South Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Times and Democrat on the state’s effort to improve voting machine safety amid security concerns:
The appearance by former special prosecutor Robert Mueller before two U.S. House committees ... broke little new ground. It gave Democrats the forum they wanted to claim the president committed crimes. It gave Republicans the opportunity to expand on their conspiracy theories. Of most importance, Mueller reinforced that every American should be concerned about the security of our election process.
While Russian meddling in the 2016 election apparently did not include any altering of results, the vulnerability of computer systems to attack is enough to make security a top priority. South Carolina has taken an important step in that direction.
The state has awarded a contract for a new statewide voting system. An evaluation panel unanimously selected the Election Systems and Software (ES&S) ExpressVote voting system. The new paper-based system will replace the state’s aging paperless system that has been in place since 2004.
“This system will not only provide voters with a dependable system for years to come, but it will also greatly enhance the security and resilience of our election process,” said Marci Andino, executive director of the State Election Commission. “We will now be able to audit paper ballots to verify results. This is a significant measure that will go a long way in providing voters and election officials the assurance that every vote is counted just as the voter intended.”
The ExpressVote ballot-marking device provides voters with the familiarity of a touchscreen combined with the security of a paper ballot. Voters will navigate the ballot and make selections using a touchscreen. After verifying selections, voters will print their paper ballot. Voters will then have the opportunity to review the paper ballot before inserting it into a scanner. The scanner counts the votes, and the paper ballot is automatically dropped into a ballot box. Votes are recorded on the scanner, and the paper ballots are saved for auditing and verification of results.
“Our job was to find the best system out there for the voters of South Carolina,” said John Wells, chairman of the State Election Commission. “We were looking for a system that is secure, accurate, accessible, auditable, transparent, reliable and easy for poll managers and voters to use. Over the course of our six-week review, we read the proposals, participated in the demonstrations, and heard from industry experts. In the end, one clearly stood out above the rest.”
Importantly, the process of selecting a new voting system included input from state and private cybersecurity experts, advocates for voters with disabilities, experts on accessible technology, national voting system technology consultants, and county and state election administrators.
At $51 million, the cost of the new system is not inexpensive. But ensuring the integrity of the vote is a government — and taxpayer — priority.
With Mueller stating emphatically his belief that Russian efforts— and those of others — to interfere with U.S. elections in multiple ways is continuing, South Carolina for one has taken an important step toward security of the voting process. The new system is to be used to conduct all elections after Jan. 1, 2020.
The Index-Journal on respecting the judicial system:
We can learn a lot from social media, a topic that has gotten some mileage in this space of late. Just follow our stories when they are shared on Facebook and the website to get an idea of what we mean.
Anger regarding the spate of violence in Greenwood is understandable. That some people’s anger grew exponentially when the violence spilled into Greenwood Mall this past summer is understandable. Then, they realized, these acts of violence are not necessarily relegated to a smaller section of the city. It can, in fact, happen anywhere, including where people have an expectation of being safe. Malls are where people shop, not where they shoot.
That anger and people’s biases and judgments, however, should not preclude one basic tenet we afford all people, which is the right to a fair trial. Whether we believe six defendants in the case are guilty as charged is irrelevant when it comes time for a trial.
But people were quick to say it was a travesty of justice when Judge Eugene Griffith halted the trial on Wednesday and voided indictments. Some were also quick to condemn the defense team.
Wait. Really? Jokes aside, we need lawyers. We need good lawyers who are well-versed in the law, who prepare their clients’ cases well, who, quite simply, do their jobs.
Ask yourself a question: If you found yourself arrested and going to trial — guilty of the charge or not, by the way — would you not want the absolute best defense team working for you? Would you not want the judge presiding over your case to weigh all information and determine that a delay or change of venue will give you the best shot at a fair trial? Don’t let the crime and, please, do not let any prejudices or preconceived notions cloud your view regarding what is and is not just. On a side, note, don’t judge your attorney on appearance more than you judge him or her on their ability to represent you well and fully.
Our judicial system is not perfect, but it exists for everyone and should treat everyone as is depicted in the statue of justice, blindfolded while holding the scales.
The Post and Courier on naming roads after politicians:
They’re scattered across the state:
The Karl S. Bowers Bridge in Beaufort County, which honors a former federal highway administrator who went to prison on federal income tax charges.
The Senator Gene Carmichael Highway in Dillon County, named for a politician who later was convicted on federal vote-buying charges.
The John Courson Interchange in Richland County, named for the former state senator who pleaded guilty last year to misconduct in office for pocketing campaign cash.
And now the latest entrant in South Carolina’s Infrastructure Hall of Shame is the John Hardee Expressway to the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, named for the former state Transportation Commission member who has agreed to plead guilty to obstructing a federal investigation into what prosecutors now say was a “kickback” or “bribe” they couldn’t prosecute because they couldn’t prove he did anything in return for the money.
Having the names of four disgraced public officials emblazoned on state property might not seem so bad given that the Transportation Department alone has a list of more than 800 named roads, bridges and intersections. But that misses several points.
A small point is that this isn’t the complete list of roads that are named for people later convicted of crimes, and it doesn’t even begin to touch the politicians who did less-than-honorable things that didn’t rise to the level of a crime.
A related point is that we’re only talking about road names; there are countless buildings and other structures named for people, some of whom went on to disgrace the state after they were honored.
A larger point is that there also are hundreds of state-owned buildings named for politicians who were still alive at the time of the honors, and many of them are still alive today, so we can’t say for sure that they won’t similarly shame our state.
And perhaps the largest point of all is that our Legislature and our Transportation Commission long have been far too generous with honoring their own for reasons that do not deserve honor. Mr. Hardee, for instance, was honored because he managed to persuade his fellow transportation commissioners and federal highway officials to use our tax money to pay for the expressway that bears his name. This isn’t money that would have just gone up in smoke if not for Mr. Hardee. It’s money that would have funded other projects — which presumably would then have been named for other politicians instead.
We don’t object to naming things for people who deserve to be honored. But they should be extraordinary people who did extraordinary things for our state — not merely people who managed to keep getting reelected or reappointed, or who managed to funnel public money into the particular projects they favored.
And because you never know what kind of skulduggery people are going to get into as long as they’re still alive, we shouldn’t be naming things after people before they die.
Unfortunately, it’s not such a simple thing to un-honor a disgraced politician. It costs money to replace those signs bearing their names, and name changes can be disruptive for businesses along the routes. But while it’s not always practical to undo our mistakes, it’s pretty easy to stop making them over and over: The Legislature should act once and for all to prohibit naming state-funded projects for anyone who is still alive.