Illinois Editorial Roundup:

Recent editorials from newspapers published in Illinois:

October 27, 2020

Chicago Sun-Times

Guns in polling places make a mockery of the American ideal of free and open elections

As Election Day approaches, it is dismaying to hear people demand that they be allowed to show up at polling places with guns or as aggressive “poll watchers.”

Voter intimidation — even the suggestion of intimidation — is not who we are.

Can we, as a nation, agree at least on that?

As long ago as 1776, the state of Delaware’s constitution said, “To prevent any violence or force being used at . . . elections, no person shall come armed to any of them.”

The sad fact is that Americans are more likely to bring guns to public gatherings these days, slinging rifles over Hawaiian shirts and military camo. A recent nationwide report documented 190 incidents in which guns were carried at protests this year through mid-August. And now, election authorities worry guns and intimidating “poll watchers” will show up at polling places on Election Day.

The signs are disturbing:

• President Donald Trump has publicly called for a nationwide army of 50,000 “volunteers” to monitor voting and ballot-counting. Coming from the guy who advised the fascist Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” that sounds to us like an invitation to intimidate.

• In Michigan, where 13 people stand accused of plotting to abduct Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and heavily armed protesters showed up at the state capitol in a show of intimidation, gun groups are suing to be allowed to carry guns openly into polling places. For what?

• In New Hampshire, the attorney general has announced that no one can prevent people from bringing guns to the polls, even those situated in schools.

• A recent report by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project and MilitiaWatch listed Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Oregon as having the highest risk of elections-related militia activity. “Militia groups and other armed non-state actors pose a serious threat to the safety and security of American voters,” the report said.

• Reporters tracking social media say numerous posts include announcements from individuals saying they will bring guns to the polls.

“People are a little bit worried,” a national voting expert told us. “Polling places are semi-sacred spaces. It is highly likely guns would have a subjective sense of intimidation, and because of that the likelihood that people would change their behavior increases.”

As the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says, “Armed intimidation at the polls is voter suppression, plain and simple.”

Not everyone gets it. In Nevada, state Attorney General Aaron Ford said, “The mere presence of a firearm at a public polling location, in and of itself, won’t rise to that level (of intimidation).”

Is he kidding? Guns, quite easily, can have that effect. Ask any older African American from the Deep South who in the 1950s had to walk a gauntlet of armed white men to exercise his right to even register to vote.

More than half of voters nationwide are expected to cast their ballots before Nov. 3. But winning elections is all about margins. You don’t have to scare everyone, just enough.

Voting should be a moment of civic pride. It should be a coming together as Americans, even as we may disagree. Guns in polling places make a mockery of that ideal.

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October 27, 2020

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

The danger of portraying COVID-19 as political issue rather than health crisis

President Donald Trump’s implicit assault on health care institutions last weekend could be forgiven as just mean-spirited politics if that’s all it were. But his insinuation that doctors and hospitals are distorting their reports on COVID-19 infections in order to make more money has the potential to cause real harm.

“If somebody’s terminally ill with cancer and they have COVID, we report them. And you know doctors get more money and hospitals get more money. Think of this incentive,” the president said at a rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Saturday.

The comment further advanced the myth widely debunked -- by the nation’s top COVID-19 fighter on down the scientific ladder -- that patients with co-morbidities are improperly classified as COVID-19 victims. Dr. Anthony Fauci and other medical experts note that if it’s COVID-19 that leads to the death of a patient with cancer, heart disease or some other co-morbidity, it is just as correctly and appropriately listed as the cause as if, say, a car crash were what killed the person.

Moreover, as Denise Chamberlain, chief financial officer at DuPage County-based Edward-Elmhurst Health, told our Jake Griffin for a story published Monday, there is no real incentive for health care officials to misstate a cause of death. For one thing, they could lose their careers or face federal fraud charges if caught. Moreover, Chamberlain added, the dwindling CARES Act money that reimburses hospitals for COVID deaths of Medicare patients applies only to people over 65 years old and even then rarely covers all the extra costs of caring for them.

The insult to health care workers is especially severe when we consider that they are literally on the front lines of what Trump himself has called “like a war,” exposing themselves daily to the virus, tirelessly working long, stressful hours to treat its victims and watching as patients suffer and sometimes die alone.

So, in these contexts alone, the president’s statement is a disturbing perversion of the truth. Beyond that, though, it is more than just offensive.

Promoting misinformation leads people to disregard expert health advice and breeds suspicion of the people most responsible for promoting and ensuring safety. We can see now where that is leading. Coronavirus infection rates are soaring across the country to levels not reached since the early days of the pandemic last spring. As of Monday, the number of new cases in Illinois had increased by 69% so far in October compared to the same period last month. Hospital admissions are on the rise and intensive care populations are starting to swell again. A key reason for the renewed surge, health experts say, is that more and more people are disregarding the fundamental safety precautions -- wearing masks, washing hands and watching their distance to stay at least six feet away from others in public.

Unfortunately, these behaviors are also adding to the pressures for greater restrictions on all of us, deepening and lengthening the hardships we endure to fight the virus.

It is natural and appropriate that political leaders will be judged on the merits and effectiveness of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But making political judgments regarding the response to the disease is not the same as making the disease itself political.

The disease is a health crisis, and distracting attention from that fact is not just bad politics. It is dangerous.

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October 23, 2020

Danville Commercial News

Minimizing the pandemic’s fiscal impact

Vermilion County officials, along with their counterparts in Danville and other communities, face the difficult task of crafting a budget for next year with no clear idea of what the COVID-19 pandemic might mean in terms of revenue or expenses.

Building a budget with so many unknowns won’t be an easy job. Vermilion County and Danville officials each have reserves they can draw upon, but other communities already have started to make cuts in personnel and services in an effort to at least come close to a balanced budget.

Danville City Council members also must deal with the loss of an anticipated $2 million in revenue they expected to collect from a casino. The casino license initially went to a group with grand plans, but those quickly fell through. A much more modest proposal, with a different developer, now is in the works, but state officials have yet to approve a license for Danville. No license means no revenue.

The city has gained money from other sources, including more than $400,000 in tax revenue from the sale of cannabis, but projections still fall about $320,000 short of a balanced budget.

Through cuts made with the cooperation of city officials elsewhere in the budget, according to Mayor Rickey Williams Jr., aldermen will consider a tax rate that shows the slightest increase for the 2021-22 fiscal year. This year’s tax rate is $2.2883 per $100 of assessed value on property. The projected tax rate for the next fiscal year will be $2.289 per $100 of assessed value.

That’s not bad considering the loss of the anticipated casino funds, the decrease in sales tax and an increase in the total city budget from $53.2 million to $56.9 million. And that comes with no significant loss of city services.

Vermilion County officials also should be able to cover any anticipated shortfall in their budget through reserves as spending cuts.

Few people would have complained had either governing body asked for a mulligan — a “do-over” — on its respective budget. But it appears through decreasing spending where possible, increases in a few revenue sources and a slight increase in assessed value, and the judicious use of reserve funds, local residents will not see the reduction in services or tax increases others in Illinois will endure next year.

Residents usually find it easy to complain when their leaders must increase taxes or fees even the slightest amount in order to maintain services. This time around, they should send a few compliments to those public officials who worked hard to minimize the pandemic’s fiscal effects during the next fiscal year.