South Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on a new voting system:
A League of Women Voters analysis of South Carolina’s voting technology shows continued software deficiencies in the Election Systems and Security technology used in the state.
Dr. Duncan Buell has been analyzing South Carolina election data since 2010 on behalf of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina. His analysis of the November 2018 general election shows the ES&S voting system’s deficiencies lead to significant errors that can damage election integrity and voter confidence.
The problems that have been detected with the voting computers are the responsibility of the manufacturer, not the State Election Commission, which has upgraded the computers as instructed by the manufacturer, according to Buell.
The voting computers used in South Carolina have miscounted the vote in recent elections, the LWV states. Although the manufacturer has recently upgraded the software, Buell found that several hundred votes were miscounted in the June 12 primary and November general election.
The discoveries highlight the problem of using computers for elections when there is no backup capability and insufficient enforcement of computer-related technical standards.
Buell says the report documents the need for a more secure, more efficient and more cost-effective solution for South Carolina.
As it marks its 50th anniversary year, the State Election Commission is looking for such a solution.
SEC in December, in conjunction with the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, released an official Request for Proposals for a new statewide voting system. The SEC is seeking a uniform, statewide system that features a paper record of each voter’s voted ballot to replace the current paperless system. The SEC expects to implement the new system by January 2020.
A new voting system will not only provide the state with a dependable system that will serve voters for years to come but will also improve the security and resilience of our election process. Having a paper record of each voter’s voted ballot will add an important layer of security as it allows for post-election audits of ballots to verify vote totals.
The SEC said it issued the RFP in December to allow adequate time for evaluation of voting system proposals and subsequent implementation by January 2020. It continues working with the S.C. General Assembly to acquire funding for the replacement effort.
In the 2018 session, the General Assembly turned down a request from the State Election Commission and Gov. Henry McMaster to expedite the replacement of voting machines, providing $4 million of a $20 million request to move ahead on a project expected to cost about $50 million.
There is urgency if the state is to do better for the 2020 election.
Even if all of the funding is provided this year, the earliest South Carolina voters would have access to new machines would be 2020 - and there is doubt as to whether they could be available in time for the presidential primaries early next year.
Lawmakers have their eyes on what to do with a budget surplus. There are many proposals and good causes. Updating the voting system would be a wise use of a portion of the money.
The Post and Courier of Charleston on plutonium at the Savannah River nuclear weapon refining complex:
The Savannah River Site’s mixed-oxide fuel plant is being mothballed, leaving the national laboratory with 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, and there’s little hope Congress will soon come up with funding to restart the Yucca Mountain disposal project in Nevada.
The sad truth is that the United States has spent more than $17 billion trying to find permanent storage for some 90,000 metric tons of fissionable material or nuclear waste stored at 121 sites in 35 states.
And it still has no place to go.
Nothing substantive has been done in decades. A federal insurance program pays out about $400 million per year for nuclear plants to store spent fuel rods on-site. Worse, there’s little hope the 116th Congress will even broach the topic.
Why? Partly because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she won’t support restarting the Yucca Mountain project as long as Nevada’s leaders are opposed to it, despite earthquake-prone California having plenty of its own nuclear waste to dispose of.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., supports refunding the Yucca Mountain site — there’s about $40 billion in a fund for nuclear waste disposal — but it’s unclear if the veteran lawmaker can muster the political strength needed to get the issue on the agenda before he retires in 2020. The Senate rejected President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget request for restarting Yucca Mountain.
Gov. Henry McMaster and South Carolina’s congressional delegation have been unable to persuade the administration to keep SRS’s multibillion-dollar mixed oxide, or MOX, project going. Instead the federal government wants to dilute and dispose of the surplus at SRS for about half the cost.
According to Rick Lee, the head of the Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council, the MOX plant was set up for failure because of perennial underfunding that led to construction delays and added costs.
The bottom line is that SRS could be indefinitely stuck with a huge stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium and untold amounts of other nuclear waste. That’s unacceptable, and a betrayal of the federal government’s promise to store the dangerous material elsewhere.
The feds are now promising to move about a metric ton of diluted nuclear waste to a Nevada site by 2020, but Nevada’s attorney general has filed suit to block it, even though the site would be only an interim destination.
On Thursday, a federal judge in Reno declined to grant a temporary injunction the state was asking for and agreed to let Justice Department lawyers file additional arguments including one that would shift the litigation back to South Carolina, presumably to U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs, who is well-versed in the saga.
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose office has asked to be an intervener in the lawsuit, must continue to fight Nevada’s challenge and, if the plutonium is not moved, pursue monetary damages under a law that calls for fining the government $1 million for every day it doesn’t remove at least a metric ton of plutonium in the first 100 days of each year through 2022.
Meanwhile, the National Nuclear Security Administration and Department of Defense have floated the idea of converting surplus weapons-grade plutonium at SRS into “pits” — the fissionable core of bombs. That might benefit some laid-off SRS employees — about 1,000 notices have been sent out with more expected later this month — but it would do woefully little to reduce the stockpile. Pits require only a few kilograms of plutonium, and only about 40 per year are expected to be produced there, if ever.
The only functioning U.S. disposal site is near Carlsbad, N.M., about 2,000 feet underground in a salt bed, and it’s just a pilot project designed primarily for mid-level nuclear waste. It’s at least half full. And there are only a handful of low-level nuclear waste sites nationwide, including one in Barnwell.
And SRS isn’t the only problem in South Carolina. This past summer in Richland County, a radioactive spill at a Westinghouse-run fuel rod site seeped into the soil.
South Carolina’s leaders must get the SRS cleanup on the agenda, fight to reopen Yucca Mountain and demand monetary damages pending plutonium removals...
Index-Journal of Greenwood on partial government shutdown negotiations:
Looking back on the past week — month, really — got us thinking about what’s happening in our nation’s capital. Admittedly, we tend to focus on more local issues than national, but ...
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi probably should have thought more about her request that President Trump not deliver the State of the Union address as planned, at least not yet. She got her payback with a somewhat equally petty but also somewhat deserved stunt when Trump grounded her trip abroad.
What she might want to have considered is that the president might still get his platform and deliver his message to the millions she is hoping to deafen...
But what the newly reinstalled Speaker Pelosi also did was show she is more about showmanship and one-upmanship than striking a deal, a compromise that is potentially acceptable to the masses. Do we need to protect our borders, ensure the best level of security for our nation and its people? Yes. Do we want to welcome immigrants who enter legally? Yes. Have Democrats ever shared that message? Yes.
Then why can’t the two sides come together and discuss? Maybe it doesn’t have to be over a beer on the White House lawn, especially since the president doesn’t drink and it’s frankly too damn cold to do anything on the lawn, but you get the idea. Maybe they could have McDonald’s burgers and pizzas. Comfort food.
Meanwhile, however, there genuinely are federal employees whose lives are in a bit of turmoil. Even some of those workers who might understand the president’s game plan and approve of his tough stance might turnabout. If they do, they should also direct their anger at the heels-dug-in Pelosi and other Democrats who are intransigent.
This is not helping our country one iota.
Mercy. As we say in the South, it’s a real head shaker. And while we do at times get frustrated with some of our lawmakers in Columbia, we are truly glad to know they tend to get along a bit better than those in polarized Washington, D.C.