Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Savannah Morning News on Georgia's primary and nonpartisan election:
At best, Georgia’s primary and nonpartisan election promised to be a learning experience for all involved in Tuesday’s in-person voting.
Voters would have minor issues with the new machines and the ballot-casting process, but the inconvenience would be minor. Poll workers would be hamstrung by the limited amount of training on operating the new system, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they’d persevere. The relocation of 10 polling places would confuse some voters, but they’d eventually find the right locale.
Tuesday saw all those issues — and more. The fallout, meanwhile, bordered on the worst-case scenario.
Put simply, many voters, tired of waits brought on by technical failures and human error, walked away from the polls without casting ballots. And that’s unacceptable.
This is in no way a condemnation of the poll workers themselves. They were there on time and in force, and all of them had attended the training offered to them. It’s just that much of that training happened in February and early March.
So when they tried to power on the touch-screen ballot-marking devices and the ballot printers first thing Tuesday morning and nothing happened, their only option was to call a technician. And there weren’t enough of those pros to go around.
By 7:30 a.m., would-be voters were stomping back to their cars. Many pledged to return later, but who can say for sure that they did?
Just imagine how much worse it would have been had tens of thousands of Chatham County voters not cast absentee ballots.
The struggles hit Chatham County Elections Board Chairman Tom Mahoney hard. He was disappointed for the voters and devastated for the poll workers who had to deal with their understandably irate neighbors in line to cast ballots.
“All I can say is thank you to the poll workers and the yeoman’s job they did. That’s not to take away from the fact that we didn’t have problems setting up the equipment, because we did. And I do appreciate the voters’ patience through all of that.”
WHAT CAN GO WRONG...
This was bound to be a Murphy’s Law election.
Back when most heard “coronavirus” and thought beach day hangover, not killer flu, the spring elections posed a challenge. The move to the new voting system marked the largest overhaul in U.S. election history, and the state didn’t take delivery of the machines until January.
But Georgia was to have a trial run, with the machines making their debut for a March presidential preference primary. Short ballot. Small turnout. Get the kinks out.
Even Broadway pros and sports stars get dress rehearsals before the big debut or season opener.
Then came the pandemic and the quarantine. The presidential preference primary was combined with the May primary and nonpartisan elections. Then the May date got pushed to June 9.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mailed every registered voter an absentee ballot request form and encouraged them to return it and vote by mail. Talk of going completely to mail-in voting or conducting in-person elections with paper ballots was squelched — both notions were far too political.
Plus, with an election coming in November that has the potential to shatter voter turnout records, did Georgians really want to roll out the new machines on that day?
The answer is no — but perhaps they should have made allowances for paper ballots just in case. That’s the view in hindsight, of course. Then again, it is the responsibility of our elections leaders to show more foresight.
Mahoney acknowledges the flaws. Better to learn in a real-world situation than in the classroom, he said.
“We will take what we learned in this election. It’s going to help,” he said.
As election day stretched into election night with extended poll hours, all local residents can do is demand better the next time.
The Rome News-Tribune on the racial divide in the U.S:
It’s past time to address the divisiveness in our country.
We don’t seem to care about each other as fellow Americans but only as members of a political party or specific group and it’s killing us as a whole. There are things that are just wrong, no matter what spin someone attempts to put on it.
The death of George Floyd was one of those. The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, along with other agencies across the country, has condemned the actions that led to the man’s death.
An excerpt from the statement issued by that association on Wednesday reads:
“His death is not a police training issue but the result of a troubled culture. Over the last 30 years, many agencies have engaged in community policing efforts that, unfortunately for some agencies, have been more about transforming their image than making effective change. To build deeper, lasting transformation, agencies must build relationships with their communities that are built on trust.”
We’d like to commend our local law enforcement agencies in Rome and Floyd County for taking steps and actively working to be the types of departments we as a community can be proud of.
There’s a lot of hard work and care that goes into actively protecting a community, and a lot of stress. The odds of a police officer eventually making a mistake are pretty high. That’s not a critique. In a person’s role as a police officer they go into high stress situations and attempt to make sense out of chaos. It’s their job. Oftentimes, there are situations in which the anger meant for another person gets taken out on them — and that’s a tough thing to deal with.
There are so many times we’ve seen our local police stopping to help, not to harass. We’ve seen police in the rain changing a tire or in the hot sun talking someone through a bad day.
We’ve seen the caring and compassion in our law enforcement community — and it starts with our local leadership. That good leadership trickles all the way down to officers who patrol the streets, and it shows.
We should feel fortunate as a community.
There’s been a call to end harassment and police brutality, and that’s a valid call we should all heed. No one wins when one of our own is treated unfairly. There is no us or them. We’re all Americans and when a person is mistreated, we are all mistreated.
Arguments over semantics have been abundant. A common retort to the statement that “black lives matter” is “all lives matter” — and while they do, there is an exclusion. The statement, which sounds nice on its face, attempts to diminish the need for justice.
Equal justice under the law is a right and one we should be striving to achieve as a community and as a country.
An excerpt from a statement released this week from former U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis voiced this sentiment very well.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand — one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation.”
The 44-year Marine Corps veteran was appalled at politicized calls for our military to be used against Americans.
“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’ At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict — a false conflict — between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.”
We’ll end with another thanks to those who have worked hard to righteously protect and to serve as well as a closing message from Gen. Mattis.
“We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s ‘better angels,’ and listen to them, as we work to unite.”
“Only by adopting a new path — which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals — will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.”
The Brunswick News on drug addiction and the Drug Court program:
With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, it is hard to sometimes focus on other health care issues. One pervasive disease that continues to haunt many of Americans is addiction.
Addiction is an insidious disease that has millions of Americans in its cruel grip. The results from the 2017 National survey on Drug Use and Health show just how big a problem addiction remains in our society.
The survey said that 30.5 million people ages 12 years old and up had used an illicit drug in the past 30 days. One in four young adults between 18 and 25 years old were current illicit drug users. In total, approximately 19.7 million people 12 years old and above had a substance use disorder related to their use of alcohol or illicit drugs.
The substances that we abuse — alcohol, cigarettes, illicit and prescription drugs, among others — become more important than life itself when they get their hooks into people. Addiction destroys all aspects of a person’s life. It takes a massive physical toll on the body while life and the relationships crumble away in its wake.
Supporting an addiction has lead many into a life of crime. They take from others, or do other unsavory things to continue to feed their habit. But no matter how strong the grip of addition is, it is important to know that it can be broken. For proof of that, just look to the five success stories that graduated from the Drug Court program this week.
Drug Court is the Brunswick Judicial Circuit’s program that offers nonviolent felony drug offenders a chance at a new life through counseling, education and a healthy immersion into a 12-step recovery program. The success of the people in the program shows that it is never too late to get one’s life back on track.
Stories like graduate Bobby Cargile should encourage others who are suffering that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Cargile was facing charges of theft by receiving stolen property and said his life at the time was a mess. But he went through the Drug Court program and now owns his own painting and renovation business.
If you are battling addiction and need help, we encourage you to reach out for help. Talk to family, friends, spiritual leaders, doctors or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations national hotline at 1-800-662-4357.
It will take effort, but addiction can be defeated. The five graduates of Drug Court are proof of that.