(Elyria) Chronicle-Telegram. May 14, 2021.
Editorial: A new stage in the pandemic
If you still needed a reason to get the coronavirus vaccine, a good one arrived Thursday.
Fully vaccinated Americans can safely stop wearing masks in most settings, the federal government said.
The new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was further proof that the road out of the pandemic runs through vaccination clinics.
Granted, the United States hasn’t hit herd immunity yet and masks should still be worn in certain places, such as health-care settings and airplanes, but it was a sign of real progress.
Those who haven’t been vaccinated should continue to wear masks and take other steps to limit their chances of contracting or spreading the virus, which has killed around 583,000 Americans. Better yet, they should get vaccinated. The vaccines are effective and safe.
The loosened guidance also should ease the minds of those who worried that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s pledge to lift his health orders June 2 was too cavalier.
Those concerns were justified Wednesday after DeWine moved the goalposts he set in March, when he said the health orders would end once the state’s incidence rate dropped to 50 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks.
It was a reasonable goal, but we’re not there yet. Even DeWine acknowledged that the state might not hit the mark by June 2. On Thursday, the rate was 119.9 cases per 100,000 people. In Lorain County, it was 130.7 cases per 100,000 people.
In explaining his decision, DeWine pointed to the state’s declining infection rate, fewer hospitalizations and the effectiveness of vaccines. The restrictions Ohioans endured for more than a year have mostly done their job.
“There comes a time when individual responsibility simply must take over,” DeWine said.
As of Thursday, a little over 42 percent of Ohio’s population had received a first dose. In Lorain County, the corresponding figure was 45.4 percent.
Unfortunately, the pace of vaccinations has slowed considerably, with appointments going unfilled in recent weeks.
Still, DeWine hasn’t given up on persuading the unvaccinated among us to roll up their sleeves.
On Wednesday he unveiled a plan to make vaccinated adults eligible to win one of five $1 million prizes in a lottery, which was quickly drubbed the “Vax-A-Million.”
The idea generated almost immediate criticism from both sides of the aisle, with some questioning whether it was an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money and others dismissing it as a gimmick. DeWine himself sounded like a carpet salesman when he pitched it.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,’” he said. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Is giving away $5 million the best use of federal coronavirus relief dollars?
Probably not, but the unorthodox tactic will entice some people into getting vaccinated, which will save lives. The same goes for the five full-ride scholarships to any public college or university in the state that will be raffled off to vaccinated youngsters.
Regardless of the state of the pandemic in Ohio, DeWine was running out of time to lift the restrictions.
A new state law, which goes into effect in late June, will allow the General Assembly to override his health orders. There was no doubt that many of DeWine’s fellow Republicans intended to do just that.
Better for him politically to do it himself rather than have it forced on him.
He is seeking reelection next year and is widely expected to face a challenge from his right, most likely former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, who has attacked him as too restrictive in combating the pandemic.
The same calculus helped explain DeWine’s decision, effective June 26, to pull Ohio out of a federal program that gives those on unemployment an extra $300 per week. DeWine wasn’t the first Republican governor to do so, under the theory that too many jobs remain open because people are earning more on unemployment than they would at work.
We are skeptical of that analysis, but the decision will play well with conservative Republicans, even if it hurts those who needed that extra money to make ends meet while seeking a well-paying job.
All of this should be contingent on the virus continuing to abate.
There could be another surge or a dangerous variant could emerge requiring a new round of restrictions, but for now it looks as if we’re entering a new phase of the pandemic.
Nonetheless, the threat persists, and vaccination remains the best way to limit it.
Newark Advocate. May 16, 2021.
Editorial: Granville disturbance fails as a protest
By now most of our readers have seen the video from Ross IGA earlier this month, where a group of agitators targeted a locally owned business.
Protests have a long history in our community, state and country. Our country was founded on a protest of a non-representative government. We believe public protests of our governmental leaders is a critical right we all enjoy.
We also believe the so-called protest in Granville this month widely missed the mark and is emblematic of some of the worst public protests we’ve experienced as a country recently.
A May 1 anti-mask demonstration staged by a group self-identifying as “Mothers Against DeWine” saw a number of unmasked demonstrators enter Granville’s Ross’ IGA, challenging employees and customers, and chanting for mask removal.
For those who didn’t see the video, it shows multiple people converging upon the local grocer with phones out ready to record. The people belittle the grocery workers and customers who are wearing masks. One even comments to a mask-wearing customer, “Go on, be a good little slave.”
The issue of mask wearing has become highly politicized. While we have previously said that wearing a mask is mostly about showing kindness to our neighbors during a pandemic, we understand there is a legitimate debate to the extent the government can mandate actions in our lives.
However, the effort to make this point by the agitators in Granville failed miserably. The group went to a private business, refused to obey that business’ rules, belittled the people that worked there and only fled after police arrived.
We are hard pressed to understand how these actions help further any political purpose. Unfortunately, it appeared more like people trying to get a few minutes of fame on social media by capturing a gotcha moment from the people they are verbally abusing.
Fortunately, the response seemed much more graceful than the action. Ross’ employees did their best to ignore the agitators, and Granville police appeared to act calmly and appropriately in diffusing the situation.
Such an event is not unique - although it was the most egregious example to happen in Licking County recently.
We believe such actions are actually counterproductive to a group’s cause. Watching the agitators at Ross’ is unlikely to make anyone think that the store should rethink its mask policy. In fact, it is much more likely for people use the incident to paint anti-mask protesters with the same extreme brush.
The same could be said of the protests last summer. The small percentage of people during the Black Lives Matters protests that participated in looting and destruction prompted some to label the entire effort as one of lawlessness. It should be noted all of such events in Licking County were conducted peacefully.
Unfortunately, we’ve often lost the meaning of what protest is. Protest is not trolling. Poor protest methods cause the message to be lost.
Protesting should be about calling out unfair, unsafe or unreasonable policies to prompt change. This requires targeting the appropriate people and using methods that won’t alienate your cause.
We admit this can be a delicate balance to strike. But we can also say that the recent incident in Granville clearly missed that balance.
Toledo Blade. May 11, 2021.
Editorial: No more manure madness
Gov. Mike DeWine proudly posed Wednesday for Ohio Tourism Day photo opps, highlighting the Lake Erie shoreline’s contributions to the state’s $46 billion a year tourist industry.
“There’s no part of the state really where tourism has more of an economic impact than it does in our north coast,” the governor said.
It was wise for Mr. DeWine to visit in the spring because in just a few months that same lake will be carpeted in the annual putrid green algae blooms that threaten that lucrative tourism industry — not to mention the source of drinking water for millions of people, the property values and economic development prospects of our region, and our quality of life.
Because just as Governor DeWine was touting beautiful Lake Erie’s role in our state’s tourism economy, his administration is considering permits for 10 new concentrated animal feeding operations that are destined to contribute untold tons of algae-feeding phosphorus to rivers and streams that empty out into that lake.
Adding new CAFOs is like building new cities without any sewage processing plants. The term only applies to farms that have at least 700 mature dairy cows, 2,500 swine that weigh more than 55 pounds, 1,000 beef cattle, or 82,000 laying hens.
The DeWine administration is not only hyping the value of tourism while it lets the lake drown in algae. The state also has pumped more than $2 billion into H2Ohio, the governor’s program to fund voluntary pollution-mitigation efforts that he hopes will reduce the amount of phosphorus running off fields and into the lake.
But we already know that no amount of voluntary measures — well funded and necessary as they may be — are enough to save the lake. In fact, after nearly spending nearly all of his two terms in office promising the same thing, Mr. DeWine’s predecessor, John Kasich was forced to admit that voluntary measures had resulted in no measurable change in the amount of algae-feeding pollution flowing through the Maumee River watershed.
Last February, just before the coronavirus pandemic emerged and diverted everyone’s attention, the Ohio EPA gave environmental activists a happy surprise by announcing the state would develop the total maximum daily load pollution-diet for which advocates have been calling. The TMDL would be developed over the next two or three years, officials said in 2020.
What have we heard about that since then? Nothing. But we do hear that the state is considering even more permits for the factory farms that contribute the bulk of algae-feeding pollution.
There is some dispute about the data, but some environmental activists believe western Lake Erie basin’s nearly 150 CAFOS produce the manure equivalent of sewage generated by the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago. Adding more without the regulations that would guarantee safe disposal of all that manure is madness.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture claims its hands are tied when it comes to approving permits for CAFOs that meet all the regulatory requirements — none of which have anything to do with how they contribute to Lake Erie’s algae-feeding pollution. How convenient.
We have seen during this pandemic that the governor is willing to use his broad executive authority for the public good when an issue really matters to him. This should matter. The governor must call for a moratorium on more CAFOs until a TMDL is established.
No new factory farms should be permitted to open and begin adding to the pollution that fouls the lake each year until Ohio has a sane and scientific strategy to finally address what ails Lake Erie. Promoting the beauty and the economic impact of Lake Erie while letting more and more factory farms foul it in the meantime is insane.
Akron Beacon Journal. May 16, 2021.
Editorial: Ohio GOP voting changes offer troubling ideas and sensible solutions in House Bill 294
Here’s a challenge for Ohio Republican lawmakers who apparently want to make voting more difficult despite our state’s strong and fair elections system.
Can you provide any evidence of even minor voter fraud during the 2020 Ohio election won by your presidential candidate? After all, you have two seats on every county board of elections statewide charged with making sure voting is conducted fairly. They should know.
Absent that evidence, there’s no legitimate reason to make voting more difficult in our state as outlined in sections of House Bill 294, which was recently proposed in the General Assembly.
The good news is parts of this bill make sense, especially allowing the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to share updated personal information with election boards to ensure inactive voters are not purged. We also support allowing online requests for absentee ballots, which incredulously is not yet available.
Nor is the bill’s current language as bad as suggested by Ohio Democrats, who questionably claimed “Ohio leaves Georgia, Florida in the dust as Statehouse Republicans introduce the most extreme anti-voter legislation yet.”
The voting hysteria from right and left continues no matter who wins and loses.
Still, with the GOP holding a veto-proof majority and voter suppressing bills being approved in other Republican-controlled states, there’s ample reason for concern about true motivations, especially with one provision requiring officials to not count absentee ballots returned in the wrong envelope. That’s just wrong.
While allowing online absentee requests, the bill would require voters requesting absentee ballots to use a secure two-factor authentication. The current paper request form asks for a driver’s license number and a signature which is checked by election officials.
We’re told the online requests will mirror the current reasonable online registration process, which asks for a driver’s license number and last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. Paper requests can still be made.
That’s acceptable, but there’s a fine line between voter suppression and reasonable security and some fear what the final language may require. Again, there’s no evidence of people requesting absentee ballots for others, stealing them in the mail and falsifying signatures on completed ballots. Mail-in voting already has significant safeguards.
We would oppose any move to require two forms of identification for in-person voting, as some Democrats fear may happen.
We’re also mystified about Republicans’ disdain for drop-off boxes for absentee ballots, which were widely used by all voters amid the pandemic and U.S. Postal Service delays last fall. House Bill 294 limits drop boxes to 10 days — instead of 30 — before the election, requires 24/7 video camera surveillance and limits locations to three boxes at board offices no matter how awful traffic flow may be in the area. Surely the Secretary of State could work with boards to authorize special collection hours — especially in larger counties — with proper security as a convenience to those same voters who elect lawmakers.
The bill also ends early in-person voting on the Monday before Election Day and moves up the deadline for requesting absentees from noon Saturday to 10 days before.
Although the Monday hours would be moved to earlier in voting season, election boards have been successfully accommodating Monday voters for years. What’s easiest and best for voters matters more.
We do support moving up the absentee deadline to five or seven days in advance. Three days including a weekend does not allow sufficient time to mail a ballot to and from voters. Ten days smacks of suppression.
Let’s remember Ohio successfully conducted an unprecedented election with a record 5.9 million ballots cast last year and 74 percent turnout. Everyone who wanted to vote had ample opportunity to do it safely and securely.
If Republicans push too far, Democrats need to consider all options, including seeking a referendum to allow voters a direct say in how they elect their leaders. Such foolishness also would make for a stronger case for Congress to adopt House Resolution 1, a comprehensive voting rights law.
Any effort to suppress voting can’t be tolerated. A strong democracy must strive to ensure voting is as easy and accessible as possible to all citizens.
Columbus Dispatch. May 16, 2021.
Editorial: Ohio’s election system needs a tweak, not an overhaul
Ohio is no Georgia when it comes to voting access and, for the sake of democracy, our lawmakers need to work together to keep it that way.
We should lead the charge for free and fair elections and not follow a national trend of Republican lawmakers seeking more restrictive and complicated voting laws in the wake of President Donald Trump’s clear defeat.
This is one reason ire and eyebrows rose earlier this month when Ohio House Republicans proposed their version of election reform, the so-called “Ohio Election Security and Modernization Act.”
Ohio’s bipartisan-run election system is far from broken. In fact, it is the envy of many states that want the cooperative work between Republicans and Democrats we have at boards of elections.
An example of that envy came in the reaction to testimony by Frank LaRose, a Republican and Ohio’s Secretary of State, in March during a Pennsylvania General Assembly hearing on election changes proposed in that state.
“We want to increase access to the ballot as you’re doing in Ohio,” Pennsylvania Rep. Margo Davidson, a Democrat, said in praising the work done in Ohio.
The introduction of the Ohio bill at this polarized time in our nation’s history betrays that truth about how well elections are run here.
Bill co-sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, insists that it is needed to make elections here more “safe and secure,” but elections here already are safe and secure.
Elections generally run smoothly, and voter fraud is virtually nonexistent.
It makes even less sense that Republicans are proposing the changes. Trump won Ohio, even though he fell short in the national tally, and GOP lawmakers overwhelmingly won in Ohio in the November election.
That said, anything can be improved.
Some of the proposed changes address problems identified by LaRose, the bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials and others.
One would eliminate in-person voting the Monday before Election Day — historically a low turnout day — and would give county elections officials more time to prepare for Election Day on Tuesday.
The secretary of state could add the six hours of in-person voting lost on that day to other early voting days, such as by extending evening hours.
Voting rights advocates long have sought the proposed online absentee-ballot request system. An automated voter registration through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles proposed in this bill makes sense, although automatic voter registration at age 18 would be far superior.
The proposed online absentee ballot request system is welcomed, but making it more difficult than requesting one on paper is not. And setting an earlier deadline for requesting an absentee ballot, as proposed in the bill, would ensure that voters have ample time to fill them out and return them by mail or at a drop box before the deadline. This is something LaRose supports.
However, there are problems with the bill, such as prioritizing acceptable forms of ID, which likely would cause confusion and slow down the requests for absentee ballots and the lines on Election Day.
The most perplexing issue — perhaps an attempt to pander to Republican constituents who wrongly think the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump, which it was not — involves drop boxes.
Allowing for an increased number of drop boxes from one to three in each county, as proposed, is a good thing. Even more would be better. But prohibiting them from any location other than the county board of elections office is too restrictive.
This provision would codify the use of monitored drop boxes but potentially disenfranchise voters in sprawling rural counties with no public transportation, as well as voters in populous urban counties where some faced traffic jams and backups while trying to reach curbside drop boxes last year.
A lesson from 2020 is that the ability to drop off ballots adds convenience. It is a far more reliable method of returning a ballot than using the postal service, given the mail delivery delays we have experienced in recent years.
The drop box is sure to be a popular option in post-pandemic Ohio, despite Seitz calling voters who put their ballots in a drop box “COVID cowards.”
Counties should be able to decide where the boxes are located to serve a list of groups that includes the elderly and those with disabilities.
Make no mistake, the issue of election tinkering is far from resolved, and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking this is a “reform” movement. There is no need for “reform,” because Ohio’s election system works very well as it is.
Democrats are vowing to fight what they see as an attempt at “Jim Crow” to suppress the voices of Black and brown voters. Republicans in the Ohio Senate are drafting their version of the election bill.
The old saying that “things could be worse” is cliché, but sometimes cliché phrases are the best ways to describe the situation. And anytime lawmakers open the door to tinkering, bad things can happen.
An earlier version of the House bill leaked by a progressive group would have required more forms of identification to vote early in person and allow drop boxes only during statewide emergencies.
Even more restrictive proposals have been floated that would make the Buckeye State look a lot more like the Peach State when it comes to elections.
In the name of democracy, Republicans and Democrats in our General Assembly must work together now to show why Ohio is among the standard-bearers when it comes to fair elections.
The process of participating in elections needs to be easier, not more restrictive.