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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Local residents honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with vigil

By Michele Bourdieu
With photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now

Local residents gather in Houghton on Sept. 20 for a vigil to honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away on Sept. 18, 2020. (Photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- A group of local concerned residents gathered at the Miner's Statue Park in Houghton recently to honor the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG).

An admirer of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg displays her sign during the Sept. 20 candlelight vigil in Houghton.

It was a quiet candlelight vigil, disturbed at times by the noise of passing traffic. Nevertheless, Valorie Troesch, retired attorney and member of the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country (one of the event sponsors), thanked those who participated for their attendance and spoke about some of Justice Ginsburg's important accomplishments. 

"Right now, most of us are probably feeling a mixture of great sadness and also fear of what will happen next," Troesch said. "But tonight, I want to take a few minutes to dwell only on the remarkable life and career of Justice Ginsburg and how she made a difference for all of us. And I want you to hear her words rather than mine."

At the Miner's Statue Park in Houghton on Sept. 20, vigil participants listen to Valorie Troesch outline some of RBG's accomplishments.

Troesch pointed out that Ginsburg took on legal cases that would would contribute to achieving equality between men and women.

"Ginsburg argued that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution required equal treatment of men and women," Troesch noted. "And -- to make her point -- she argued that the 14th Amendment worked both ways for men and women. In 1971, she successfully briefed the case Reed v. Reed -- in which the US Supreme Court decided that an Idaho law saying that men must be preferred to women in appointing administrators for estates violated the equal protection clause. Then in 1972 she won another federal case that said bachelors -- men -- could not be prohibited from claiming a tax deduction for the care of aged parents, something that had been allowed only for women previously. The court cited the Reed case as the grounds for its decision. So you see, limited issues in these cases but they were building important precedents. That was the work of Ginsburg." 

In arguing gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court in the 1970s, Ginsburg won five out of six of them, Troesch said.

"In her first appearance before the court, she told the justices, 'I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.' Prophetic words in 2020," Troesch added.

Other highlights of RBG's life and legal work cited by Troesch include the following:

-- appointment to the US Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter in 1980;

-- nomination to the US Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993;

-- three Supreme Court cases in which RBG dissented with strong words.

Troesch noted one of RBG's dissents that has been quoted in the news accounts of her death last week: "In 2013, the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act by deciding that voting issues based on race were no longer a problem and that states with histories of voter suppression would no longer be required to get federal approval before changing their election laws. Ginsburg wrote: '[t]hrowing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.'"

Troesch also expressed her own admiration of Ginsburg in this tribute: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the great jurists in our nation’s history. She was also an exceptional human being. She was able to do something many of us -- myself likely included -- could not do, and that was to be friends with the people with whom she had the most fundamental disagreements with on cardinal issues. She was best friends with Antonin Scalia, perhaps the justice most philosophically opposed to Ginsburg on the court. She wrote: 'Collegiality is crucial to the success of our mission. We could not do the job the Constitution assigns us if we didn’t -- to use one of Justice Scalia’s favorite expressions -- get over it.'"

Participants in the candlelight vigil for Ruth Bader Ginsburg gather with social distance at the Miner's Statue Park on Sept. 20, two days after the passing of RBG.

Participants in the vigil also shared their own thoughts and feelings about RBG with Keweenaw Now.

Hancock resident Miriam Pickens, who helped organize the vigil, said she was delighted at the turnout for this event honoring RBG.

"It was a quiet peaceful time to be present with others who also loved her and everything she represented. Her loss is a blow to democracy," Pickens said. "During these Covid-19 times, people are pretty stressed because when something terrible happens, especially on top of everything else, we can’t find comfort the way we human animals are meant to -- in the company of friends. It was really nice to be among the simpatico to mourn her loss. It was also important to take this time not to think about McConnell’s response but to purely focus on her legacy and her loss."

Paul Mitchell, lay minister, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, also commented on the vigil.

"I think this vigil was a chance for our whole community to pause amidst all the politics and the challenges of the pandemic to mourn the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg," Mitchell said.  "Her tenacity, wide ranging thought and eloquence in speaking her truth was spectacular. We were mourning her passing and celebrating her life. In the coming days I think she'll be our inspiration as we dive back into our social and political challenges."

Linda Belote and her husband, Jim Belote, of Hancock also attended the vigil.

"In spite of the pandemic, Jim and I had to attend this vigil for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has single handedly done more to achieve equality for women in modern times than anyone else or any 2 other people together," Linda said. "The entire group was subdued and social distancing was really honored. I was  moved by the communal spirit that was present. Oh how I loved and will continue to love and admire the energy, intelligence and the spirit of Ruth B G!"

The participants attending the vigil for Ruth Bader Ginsburg wore masks or respected social distancing or both.  

Among the vigil participants was Elizabeth Flynn, co-director of the Elaine Bacon Literacy Program, who spoke of RBG's place in history as a hero.

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become an iconic hero, especially for women of all ages," Flynn noted. "She recognized dramatic changes in women’s position in society and supported legal action to reflect those changes. Such a loss. Her work will live on, though. Thinking of what she was able to accomplish gives me hope that others will follow her and lead out of these dark times."

In her talk to the group, Valorie Troesch added some words of inspiration for following RBG's example.

"Where do we go from here?" Troesch asked. "Joyce Vance, a law professor and former US Attorney, advises this: We should honor the life of RBG, American hero, by refusing to give in, refusing to back down, fighting for the civil rights of all people and demanding our leaders honor the rule of law. This is our fight now."

Inset photo: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Ballots for Nov. 3 General Election to reach Houghton County soon; State Voter Guide available

By Michele Bourdieu
Michigan census map showing Houghton County townships and cities of Houghton and Hancock. (Census map courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

HOUGHTON -- Voters in Houghton County wishing to vote early beginning September 24 will have to wait until their city or township clerks receive ballots that have been delayed because of some last-minute ballot changes by the State of Michigan.

Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly expects the ballots for the Nov. 3 election to arrive by tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 25. As soon as they arrive, Kelly said, she will make every effort to get the ballots to city and township clerks by tomorrow.

The clerks will mail absentee ballots to voters who have applied for them. These can be mailed back to the city or township clerk, but because of some mail delays experienced recently Kelly advises voters to hand-deliver their ballot or place it in the correct drop box.*

"I'm encouraging everybody to hand-deliver their absentee ballot to their clerk or put it in the drop box," Kelly told Keweenaw Now today. "If somebody wants to vote early in person, they will have to contact their township or city clerk to make arrangements."

If for some reason voters cannot reach their own clerk, Kelly is willing to have them bring the ballot to her office on the second floor of the Houghton County Courthouse, 401 E. Houghton Ave., Houghton, MI 49931. She will then arrange to get the ballot to their clerk. While township offices are now closed because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the two city offices have been open and township clerks are working.

From League of Women Voters:

Barry Elizabeth Fink, League of Women Voters of the Copper Country president, announced that the print copy of the State Voter Guide has arrived and is at the Portage Lake District Library.

"If you would like to help distribute copies to locations around the area, especially outside of Houghton-Hancock, please contact me," Fink said in an email to voters.

The League of Women Voters nonpartisan Voter Guide for the Nov. 3 General Election can be viewed on-line here. It includes candidates' replies to questions on important issues.

"We hope to have the local Voter Guide available in early October," Fink added. "Visit for information as candidate responses are received.

Members of the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country presented a Zoom meeting, "All About Mail-in Voting," including an informative presentation by Barry Fink and Valorie Troesch, on Sept. 22. If you missed this live presentation, it is now available on their Web site here

* Click here for the list of drop boxes in Houghton County. You must place your ballot in the correct box for your own city or township clerk.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Portage Lake District Library to host zoom meeting on Mail-in Voting Sept. 22, National Voter Registration Day

HOUGHTON - Portage Lake District Library will host speakers Valorie Troesch and Barry Fink from The League of Women Voters of the Copper Country in a zoom forum on mail-in voting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, National Voter Registration Day. Topics will include reasons you can have confidence in mail-in voting, advantages, and how-to information on obtaining and tracking your ballot.

Join this Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 885 7678 5816 Passcode:007036

In addition, The League of Women Voters will be at the Portage Lake District Library from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to assist with voting and absentee ballot forms.

The League of Women Voters (LWV) encourages voters to utilize absentee ballots, which can be mailed EARLY or dropped off at your clerk’s designated drop box site, in order to stay safe during the pandemic. Voters should be aware that polling places have been exempted from the Governor’s mask order and poll workers are not required to wear masks. If you do go to the polls, wear a mask and use precautions.

The Web site is working hard to make candidate responses and voter information available. Check it out.

LWV of the Copper Country is planning virtual candidate forums for the three candidates in the 110th District House race  and for the six candidates in the Houghton County Commissioners' Districts One, Two and Three. Candidate interviews for the two candidates for the Houghton County Clerk and four candidates in the Houghton County Sheriff race are also planned. Dates should be finalized soon.*

Michigan Tech, Finlandia hold Voter Registration Day events

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Houghton City Clerk Ann Vollrath will be on the Michigan Tech campus from noon to 3 p.m. at the Husky Statue helping students get registered and handing out absentee ballot requests. The hope is that students will check their registration status, make a voting plan, and get involved with enough time to fully participate in the November election.

Finlandia University is proud to be a National Voter Registration Day partner. From 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22, FinnU will engage its community and register voters by hosting a voter registration table on Summit St. between Nikander and Wargelin. Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly will be on site to answer questions, and Finlandia faculty and staff will help FinnU community members register or check their registration. See details here.

*See the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country Web site for more info. If you would like to submit questions for the candidate events, please send them to, identifying which race you are submitting questions for, by Sept. 23, 2020. Click here for local Ballot Drop Box Locations.

Editor's Note:  Visit the Michigan Voter Information page if you need to know if you are registered to vote or if you need more information about voting in Michigan.