Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

We should build on successes of 2020 voting

Akron Beacon Journal

Nov. 8

The people have spoken. And, despite worries here and around the country, they largely were able to do so without much difficulty.

That’s a good thing, and those responsible for making sure voters in Ohio and other states could make their voices heard in the 2020 election — from elected public officials to the tens of thousands of anonymous and unheralded, but invaluable, poll workers — deserve our thanks.

The architecture of our democracy can be messy and slow, all too often resembling a Rube Goldberg machine. Its gears don’t mesh automatically or smoothly, and can grind to a halt if not properly monitored and serviced.

But that didn’t happen last Tuesday, despite a national turnout that was at the highest rate in 120 years — even in the midst of a pandemic that has already killed more than 240,000 Americans.

The system worked. Claims of mass fraud are not grounded in reality. We can be assured that the will of the people has been expressed.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that those pre-election worries were unfounded. On the contrary, it was the steps taken to address them — from the emphasis on early voting to the use of mail-in absentee ballots — that helped the system function more efficiently.

Still, not everything worked perfectly.

The lines for early voting were too long, and many waited two or three hours, or more, to cast their ballot. Absentee ballots for many in Northeast Ohio and elsewhere were received too late, forcing some to give up waiting and vote in person, despite the risk of contracting COVID-19.

And it should go without saying that the manufacturer of those late-arriving absentee ballots should not be a visible supporter of one of the presidential candidates, especially when that candidate was casting doubt on the validity of voting by mail.

Moreover, we think Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose erred by refusing to allow ballot drop boxes at multiple sites in each county. That was a missed opportunity to make voting easier — and safer — for many.

But we are hopeful the obvious success of Tuesday’s voting will lead to additional steps to help even more Ohioans exercise their right to vote. We can even recommend a good place to start: enacting — finally — automatic voter registration, which would electronically update the registrations of eligible voters anytime they interact with a government agency. Multiple early voting centers in larger counties also would be a helpful public service.

We suspect President Donald Trump, during a March appearance on “Fox & Friends,” gave voice to the fear of many in his party when he said Democrats want ”… levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

We now have ample evidence that fear is groundless. In Ohio — where an unprecedented 5.8 million-plus cast a ballot — and around the country, record levels of voting led to more elected Republicans, not fewer.

Not that that should matter. Our concern should be to encourage and make it easier for more of our fellow citizens to make their voices heard, and we will all live by their judgment — whatever it may be.

That is the lifeblood of a functioning democracy. Let even more people speak.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Ij5GoD

___

Every vote must be counted

Cincinnati Enquirer

Nov. 5

Every vote must be counted. Period.

It’s strange and disheartening that even needs to be said, but, unfortunately, these are the political times in which we live.

Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy, and a way for every American of legal age to make his or her voice heard concerning the future of our nation. Regardless of one’s political leanings, everyone’s vote has equal value and deserves to be counted. That is the American way and how elections have always worked in this country. This year should be no different.

More:Editorial: Vote, be patient, respect the outcome

Elections officials in Greater Cincinnati and across the nation did their best to prepare the electorate for the eventuality that the nation would not know who the next president would be on Nov. 3. Officials repeatedly stated that it could take days after Election Day to count a record number of mail-in absentee ballots. So what we are witnessing is not unexpected. Nor is it unprecedented.

Americans are accustomed to knowing who wins a presidential race because news outlets often project a winner based on data analytics even before all the votes are finalized by boards of elections. This was a modern privilege. Historically, election results have taken days or weeks to be confirmed. There’s a reason the Electoral College doesn’t meet until the second week of December.

Also, two of the last five presidential elections weren’t decided on election night. It took weeks to learn Texas Gov. George W. Bush defeated Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 election because of the now-famous Florida recount. And Bush’s reelection bid in 2004 against Sen. John Kerry wasn’t decided on election night either.

President Trump’s attempts to delegitimize the election by making baseless accusations of fraud and calling for the vote counting to be stopped is distressing and dangerous. The president does not have the power to claim victory in states. Only the voters do. The president’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud and toxic tweets are irresponsible, inaccurate, divisive and frankly, beneath the dignity of the office he holds.

They are also dangerous. Incited by Trump’s rhetoric, some of his supporters tried to force their way inside a counting center in Detroit shouting, “stop the vote.” We’ve even seen armed protesters show up at a Maricopa County voting site in Arizona. These protests have drawn counterprotesters, creating a potentially explosive environment. This has been a highly emotional and contentious election, and rather than promoting calm, the president is sowing chaos and confusion with his comments.

We agree with the president that the integrity of our elections is paramount. The best way to protect that integrity is to count all of the votes and allow the people to have their say. Voter fraud certainly exists, but study after study finds cases are extremely rare. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, has repeatedly said that claims of voter fraud and voter suppression are grossly overstated by politicians and pundits.

Even Trump’s now-disbanded voting integrity commission uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has been studying voter fraud for years and even it’s data shows that cases of fraud, particularly with mail-in ballots, are few. In five states that have used universal vote by mail prior to 2018 (Utah, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Colorado), a total of 44 cases of voter fraud were found out in Heritage’s sampling of millions of mail-in votes.

The kind of mass fraud that the president and some on right are alleging would be impossible to execute, even in states where they mailed ballots to all registered voters.

Trying to manipulate the outcome of this election by sowing seeds of doubt about the process and filing frivolous lawsuits undermines the very integrity Trump claims to want to protect.

The American public must consider the facts, not entertain conspiracies and baseless charges. The facts are these:

Every American who cast a legal ballot should have it counted. That is what we are seeing across the country right now.

The civil servants conducting our elections have done an exceptional job in the midst of a global pandemic and intense scrutiny. They deserve our gratitude, not accusations of cheating and fraud. These are not a bunch of nameless, faceless Washington bureaucrats, they are your neighbors here in Greater Cincinnati.

If the election results in states like Ohio, which Trump won, are considered valid, why aren’t the votes in other states? Are the only valid votes the ones cast for Trump? Why would anyone want vote counting to continue in some states but be stopped in others?

Trump and Biden both have the legal right to challenge the election in court, but these suits should be based on actual violations of the law and provable irregularities, not simply because one party doesn’t like the election results. If irregularities are proven, then the proper authorities should deal with it. But so far, the president has not provided any evidence to support his claims of fraud or cheating. The courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, don’t like to decide elections that should be decided by the people. And we shouldn’t want them to either.

We understand that people want to know the outcome. Yes, the vote counting is taking longer than anyone would like. But we’ll get there and do so with accuracy.

Patience is imperative right now. So is having faith in our democracy.

Online: https://bit.ly/3lh2qZs

___

Ohio’s head-in-the-sand legislature needs to act to remove the HB 6 stain

The Clevland Plain Dealer

Nov. 8

Let’s examine the scorecard for House Bill 6 amid federal allegations it was the tainted fruit of the largest racketeering corruption case the Ohio Statehouse has ever seen.

It makes for discouraging reading -- even moreso, since Ohio voters on Nov. 3 failed to repudiate the alleged corruption and or show any displeasure with lawmakers’ failure to move quickly to repeal or replace the nuclear bailout bill.

If the tainted HB 6 is not repealed soon, then, starting this Jan. 1 and for the next ten years, it will take more than $1 billion from Ohio ratepayers and give it to Akron’s Energy Harbor, current owner and operator of FirstEnergy Corp.’s two former nuclear plants.

Yet voters on Tuesday returned all the principals involved in HB 6 to the Statehouse -- including disgraced former House Speaker Larry Householder, alleged ringleader of the alleged $60 million corrupt scheme, who won reelection in a landslide.

Talk about irony: The only Republican legislator punished with electoral defeat was state Rep. Dave Greenspan, of Westlake, who cleveland.com has reported stood up to the alleged co-conspirators and helped the FBI make its case.

Meantime, Ohio House Speaker Robert Cupp, who replaced Householder in the speakership (and voted for HB 6), has yet to schedule a vote on any repeal bill. In the Ohio Senate, President Larry Obhof says the “repeal” bill he favors is one that ends the nuclear and coal bailouts, but keeps HB 6′s evisceration of the state’s renewable energy portfolio standards, a true Bronx cheer to energy reformers.

Why isn’t the Ohio legislature moving to remove the HB 6 stain? Simply put, they suspect Ohio voters don’t care. And maybe many don’t. But they should. And while the legislature twiddles its thumbs, others are acting.

Let’s recap key events so far:

On July 21, Householder was arrested at his Perry County homestead and charged, with four alleged co-conspirators, with carrying out a $60 million federal criminal racketeering and bribery scheme to enact House Bill 6. The co-conspirators allegedly used a web of dark-money bribes largely from “Company A” -- FirstEnergy -- to enrich themselves and finance the alleged conspiracy.

On Sept. 15, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio asked FirstEnergy to show that any payouts, charitable or otherwise, in support of HB 6 or its enactment “were not included, directly or indirectly, in any rates or charges paid by ratepayers in this state.” On Sept. 30, FirstEnergy’s three electric distribution companies -- the Cleveland Electric Illuminating, Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison companies -- filed their response, saying in part: “The short and simple answer is ‘no.’” The case is ongoing.

On Oct. 29, two of the five alleged co-conspirators pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to racketeering as part of a plea bargain in the scandal. They have yet to be sentenced and it’s unclear if they will help make the case against Householder or the others.

The evening of Oct. 29, Akron-based FirstEnergy announced it had fired CEO Chuck Jones and two senior vice presidents for violating “certain (unspecified) FirstEnergy policies and its code of conduct.” The company declined to elaborate.

On Oct. 30, FirstEnergy revealed it was refusing to pay stock benefits to Jones and the other fired executives and that an independent review committee of its board would look at whether “any recoupment, reductions or forfeiture of other grants, awards and compensation may be warranted.”

On Nov. 4, PUCO began the process of hiring an independent third-party auditor to audit “FirstEnergy’s compliance with corporate separation laws and regulations.”

In other words, federal prosecutors and the FBI have done their jobs by painstakingly piecing together a case alleging far-reaching corruption against the defendants -- a case that still must be proved in open court, but whose details, as outlined in lengthy federal charging documents, are stunning. They open a window on a possibly more deeply rooted system of political hardball that includes allegedly inducing lawmakers to play along by threatening loss of their Statehouse seats through dark money campaigns against them.

State regulators, often friendly to the electric utilities, also did their part, launching two separate investigations into FirstEnergy, and whether it wrongly used ratepayer money or breached the corporate separation required in Ohio electric utility law and regulation.

FirstEnergy itself has also acted, terminating its CEO and two other top corporate executives while its board follows up with efforts to deny the fired officials any compensation tainted by the unspecified internal violations.

The Ohio General Assembly, by contrast, has not acted -- as it could easily do -- to discard a piece of legislation adopted through allegedly criminal means. Voters may not wake up right away to this misfeasance, but they will, eventually. Lawmakers need to act -- now, and without delay.

Online: https://bit.ly/3ndc7Jb

___

Same-sex decision must stand

Toledo Blade

Nov. 9

There’s a campaign to overturn the legality of same-sex marriage. It’s not run by a political or religious group with objections to the law.

Two justices of the United States Supreme Court recently issued a statement attacking the ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges, made in 2015, by the court of which they are members.

The behavior of justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito is unseemly, given that cases stemming from the ruling will come before them again. Justices shouldn’t be commenting publicly on cases they might be called upon to decide.

What’s more, the ruling legalizing same-sex marriage was the correct decision. That ruling must stand. Same-sex couples have a right to pursue their happiness and have legal protections for their relationships. And rulings that followed, outlawing job discrimination based on sexual orientation, must also stand.

Reversing Obergefell within just a few years would go against the very conservative principles of jurisprudence the two justices avow.

Gutting that decision would cause chaos and heartbreak for millions of people — same-sex married couples and their families and friends. Chaos in the legal system would follow.

The Census Bureau in 2019 estimated more than a half million same-sex marriages have occurred in the United States. There’s strong support for the right to same-sex marriage in the American population as well. A June Gallup poll found 67 percent of respondents favored the legality of same-sex marriage.

Following precedent is important in judicial decisions — rulings are made in accord with previous decisions. The finality of court rulings provides stability in the legal system and society.

That’s not to say there are not moments when the law should change. Those changes almost exclusively have expanded and protected the rights of Americans, not constricted those rights. And that is as it should be — society changes and momentous reversals are sometimes called for in the law. Such changes were the rulings in Brown vs. Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools and the Gideon decision, which established a right to counsel in criminal cases.

Those decisions were correct, and Obergefell is correct.

The campaign of sorts by the two justices needs to stop. Their statement brings dishonor to the court and tarnishes the reputation of the judicial system.

The right to same-sex marriage is now established law. Established laws must not be suddenly changed. Obergefell was the right call in 2015 and should remain the law of the land.

Online: https://bit.ly/32vMATt

___

Worry about people around you

The Marietta Times

Nov. 9

While many Ohio residents may spent much of last week watching the colors change on a different map, the aftermath of the general election was playing out while the Buckeye State — and the nation — were in the continued grip of the surging COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine named a new director for the Ohio Department of Health. Stephanie McCloud is the former director of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. While it might raise eyebrows that her most recent experience is as a bureaucrat, not a medical professional, DeWine was open about McCloud being chosen for her ability to lead the department while others will be making sure it carries out the health functions upon which so many are depending right now.

DeWine also named other new officials last week, including Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, former Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Ohio Health, who will now be the state’s chief medical officer.

The revamped leadership team comes in at a frightening time for Ohio. On Thursday alone, there were 4,961 new cases of coronavirus compared to the 21-day average of 2,825, and 33 new coronavirus-related deaths compared to the 21-day average of 20. Hospitals are strained, and the entire state is now regarded as “high incidence.”

It turns out the virus didn’t care which way the general election went.

It is time once again then, to return our attention to the colors on that Ohio Public Health Advisory System map. Do your part, ladies and gentlemen. Follow the guidelines and be smart. If you’re not worried about yourself, worry about the people around you. We’ve still got quite a fight on our hands.

Online: https://bit.ly/3kfIO6X

___