Georgia editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Nov. 12

The Augusta Chronicle on Paine College’s response to a reported sexual assault on campus:

When we met with Paine College’s then-President Dr. Jerry Hardee earlier this year, he explained how the school treats its student body like a tight-knit family. If one family member is hurt, it affects everyone, and support arrives swiftly and strongly.

So it was of little surprise when current Paine President Dr. Cheryl Evans Jones issued a statement Tuesday morning to explain how the school has reacted, and continues to help students cope after a reported sexual assault on campus Nov. 1.

“Our first priority is always the safety of our students and the entire campus community,” she said. “We support survivors of sexual offenses and hold accountable anyone found to have violated the College’s Code of Conduct, which prohibits sexual misconduct.”

She said Paine is ensuring that the reported victim and her family receives the support she would obviously need.

From what we know so far, it sounds like a chilling replay of 2013. A Paine student then had just gotten out of the shower in her all-female dormitory when an attacker forced her into a stall and sexually assaulted her. He fled when another student entered the room and the victim called for help.

It took authorities just a day to arrest 18-year-old Jarius Dantzler. More than a year later, after pleading guilty, a judge sentenced Dantzler to life in prison plus 20 years. His arrest had connected him to two previously unsolved cases in which women were attacked.

Brandon Brown, Paine’s vice president of institutional advancement, said at the time of the 2013 crime that the attacker got into Graham Hall after “disabling the door,” and the witness got in the building after closing because of “an environment where students don’t always adhere to guidelines.”

Why don’t they adhere? Following the rules is for their own safety.

Paine officials have long known this. The school doesn’t operate in a vacuum. In previous years Paine has dutifully played host to several forums addressing crime prevention not only on its campus but throughout our area.

Dr. Jones said Paine is committed to implementing the best, most effective methods possible to keep the campus safe, and leaders are asking students and law enforcement experts how that can be best accomplished.

Members of the school’s population - students, faculty and staff - also have met with one another recently to underscore the importance of reporting any crime to campus leaders, and how to do so quickly and safely.

As we said, it’s not just one member of Paine’s family who needs help at a time like this.

Dr. Jones said the school would not release a police report, in “the interest of conducting a fair investigation and ensuring strict confidentiality.” Indeed, no victim of a sex crime should be identified unless that victim consents.

But other aspects of the incident are fair game to be made public, including the person who has been charged. Frederick Williams II, 18, is in jail on a rape charge. He was arrested on a warrant Nov. 6, five days after the incident is said to have occurred.

While Paine protects and heals its campus family, it also must help assure that due process is followed correctly in making sure the person responsible for this attack is brought to justice.

Online: https://www.augustachronicle.com

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Nov. 12

The Brunswick News on heating up your home safely:

Many in the Golden Isles had to wonder when fall would arrive, temperature wise. It seemed like the heat of summer stuck around well into when fall officially started on the calendar.

Eventually, we started seeing highs fall from the 80s into the 70s and lows from the 70s into 60s over the past couple of weeks. It felt good to walk outside comfortably in a long-sleeve shirt.

While it took so long for fall to arrive, we won’t have to wait to get a taste of winter. A cold front moving through the area today will not only bring some showers during the day, but bitter cold temperatures at night — especially compared to the temps we’ve seen so far this fall.

The high on Nov. 12 was around 75 degrees, but by the time morning rolls around, you can expect a 40-degree temperature drop to the mid 30s. Of course, that doesn’t factor in the wind chill, which could be around 27 degrees. A freeze watch has been issued for a large part of middle and southern Georgia — including Valdosta, Savannah and Hinesville as of Monday (Nov. 11) afternoon.

With a very cold night set to roll in, now is a good time to go over some safety tips when it comes to heating your home and staying warm. Even if this is just a small taste of what the weather will be like when December and January roll around, now is a good time to get ready for the cooler months.

If you have a fireplace, make sure you have it and the chimney cleaned and inspected before firing it up. Now would also be a good time to make sure your smoke detectors are operating properly, including testing their batteries. It is recommended that people change the batteries on smoke detectors every six months or so.

Colder weather is also a prime time for carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is produced by burning fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, portable generators or furnaces.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. It is odorless and colorless, and almost impossible for humans to detect, but there are detectors that are available.

If you plan to use a device like a space heater, please follow the safety guidelines for the model you are using. Locate your heater on a level surface away from normal traffic and find a place that will keep children and pets away from it.

With a cold night coming tonight, it is also important to not forget about the four-legged members of your family. If you have pets that stay outside, bring them inside so that they are protected from the elements.

These are just a few things to remember. If you have more concerns, visit www.cdc.gov for tips on staying safe and healthy during the winter months.

Online: https://thebrunswicknews.com

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Nov. 7

The Savannah Morning News on new voting machines:

Two hours before the polls closed Nov. 5, the precinct workers at an unincorporated Chatham County location were asked if they had any plans for the soon-to-be-retired voting machines along the polling place’s back wall.

The question met with chuckles and suggestions that the day’s last voters could take the machines home with them as souvenirs. Then one offered an even more popular idea: They’d take the displays outside and demolish them with baseball bats in the style of the 1999 film “Office Space.”

Seventeen years worth of familiarity has bred plenty of contempt for Georgia’s voting system. Tuesday’s general election and next month’s runoffs are the last to employ the touch-screen machines.

The next time many of us go to the polls — for the presidential preference primary next March — we will vote via ballot marking devices and optical scanners meant to make our elections more efficient, secure and verifiable.

Six counties tested the new system in their local elections this week. Some 9,000 voters cast ballots in those locales, and the system performed as one would hope and expect: far from flawlessly, but overall satisfactorily.

The experience did underscore the major challenge ahead: The human element. With 30,000 voting machines to roll out and easily that many poll workers to train, all in a span of four months, the transition promises to be rocky.

Furthermore, the state doesn’t have the option to employ the old machines as a stopgap. A federal judge has mandated they be mothballed come Dec. 4. If the new system is not ready come March 24, the vote will be done using paper ballots.

- Glitches to address

Among the issues encountered Nov. 5 in Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Decatur, Lowndes and Paulding counties were ballot printers not connected to power supplies, incorrect equipment setup and trouble checking voters into their polling place using a tablet device.

Training should negate these shortcomings, as should voter education. The Paulding County elections director noted the learning curve ballotcasters face with the new system. For 17 years, voting was completed at the touch of a screen.

The new system requires voters to mark their ballot via machine, print out the completed ticket, review it and then officially cast the ballot by placing it into a scanner.

“It adds a few more pieces to the puzzle but it’s working out,” Deidre Holden, the Paulding County elections director, told reporters.

The new system vendor, Dominion, is in the process of delivering the voting machinery. The Chatham County Board of Elections has one of Dominion’s ballot-marking devices on hand currently.

Yet Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger acknowledged this week the full rollout of 30,000 machines to 159 county election boards won’t be completed until mid-January.

The transition window narrows by the day.

- Be prepared, proactive

Citizens need to monitor the situation in the run-up to the presidential primary.

Local election officials are experienced and highly competent but could potentially be placed in a difficult position by the state.

Georgia’s new voting system rollout is the largest of elections equipment in America’s history. An elections official in Colorado, where the Dominion system was adopted in 2016, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Georgia’s timetable “basically blows my mind.”

“We had 2 1/2 years to do it, and it was challenging,” the official said.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has a fallback. Along with the six counties that tested the new machines this week, one county conducted its election using hand-marked paper ballots.

This method met with its own set of complications — some voters failed to follow directions on how to mark their choices. Instead of coloring in a box next to their selection, ballotcasters used X or check marks. Some even drew lines through the names of the candidates they didn’t want and circled the name they favored.

So regardless of the system employed, training and education will be the key. We encourage more of our neighbors to volunteer to work the polls and sign up immediately. The sooner their training begins, the better.

Likewise, the elections board needs to expose the public to the new technology and launch an education campaign well in advance of the March 24 primary.

Hopefully, the 2020 voting experience won’t leave us all wanting to take a bat to the new system.

Online: https://www.savannahnow.com