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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

November 20, 2018

The (Munster) Times. November 13, 2018

Soliday right to call for state probe of Porter County election disaster

Clear-headed investigative probes, not partisan shouting matches, are the antidote for the poisoned Porter County election process.

It’s why Indiana House Rep. Ed Soliday’s call for the secretary of state to help identify the causes and possible fixes of the Nov. 6 general election fiasco was so important.

Soliday’s request was an essential complement to the Porter County commissioners’ appeal for the FBI to probe for any possible criminal violations.

Soliday traveled to Indianapolis Tuesday to make the request in person.

Secretary of State Connie Lawson, the state’s chief elections officer, pledged to aid Porter County after meeting with Soliday.

No doubt many layers of problems led to a dozen polling locations that opened hours late, early absentee ballots not sorted or counted properly and a subsequent delay by three days in unofficial election results.

It’s also clear Porter County officials aren’t prepared to solve this mess on their own.

Part of a long-running problem can be seen in a video of the Oct. 31 Porter County Election Board meeting, addressed by Times Editor Marc Chase in his Sunday column.

Before the meeting even began, Election Board members can be seen and heard arguing as they took their seats.

It then became a vitriolic finger-pointing match between Republican and Democratic election officials, culminating with arms waving and shouting after the meeting adjourned.

Many Porter County officials confirm the vitriol among Election Board and voter registration officials has defined the county’s electoral process for some time.

The election officials apparently were so busy yelling at each other prior to Election Day, the work to ensure a smooth election in which the public could be confident fell far short of what voters deserve.

A fresh set of eyes, ideas and analysis are needed, and the secretary of state’s office, which includes the Indiana Election Division, is a prime authority to help sort it out.

Valparaiso Democratic Party Chairman Drew Wenger was working to discourage a secretary of state probe Tuesday stating Lawson, a Republican, would be too partisan.

Wenger wanted to call in the state police instead.

But the state police would only be looking for criminal activity. Porter County needs a clear path forward from failed processes, not just potential wrongdoing.

The secretary of state did not preside over Porter County’s election mess, and her personnel will bring the fresh, authoritative eyes this situation requires.

The time for bickering is over. It has done untold damage to the faith of voters.

Those who can’t give it up should resign.

We’re glad the secretary of state agreed to help prescribe an antidote for what ails a seriously troubled Porter County election process.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. November 14, 2018

Ballot initaitive

When Indiana passed one of the first voter identification laws in the nation in 2005, Hoosier voters mostly took the restriction in stride - just another step in the process of exercising their civic responsibility.

Indiana voters didn’t seem to notice how other states were taking the opposite approach by expanding voter rights, with same-day registration, vote centers, online voting and more.

Now a recent study reveals how changes in election law have created a vastly differently landscape in ballot access. Indiana - once again - fares poorly. “Cost of Voting in the American States,” published recently in the Election Law Journal, ranks the state 47th for time and effort associated with casting a vote. That’s just ahead of Tennessee, Virginia and Mississippi.

The study, by researchers at Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University in Florida and Wuhan University in China, analyzes the effects of 33 measures dealing with voter registration and voting. The index looks at voting laws in place during presidential election years from 1996 through 2016.

Differences in registration deadlines carried the most weight, with the best scores afforded the states allowing voters to register as late as Election Day. Indiana voters must register no later than 30 days before an election.

Voter-regulation restrictions are another measure in the index, including bans on voting by residents with a felony conviction and restrictions for voters with cognitive disabilities. Some states automatically register state residents who are eligible to vote.

“The ballot box is the central democratic institution,” said Scot Schraufnagel, lead study author and chair of the political science department at Northern Illinois. “Voting and elections are key to democracy. One of the things that define the competency of an electoral system and the legitimacy of governing institutions is the ease in which you can vote.”

The connection to voter turnout also is made clear by the index, with the highest turnout in states with the lowest cost-of-voting score.

Official numbers have yet to be posted, but Indiana voters appeared to vote this year in much-improved numbers from the last midterm election. Only 28 percent of Hoosiers cast ballots in 2014 - among the worst voter turnout figures in the nation. Allen County recorded 49 percent turnout on Nov. 6; Whitley County was at 60 percent.

Some changes in early-voting procedures likely improved turnout, as did some high-profile races. But Indiana has a long way to go to reach the voter turnout rates in states such as Oregon, with a vote-by-mail system that produced 68 percent participation this year.

Belatedly, Indiana officials are promising to make improvements in election security procedures. It’s past time to overhaul the state’s registration and voting laws, as well.

“We can safely argue that if states desire higher citizen participation rates in elections, a reasonable place to start would be same-day voter registration policy,” conclude the authors of the Cost of Voting Index. “It is common for people to move, and the burden of getting reregistered to vote a predetermined number of days before the general election makes voting costlier.”

The Indiana House Democratic Caucus included election reform in its 2018 agenda, but failed to advance any legislation in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Indiana voters should watch the next session carefully to see whether their elected officials support higher citizen participation in our elections. If they don’t, it’s fair to ask - why not?

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South Bend Tribune. November 14, 2018

No place for sweet flavors in e-cigarette battle

In another step to cut back on teenage vaping, the Food and Drug Administration announced last week it will ban the sale of sweet electronic cigarette flavors at gas stations and convenience stores.

It’s a welcome move in the vaping battle after FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said that e-cigarette use among teens had reached “epidemic” proportions.

FDA data show youth vaping is up 75 percent over last year.

Though sweet flavors are being banned, e-cigarettes will still be available at those places in tobacco, mint and menthol. The FDA also plans stricter age-verfication requirements for online sales of e-cigs.

The ban comes after the FDA sent nearly 1,200 letters to stores and online retailers warning they could be fined for selling e-cigarettes to people younger than 18. Beyond the fines, notices were sent out to the leading manufacturers requiring them to submit plans within 60 days detailing ways to curb sales to underage consumers. But the manufacturers couldn’t prove they were doing enough to keep e-cigs out of the hands of teens.

Sweet flavors such as bubble gum and chocolate chip cookie dough are especially attractive to young people. Many believe those flavors attract teens to vaping which then serves as a gateway to smoking traditional cigarettes.

The use of any type of tobacco product by teens is unsafe because experts say the nicotine is both addictive and damaging to developing brains, said Tami Silverman, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute.

Overall, Indiana ranks 34th in the country in kids health, Silverman said.

“We can, and must, do better,” she said. “We will not change these trends without investing in our kids and our communities.”

Little is known about the possible long-term health effects of vaping. More research is needed before it can be determined e-cigarettes are much safer than traditional cigarettes.

We do know nicotine is a highly addictive substance that has been linked to health problems, especially heart disease, and that vaping among teens is a troubling trend that needs to be reversed. The ban of sweet-flavored juices is a step that could help.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. November 16, 2018

And Another Thing

Politics over policy

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, a former Bloomington resident who moved to Greenwood earlier this year, has always talked a bipartisan game. He hasn’t always voted that way, but he’s talked of the need to reach across the aisle and has done so on occasion, especially with outgoing Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.

His new appointment as leader of the National Republican Senatorial Committee has nothing to do with bipartisanship, however. The NRSC describes itself on its website as “the only national organization solely devoted to strengthening the Republican Senate Majority and electing Republicans to the United States Senate.”

Simply put, it’s a body devoted to politics, not policy. Our senator is responsible for getting his GOP colleagues in 33 states such as Alabama, Idaho and Oregon elected in 2020.

Young’s new job puts him at the very highest level of his party when it comes to negative campaign advertising like you just witnessed in the Mike Braun-Joe Donnelly race.

While his new position as leader of the National Republican Senatorial Committee might be good for Young, we don’t see how it’s good for Hoosiers or what it has to do with governing.

Title run ahead

Indiana University’s men’s soccer team maintained its customary level of excellence by winning the Big Ten tournament last weekend. Now it’s on to the NCAA championships.

The Hoosiers will start their 32nd consecutive NCAA tournament as the No. 2 overall seed, playing a noon match Sunday at Armstrong Stadium. The opponent will be the winner of a match between Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The team’s goal is to win the national championship. Last year, IU finished runner-up to Stanford in a game that went into a second overtime.

Here’s hoping another run to the title game begins Sunday.

Early holiday break ...

It hasn’t been all that long ago that Indiana University students were scheduled to go to classes into the week of Thanksgiving. That’s changed. No classes are held during the week of Thanksgiving now, which is logical since many students have to travel a long way to get home. They would get a jump on holiday travel and didn’t attend classes on the days leading up to the holiday, anyway.

So what happens now? Many students get a jump on travel and don’t attend classes the Wednesday or Thursday before Thanksgiving week. And Friday classes? Not a chance.

This may not be the kind of rigor one would like to see from students at a major research university, it has a good byproduct for Bloomington. IU faculty and some staff members get a week or more break from their responsibilities, too, as do students and teachers of the Monroe County Community School Corp., which follows the IU calendar.

Happy early holiday to all.

... Early holiday

If it seems too early to be Thanksgiving already, it’s not. But just barely.

The holiday is always the fourth Thursday of November. That means Nov. 22 is the earliest day it can be celebrated. Next Thursday is, of course, Nov. 22.

The earliest possible Thanksgiving means the longest possible Christmas shopping season. While you may tire of the music and the lights and all the rest, retailers have the maximum amount of time to bring in sales. That’s good for them and our local communities.

Words of advice

In case you missed it, we ran a story last Sunday from reporter Emily Ernsberger from our sister newspaper in Bedford about “Brown Friday.” That’s another name given to the day after Thanksgiving because it’s the busiest day of the year for plumbers. Who knew?

The simple reason is that a home set up for one family often hosts a dozen of more people for the annual feast. Roto-Rooter offers a few tips worth remembering, including not putting stringy, fibrous or starchy waste down garbage disposals and not flushing wet wipes down toilets. Better to be safe than sorry.

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