members of the League of Women Voters of the Greater Grand Rapids Area volunteered during the public hearing. A big thank you to our volunteers: Karen Dunnam, Rhonda Jewell, Karen Joseph, Paula Lewison (LWVHA), Nancy Mroczkowski, Tina Pawlak (LWVHA), Judith Simonson, and Courtney Winell.

Pictured above (L-R): Courtney Winell, Karen Joseph, Tina Pawlak, and Paula Lewison
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!
Canvas of the November election will be happening in the November / December time frame. Definitive date and times haven’t been finalized by the Kent County election clerk yet. It would be great if we could cover the canvas again this year and report any observations to the Kent County Clerk / Commissioners. Watch your inbox in the next month for more details.
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!

Meet Elianna Bootzin! She serves as our chairperson of, ensuring that voters in the greater Grand Rapids area have access to our nonpartisan voter information. We wanted to interview her for another notable reason: Elianna headed up the effort to resurrect the LWV in our area. With this newsletter being our first since the 1990’s, what a meaningful time to feature her!

At the end of 2015, “things were starting to feel weird”. Elianna noted increasing divisions and felt that people needed to reach across the aisle. In her research, Elianna found and attended a state LWV Making Democracy Work workshop. Forming study groups and adopting positions by consensus was very appealing. Elianna’s knowledge base and comfort with technology was noted by another attendee who said, “Oh, your LWV must love you!” Upon learning that she wasn’t connected with the LWV, Elianna was put in touch with two women. Grand Rapids has a LWV MAL (member at large) unit today due to her initiative.

Elianna has served as a LWV Shur Fellow, coaching KS and WA for close to two years on DEI issues. She recently received the LWV Belle Ringer Award in recognition of her support of League priorities! Elianna makes contributions to the Grand Rapids community as well. She is in her fifth year of serving as the executive director of the Neighbors of Belknap Lookout. Prior to that she fulfilled several roles at Feeding America West Michigan. She is a member of the Monroe North TIFA (Tax Increment Finance Authority) and the Community Master Plan Steering Committee for the City of Grand Rapids. 

Drawing inspiration from sociologist Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone, Elianna is committed to building community. Her degree in Biochemistry and Cognitive Science reflected her wonder at how people’s minds work to now wondering how society works. Elianna believes everybody deserves a voice and all of the voices should be heard. Speaking of voices being heard, if you’re on a Zoom call with Elianna, you may see her toddler son Miles or husband Jeff in the background. Thank you, Elianna, for sharing your talents and inspiration with our chapter!

Grand Rapids Update
Each month, we'll spotlight some aspect of current political and voting-related 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. 
11/10 – 10:30 am | LWVGGRA Fundraising Committee Meeting | Held via Zoom. Email Karen Joseph if you would like to participate
11/11 – Veteran’s Day
11/17 – 7:00 pm | LWVMI Observer Corp Meeting | Held via Zoom. Email David Allen if you would like to participate
12/6 – 7:00 pm | LWVGGRA Monthly Board Meeting | Held via Zoom
12/15 – Bill of Rights Day
12/31 – MICRC Redistricting Maps Become Law
Once our new website is live, we will be able to accept online donations. For now, if you would like to donate, please send checks to the address below.
League of Women Voters GGRA
P.O. Box 174
6220 Belmont Ave NE
Belmont, MI 49306

Please note that the League is a 501c4 and donations are not tax-deductible. Thank you for your support!
Copyright © 2021 LWVGGRA, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 174
6220 Belmont Ave NE
Belmont, MI  49306

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League of Women Voters Greater Grand Rapids · PO Box 174 6220 Belmont Ave NE · Belmont, MI 49306 · USA

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