Visitor educates Rotary club about proposals 2, 3

DOWAGIAC — A group of Dowagiac residents and workers partook in a presentation Thursday to help them become more informed voters.

St. Joseph-based attorney Gwendolyn Powell Braswell visited the Dowagiac Rotary Club Thursday to provide the club with information about Michigan ballot proposals 2 and 3 prior to next Tuesday’s midterm elections. Braswell has experience with voting laws, having worked in Washington D.C. with cases on voting laws, before moving to Florida to work in appellate law. She now works in estate law in St. Joseph.

The presentation was requested by members of the Rotary Club.

“Thank you for having me. I’m so happy to be here talking to you about voting,” Braswell said Thursday. “My father was an immigrant, and he came here from Jamaica. Being an immigrant, he studied the law and became a naturalized citizen. He always impressed upon us kids to take our civic duties very seriously.”

Proposal 3 would add several voting policies to the Michigan constitution. Some of the voting policies already exist in the state statute, but not in the state constitution. Others would be modified policies or new policies. Some changes include making it a constitutional right to use a secret ballot, allowing straight ticket voting, allowing automatic voter registration and allowing no-excuse absentee voting.

The topic Braswell focused on most was Proposal 2. Proposal 2 deals with the topic of gerrymandering. During the election, citizens will decide whether to change how congressional and state legislative districts are drawn in Michigan. In Michigan’s current system, legislative districts are drawn by the political party in power at the time of the U.S. Census, which is taken every 10 years. The system proposed in Proposal 2 is to have legislative districts drawn by a 13-member independent commission made up of citizens randomly selected by the Secretary of State from a 200-applicant pool.

“Gerrymandering is not a partisan issue. Both parties take part in this,” Braswell said. “In Michigan, you have a similar number of Republicans and Democrats, but because of all the packing and cracking that goes on, you have more of one party in [the legislative districts] that represent them.”

Braswell told the Rotary Club that she hoped the information she gave them was helpful and would inspire them to vote informed on Nov. 6.

“Voting has always been something very treasured to me. Even on my 18th birthday, my main goal was to get registered to vote,” she said. “I hope I was able to help make some of these issues clearer.”

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