The Topeka Capital-Journal, Oct. 4

Posted Oct 4, 2020 at 3:00 PM

We like to focus on the integrity of politicians. That is, whether they’re honest and forthright, examples of strong values — or not. So often, when we criticize politicians for not serving us as we think they should, we turn to the “i” word. If only they had more integrity, we think to ourselves, what a better world this would be.

This may be true. But perhaps we’re focusing on the incorrect virtue of legislators.

What we should want, more than integrity, is simple pandering. Think of it this way. Majorities of people across the United States oppose filling the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court until after the presidential election. They also back the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights — both of which would be put at risk if the seat goes to hardcore ideologue Amy Coney Barrett.

Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his supporters from the Kansas delegation — Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran — are eager to fill the seat, no matter the consequences or what they may have said when blocking Merrick Garland from filling the late Antonin Scalia’s seat back in 2016.

All three men have loads of explanations for why this time is different than the last, but the main one is simply that they’re Republicans who are interested in seating conservative judges no matter the cost. They understand the polling, they know the risks, but they’re plowing forward.

If anything, they’re showing too much integrity. They’re showing their devotion to their party and their causes.

Republicans could well lose the Senate this year, not to mention the presidency. But they will have seated another Supreme Court justice. They are carrying out the desires of an outspoken minority of voters who support bans on abortion, on limiting health care access to the relatively few wealthy people who can afford it, and who want the Supreme Court to preserve the interests of the powerful for another generation.

Let’s bring back politicians who are simply devoted to doing what voters want. That means waiting until after the presidential election to nominate or confirm a justice. That means ceasing attacks on the ACA and instead strengthening it. And in our state in particular, that means the Kansas Legislature would have expanded Medicaid years ago.

Doing what people want can be the mark of integrity at times — at other times it’s simple expedience. Whatever the case, it’s following the lead of constituents. We hope our Senate delegation comes to their senses and considers doing so.


The Kansas City Star, Oct. 5

A deluge of mail ballot applications sent to Kansans from out of state is causing unprecedented work for election officials and confusion for voters.

Here’s what those voters who want to vote by mail need to know, and what they might want to do.

First, understand what the mail ballot application frenzy is all about — besides voters trying to avoid COVID-19 in the important 2020 election.

Literally anyone can send you an application with which you can request an official mail ballot from your county election office. Political parties and campaigns do it, but other entities can do it, too. This year, many thousands of Kansans already have received such unsolicited but legitimate applications for a mail ballot, including from an organization called the Center for Voter Information using a Springfield, Missouri, post office box.

The blanket mailings, while addressed to people by name, are being sent to many voters who have already requested mail ballots on their own. In fact, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew says 70% of the record 27,000 mail ballot applications voters have sent in there have been duplicates.

In other words, thousands of people who had already requested mail ballots for the November election were fooled into thinking that they needed to re-apply for a mail ballot. They didn’t, and they don’t.

That’s happening all over the state, meaning that election officials have to process thousands and thousands of unnecessary duplicate applications while they’re also processing voter registration forms and gearing up for the start of in-person advance voting Oct. 19.

If you receive one of these third-party applications in the mail, and have already applied to the county for a mail ballot, you don’t need to send in another. Shred it or trash it. Don’t burden county election officials with make-work when they’re certifiably busier than ever before.

Actual ballots go out to voters beginning Oct. 14.


The Wichita Eagle, Sept. 29

Think COVID-19 is slowing down? Note the following developments from the past week:

▪ The pandemic’s confirmed death toll eclipsed 1 million worldwide, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. The United States, where the virus has killed about 205,000 people, accounts for one out of five deaths worldwide, far more than any other country.

▪ On Monday (Sept. 28) Kansas set a record for most new cases of the coronavirus disease in a single report. The state reported 2,037 new cases over the weekend, including 251 in Sedgwick County.

▪ The days of insulated, COVID-free Kansas counties are long gone. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, every one of the state’s 105 counties has reported positive coronavirus cases.

▪ A recent Eagle report shows that 65 counties have so many new cases of COVID-19 that they’re in the red zone for at least one metric of the state’s school-reopening guide. The guideline suggests that red-zone areas close schools to in-person classes and stop all sports practices and games.

▪ COVID quarantines have led to school closings and sports cancellations across the state, including in sparsely populated areas. Cheyenne County in the northwest corner of the state has a positive test rate of 66.15% — more than four times the red-zone threshold of 15%.

▪ At Derby High School, officials at first insisted on holding last week’s homecoming football game — despite quarantines related to confirmed COVID-19 cases — but eventually canceled on Friday afternoon. Eight cases have been tied to the football team.

▪ And just this week, we learned that Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz and two others in his office — the epicenter of the county’s battle against COVID-19 — have tested positive for the virus.

“I can’t recommend it,” Stoltz told The Eagle. “Wear masks and stay distant. That’s still my message.”

Unfortunately, many aren’t heeding the message, perhaps assuming — mistakenly and dangerously — that the virus just needs to run its course.

It’s easy to think COVID-19 is overblown, particularly if we feel healthy and don’t personally know anyone ill with the virus. But that’s becoming less likely, as a growing number of active coronavirus clusters are linked to churches, colleges, schools, businesses, restaurants, bars, private events and elsewhere.

The numbers aren’t good. The virus isn’t gone. It never took a summer vacation, and it’s ramping up again just in time for flu season.

It’s easy to become complacent, or just numb to the data that bombards us every day. College kids are back on campus. Wichita bars and nightclubs are back in business. Families are holding weddings and birthday bashes.

But a quick glance at the KDHE chart tracking new cases from March through September shows that we’re still very much in the first wave of this outbreak: The curve never flattened; it just keeps surging.

Wichita-area leaders and residents must renew their commitment to coronavirus safety precautions — including avoiding crowds, washing hands, and wearing face masks whenever and wherever social distancing isn’t possible.

School districts should reconsider their decision to allow high-risk sports, despite coronavirus numbers being too high for in-person classes. Conditions that prompted school closures last spring are no less threatening this fall.

COVID-19 remains a serious, life-threatening, red-zone emergency. We need to act like it.