The Detroit News. June 20, 2020.

Purge ineligible voters ahead of vote by mail

The first step in making voting by mail easier in Michigan is to ensure the voting rolls are up to date. The state has a ways to go before it can make that claim with confidence.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson recently did a mass mailing of absentee ballot applications, and many went to deceased voters or those who have moved from the address where the letters arrived.

No big deal, Benson says. The reports will help her cull the active voting rolls of names that shouldn’t be on it.

That seems an inefficient way of rooting out ineligible and dead voters. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where those applications are returned by people other than the ones named on the address for the purpose of casting fraudulent votes.

That’s not a fictional concern, as Democrats often complain. A Republican activist last week filed a lawsuit against Benson and other state election officials, charging that in 16 counties voter rolls are poorly maintained and susceptible to fraud.

The lawsuit claims that in Leelanau County, for example, the voter registration rate is 102%.

Also last week, Attorney General Dana Nessel charged a Southfield city clerk with six felony counts of falsifying absentee ballots in the 2018 election.

Election fraud is real — how widespread, no one can say.

But we are coming up to an election in which political passions are running extremely high, and the temptation to cheat to win will be greater.

Moving quickly to audit the voter rolls and purge them of ineligible voters is a necessary step. That’s not voter suppression. It’s protecting the integrity of the vote.

Voting by mail holds the promise of engaging more people in the democratic process, and increasing voter participation is an admirable goal.

But it should not be achieved by sacrificing trust in the electoral system.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). June 16, 2020.

UIA regional offices should be state priority

We join state Rep. Sara Cambensy and others who are asking that Unemployment Insurance Agency regional offices and phone lines be reopened with all due haste.

The Marquette Democrat and a handful of Michigan House of Representatives members sent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a letter asking as much.

The letter comes shortly after the state moved to the next phases of reopening under the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s announcement that SOS branch offices would begin reopening by appointment, a Mining Journal story on the issue detailed.

In addition, Cambensy issued a statement, which read, in part: “Our legislative offices can help categorize the easiest claims to resolve and create a list of constituents to schedule for appointments. Because our offices can only request a specialist to assist constituents with their claims, rather than go in and address claims directly, we feel this is the best way to get people their money the fastest.”

Of course, by now most of us have heard horror stories about filing for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, interminable waits, processing errors, the list goes on.

This is an effort to take a definite step in the right direction on a problem that has impacted many thousands of state residents at a tough time.

We hope these offices are opened very soon and outstanding cases are handled promptly.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. June 18, 2020.

Move forward safely with Line 5 tunnel

Years of discussion, argument and litigation about how to deal with the aging Line 5 pipes under the Straits of Mackinac have left everyone involved with a bad taste in their mouths.

Michigan lawmakers during a December 2018 lame duck session approved an agreement with pipeline operator Enbridge. Some objected that the measure was poorly written and rushed to enactment before Democrat Gretchen Whitmer became governor a month later. Attorney General Dana Nessel issued an opinion in March 2019 that the authorizing bill was unconstitutional because its provisions exceeded what its title specified.

But unless another court battle ensues, last week’s ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals — that legislators didn’t violate the state constitution — sets a clear path forward: Build a tunnel that will enclose a newer, safer pipeline.

The concept of a tunnel under the straits doesn’t please those who argue for the complete removal of the underwater portion of Line 5. Danger of a spill will remain, they say.

But the state appeals court has spoken. Enbridge says it plans to complete the tunnel by 2024. We hope the company can stay on schedule.

The old pipeline dates from around the time the polio vaccine was created and the Korean War ended. From soon after President Harry S. Truman authorized the seizure of U.S. steel mills to avert a strike — an action the U.S. Supreme Court quickly ruled illegal. From before anyone recognized the name Elvis Presley.

As we said in a May 2016 editorial: “Nothing lasts forever, and there is no reason to expect Line 5 is any different.”

Four years ago, we urged Gov. Rick Snyder to work with state experts and Enbridge officials to set a deadline for ending use of those aging pipes with damaged coatings and dents from anchor strikes. In 2016, we suggested the state provide a reasonable framework for the company to change its infrastructure and thereby lessen the danger of a toxic spill into Lake Michigan.

The court last week determined that the tunnel alternative can move forward. That decision provides the reasonable framework.

So let’s buckle on our work boots and get to it. We encourage the state and the company to proceed with safety, due diligence and speed.

In 2016, we suggested that a reasonable deadline be set to decommission the old pipeline.

Enbridge says it hopes to finish the tunnel by 2024, a couple of years shy of our 2016 10-year suggestion. Not all big construction projects come in on time, but we hope the old Line 5 pipes truly will be empty by 2024.

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