Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Winston Salem Journal on the importance of recruiting poll workers for the upcoming election:
In its preparations for Election Day, Nov. 3, the Forsyth County Board of Elections is enlisting election officials — commonly known as poll workers — for a variety of tasks, all to make the process of voting smoother, efficient and accurate. As we write, about 80% of the necessary slots have been filled, but more workers are needed. In fact, the board would prefer to be overstocked, in case of illness or time conflicts, which tend to arise. Poll workers are richly rewarded by facilitating the democratic process that keeps our nation’s wheels rolling.
There’s also a small stipend.
Poll workers are the front-line guards in our elections, the first to arrive and the last to leave, greeting and verifying voters, instructing them on using voting machines and answering questions and concerns before handing out those little stickers. This year they’ll also be tasked with helping keep everyone safe from viral infection.
There’s a special emphasis this year on safety because of the coronavirus. Thousands more than usual are voting by mail-in ballot to avoid the possibility of infection, but the coronavirus is also leading some veteran poll workers to skip out this time to protect their health. That increases the need for poll workers. Without enough workers, long lines can discourage voters from staying the course — especially if it seems dangerous to their health.
“This is your chance to save Granny, protect your democracy and get paid,” comedian Trevor Noah, the host of “The Daily Show,” put it earlier this year.
Most adults are eligible to be poll workers. They must be registered voters, residents of Forsyth County and unrelated to candidates for office.
Students at least 17 years old may also work the polls. “It’s a great way for high school students to learn how democracy works,” said Damon Circosta, chairman of the State Board of Elections.
Election board officials are taking safety precautions very seriously. In-person training is conducted with the strictest protocols in place: masking and social distancing. Forsyth County can’t afford for poll workers to get sick and spread the virus.
These safety protocols will also be observed during early voting and on Election Day, with personal protection equipment, safety screens and hand sanitizer supplied to keep workers and voters safe.
We wrote about some of the stress local residents are experiencing — some no doubt related to the uncertainty of this election cycle. Working the polls is one way that people can take positive action to alleviate those feelings.
Election Day is now fewer than 50 days away. This seems a particularly consequential election year — and chaotic — and while some have cast doubt on the outcome before it’s even known, the decisions for our future will largely be made Nov. 3, in polling locations throughout the country. We need fair and safe elections to ensure that the will of the people is served. Poll workers are essential to that process.
For more information, go to www.co.forsyth.nc.us/elections/precinct_officials.aspx
The Greensboro News & Record on revelations that President Donald Trump admitted to “downplaying” the coronavirus pandemic:
Now we all know what President Trump knew and when he knew it.
Because he’s told us so ... in his own words.
The president knew the coronavirus was a deadly menace in February and did nothing about it.
In tapes from journalist Bob Woodward’s interviews with the president for his forthcoming book, “Rage,” Trump told Woodward what he wouldn’t admit to the public.
“This is deadly stuff,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 interview. “It’s also more deadly than your strenuous flus.” Five times as deadly, he said.
But in public, he downplayed the seriousness of the virus, saying it would pass quickly and wasn’t that severe anyway. By Feb. 28, he was calling it the Democrats’ “new hoax.”
Not long after that, he began praising himself for his amazing response, the most amazing response to any problem ever.
But since he first learned of the virus’s severity, more than 190,000 Americans have died.
In a March 19 interview with Woodward, he acknowledged that young people were susceptible to the virus.
But on Aug. 5, while speaking to the public, he claimed that children were “practically immune.”
TO AVOID ‘PANIC’
After Woodward’s tapes began airing, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany quickly called a news conference to claim, “The president never downplayed the virus.”
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
“I don’t want to create a panic,” explained the man who has been shouting to Americans through a bullhorn about killer Mexican caravans, antifa terrorists and Joe Biden, if he’s elected president, destroying suburbs.
Town hall previews Trump debate points on virus, racial injustice
Trump said he kept quiet about the coronavirus’ deadliness because he wanted to portray “confidence and calm.”
But Trump didn’t portray confidence and calm. He encouraged his supporters to buck state authorities and “LIBERATE” themselves from safety precautions. He held close-quartered pep rallies. He played games with supply chains, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. He pushed for schools to reopen, despite knowing the threat to young people. He allowed hundreds of thousands if not millions of small businesses to be shuttered permanently.
And as medical professionals struggled to keep up with the first surge, some doctors and nurses gave up and committed suicide.
Trump egged people on, most recently over the weekend, to flout public health rules at campaign events, ridiculing former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing one. He did this while knowing that the virus was killing Americans.
Speaking on CNN, Woodward’s Watergate colleague, Carl Bernstein, said, “Thousands and thousands and thousands of people died” because Trump is “putting his own reelection before the safety, health and well-being of the people of the United States. We’ve never had a president who’s done anything like this before.”
North Carolinian Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, expressed his dismay last week that Trump chose to sit with Bob Woodward. Talk about missing the point.
On Thursday, Trump defended his approach, telling the press, “I don’t want to jump up and down and start screaming, ‘Death, death’ because that’s not what it’s about.”
But no one is suggesting that that should have been his response. He should have been upfront with the American people about just how dangerous the virus is, like other world leaders were. He should have set a better example of mask-wearing and social distancing. He should have encouraged everyone, including his base, to work together to avoid spreading the virus. Lives could have been saved.
He could have made wearing a mask as patriotic as wearing a flag pin.
As if that weren’t enough, we also learned that Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, allegedly urged a former chief of intelligence, Brian Murphy, to withhold reporting on potential Russian threats to the election because it “made the president look bad.” Murphy says he was told to emphasize potential threats from China and Iran instead.
Murphy also alleges he was told by the department’s second-highest ranked official, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, to modify intelligence assessments to make the threat of white supremacy “appear less severe” and include information on violent “left-wing” groups and antifa, according to his whistleblower complaint, which was released on Sept. 9 by the House Intelligence Committee.
The White House and DHS denied the claims, saying that Murphy was a “disgruntled former employee” — there sure are a lot of those — but his claims have a ring of truth.
Two weeks ago, Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary of counterterrorism and threat prevention for DHS, told NPR that the Trump administration had urged her to downplay the threat of right-wing extremism to U.S. security.
Also, we learned that Attorney General William Barr intervened to move a defamation lawsuit against Trump to federal court so that his Department of Justice could defend the president — meaning that U.S. taxpayers are now on the hook to defend Trump in what should be a civil suit.
TRUMP’S RIGID CORE
It goes without saying that all of this is beyond irregular for American presidential politics.
Our country is facing serious challenges. We’re in the midst of a severe economic downturn. We’re more deeply divided, politically, than we’ve been in decades. Violence is bubbling up on American streets. A deadly pandemic is raging across the country. And Trump has only fed the flames.
Trump’s base seems immune to legitimate criticism of their leader. Some of them say there’s nothing he could do to lose their support.
If they’re not moved by the tens of thousands of American deaths that Trump could have prevented, it’s difficult to imagine what would move them.
Whatever political gain some might imagine in Trump’s presidency, it’s not worth this chaos and death.
The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on President Donald Trump's misinformation on voting procedures in North Carolina:
President Trump could perhaps be excused for getting North Carolina voting law wrong on Sept. 2 when he urged his supporters to vote by mail and then go to the polls and try to vote again to make sure their vote gets counted.
The president was quickly told his recommendation was wrong. Voting twice in North Carolina is a felony. But on Saturday, he repeated his error with this tweet:
“NORTH CAROLINA: To make sure your Ballot COUNTS, sign & send it in EARLY. When Polls open, go to your Polling Place to see if it was COUNTED. IF NOT, VOTE! Your signed Ballot will not count because your vote has been posted. Don’t let them illegally take your vote away from you!”
For a president, this repeated advice to do what’s illegal is astonishing. For Trump, it’s more of the same. He surely knows it’s wrong. He apparently doesn’t care. With him, re-electing Trump trumps everything.
Fortunately, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein quickly took to Twitter and corrected the scofflaw president.
“NORTH CAROLINA: Do NOT do what the President directs. To make sure your ballot COUNTS, sign and send it in EARLY. Then track it ONLINE with BALLOTTRAX. Do NOT vote twice (it’s a felony), or waste your time, or unnecessarily risk exposure to more people.”
Stein, a Democrat, went on to dryly note: “The only GOOD thing about the President’s tweet is that he FINALLY encourages voters to VOTE BY MAIL. It’s an easy, safe & secure way to cast a ballot.”
Other elected officials, especially Trump’s fellow Republicans, should follow Stein in assuring voters that their mail-in votes can be traced and there’s no need to test the system by attempting to also vote in person.
Last week, the State Board of Elections added to voter confidence by announcing the start of the online system Stein mentioned: BallotTrax. Voters who mail in their ballot can be alerted to its path the same way they can track a product ordered online. A mailed ballot can also be tracked by using the voter search tool on the State Board of Elections website, or by checking with one’s county board of elections.
Voters who request an absentee ballot are free to vote in person so long as they do not submit the absentee ballot. Those who do return a ballot by mail will be shown in an electronic pollbook at the polling site as having already voted. If a person insists on voting, he or she will be given a provisional ballot that will be evaluated after Election Day.
Once voters have mailed their ballot, there is no reason to go to the polls. Mail-in voters who show up at a polling site to check on their ballot’s status will only add to long lines and to their risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.
MAIL-IN VOTES RISE
Many North Carolina voters are choosing to vote by mail. The State Board of Elections has received more than 784,000 requests for absentee ballots, requests that represent 10 percent of the state’s registered voters. That share is expected to increase to 30 percent or more by the Oct. 27 deadline for requesting an absentee ballot.
Those who choose to vote by mail are protecting themselves and democracy. Their absence from the polls will make it easier for those who do vote in person to get through the process by relieving pressure on polling sites that are having difficulty finding enough poll workers during the pandemic.
Voting by mail is safe, easy and accurate. A voter has multiple ways to remotely determine whether their mailed ballot has been recorded. The president knows this. That’s why he’s voting by mail in Florida. And that’s why he won’t be walking into a polling site near Mar-a-Lago to check on whether his vote has been counted.