Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Cleveland Plain Dealer. Sept. 3, 2021.

Editorial: The Ohio Redistricting Commission’s shameful duck on constitutional map-drawing deadline

In one of the more disgraceful episodes in Ohio politics, seven state officeholders this week failed to do what the Ohio Constitution and their oaths of office require them to do.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission -- which includes five Republicans led by Gov. Mike DeWine and two Democrats -- failed to provide Ohioans, by Wednesday’s deadline, a bipartisan plan for new General Assembly districts reflecting population shifts since 2010.

The panel faces another, stiffer, Sept. 15 deadline for approving new districts, since the commission failed to find common ground by Sept. 1.

But even without a bipartisan agreement by Sept. 1, cleveland.com’s Andrew J. Tobias reports the commission was still required to unveil a map for public review before Sept.1.

It didn’t.

That denied Ohioans a constitutionally promised opportunity to see the first map and offer feedback on it at a trio of public hearings. And it suggested a process likely to be more secretive, nonresponsive and rushed than voters demanded and expected.

Ohio voters overwhelmingly supported amending the state constitution to make Sept. 1 a state legislative map deadline. Now, their will has already been thwarted.

That’s doubly troubling, given that what happens this year -- the first under the new voter-approved constitutional language -- could set a precedent for future redistricting.

The seven elected officeholders on the commission are Republicans DeWine, State Auditor Keith Faber, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman and a pair of father-daughter Democrats, state Sen. Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, both of Akron.

The commission understood the mandate, and failed to deliver; they failed to follow constitutionally prescribed language. And the Ohio Constitution further makes it clear that “all political power is inherent in the people,” not in the officials they elect.

In this instance, the will of the people of Ohio was flagrantly, manifestly ignored by officeholders elected to serve them, not rule them.

State Senate Democrats did submit a draft map of proposed legislative districts, but that doesn’t absolve the full commission of its obligation to release a preliminary map.

Republicans also are working on a draft map but refused to release it. The panel’s GOP majority repeatedly excused their failures by citing the Census Bureau’s delays, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in furnishing Ohio with precise population data.

It’s more likely that Republicans worried about court challenges hope to sew up “every-digit-accurate” districts to ward off, or at least limit, lawsuits.

But litigation avoidance isn’t in the state constitution. The Sept. 1 deadline is.

Barring Ohioans – who are paying every cent of the cost of these antics – from being able to see the majority Republicans’ likely submission assures a mad map-drawing scramble in the days leading up to Sept. 15, the next procedural deadline. And mad scrambles make for hasty, poorly thought-out decisions and partisan trickery. The failure of GOP redistricting commissioners to unveil a draft map by Wednesday, when Democrats were able to do so -- albeit a map with technical flaws Republicans had to point out -- doesn’t exactly burnish the straight-arrow image cultivated by LaRose, Ohio’s chief elections officer.

It was to prevent such machinations, and in response to the grossly skewed 2011 Republican reapportionment of General Assembly districts, that Ohio voters in 2015 approved – with almost 72% voting “yes” – the Redistricting Commission’s creation.

For the panel to buck a rule set by a landslide majority of Ohio’s voters is the very definition of arrogance. It also virtually guarantees a blizzard of litigation leading up to the candidate filing deadline for Ohio’s May 3, 2022, primary election.

Moreover, the Ohio Constitution – assuming this section, too, isn’t ignored – requires that a candidate for the General Assembly must have lived in the district she or he wants to represent for at least a year before the Nov. 8, 2022, general election. That timeline, too, may further aggravate the haste induced by the GOP’s failure to unveil any kind of map and the commission’s joint failure to meet the Sept. 1 deadline.

This deadline-skirting isn’t what Ohioans voted for, and it isn’t what they want. Some of those determined Ohioans might care to remind all seven commissioners, but particularly the GOP majority still keeping its map under wraps, who’s the boss. And who’s not.

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Columbus Dispatch. Aug. 27, 2021.

Editorial: Ohio’s election system is not broken, but lawmakers’ logic needs a fix

As the well-worn but worthy saying goes, if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.

A new bill backed by a bevy of House Republicans could do more than break a portion of Ohio’s election law that thousands of voters – including people who voted for them – embraced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill would take a sledgehammer to voting access by banning the of return of ballots via drop boxes and stripping away the right to vote by mail without an excuse.

The way we vote in Ohio is nothing new, although more people used absentee options in 2020.

Ohio’s early-voting law was approved in 2005, and people have been voting by mail for decades.

Franklin County became one of the first in the state to install drop boxes in 2008.

There is no good reason for House Bill 387, recently introduced by Rep. Bill Dean, R-Xenia.

But there is a reason, and we fear that it is as sinister it seems.

The bill would make it harder for the ‘wrong’ people to vote, even though it’s not entirely clear who all votes with absentee ballots and who does not.

House Bill 387 would block voting options embraced by voters during the pandemic.

Ohioans cast more than 3.5 million ballots before Election Day in November, according to information from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office.

The number of people who voted absentee jumped from 33.5% in 2016 to 58.6% during the pandemic.

An astounding 94% of absentee ballots requested were returned.

Nationally, those who voted for now President Joe Biden were twice as likely to say they voted by mail than those who voted for former President Donald Trump, according to the Pew Research Center.

Trump voters were only slightly more likely to vote in person on Election Day than Biden voters.

Black voters were less likely to mail in ballots or vote absentee than white, Hispanic, and Asian American voters.

Combined, nearly 8 million votes were cast in Ohio in the 2020 primary and general elections, but only 13 people face possible prosecution for voting illegally because they aren’t U.S. citizens.

The desire to limit access to voting has nothing to do with the fairytale fraud Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mount Lookout, said “potentially is happening in the system.”

LaRose, a Republican, and the vast majority of county level election officials, provide plenty of evidence that fraud is exceedingly rare in Ohio.

Dean’s bill is far more restrictive than another controversial one proposed by Reps. Bill Seitz and Sharon Ray.

House Bill 294 would cut the availability of drop boxes to 10 days before Election Day, end in-person voting on the Monday before Election Day and require two forms of identification to request a mail-in ballot online.

It’s also unnecessary. The voting system in Ohio works, and it works well.

Yet there are even more restrictions in Dean’s House Bill 387 than we’ve mentioned so far. It says that those who would be out of the county for the entire voting period, incarcerated or with physical disabilities or illness would be the only ones eligible to vote by mail.

It would limit precinct officials to a seven-hour workday and over time, limit early voting to six days.

Dean’s bill also would cut the Monday before the election as an Early Voting Day and limit the acceptable forms of identification to a driver’s license, state identification card or passport.

Military IDs, current bills or paychecks could not be used for identity confirmation as they are now.

Dean’s ill-conceived bill came just days before Democrats in Congress voted to restore the Justice Department’s review of changes in election law in states with a history of discrimination.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the legislation named for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, is necessary to beat back the “threat from a targeted, brazen and partisan campaign to deny Americans the ballot.”

Republicans in the U.S. Senate oppose the bill and could block it. We hope they do not.

Ohio’s bipartisan-run election system runs smoothly and is the envy of many states.

In fact, LaRose just won the Innovators Award from the National Association of State Elections Directors for Ohio’s Precinct Election Official Recruitment Program during the 2020 election.

Lawmakers here and nationally should seek to make it easier foreligible voters to exercise their right instead of offering illogical legislation that calls into question the legitimacy of their own elections.

After all, if there’s rampant fraud in the system (as they falsely suggest), how could we possibly believe that they are legitimate officeholders?

Ohio lawmakers need to reject the national trend of Republicans seeking more restrictive and complicated voting laws in the wake of Trump’s clear defeat in the presidential election.

There was no steal. There was virtually no fraud.

And while Trump lost the election, he actually won Ohio decisively: 3,154,834 votes to Joe Biden’s 2,679,165 votes.

The system works.

The ability to drop off ballots and vote by mail adds convenience to the process. During the pandemic, it also aided public safety.

Ohio lawmakers must reject additional layers of confusion and complication that would suppress votes and disenfranchise Ohio voters.

Ohio’s election system is not broken, but some lawmakers’ logic needs a fix.

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Youngstown Vindicator. Sept. 3, 2021.

Editorial: Domestic violence victims often need support and time

An alleged domestic violence incident that led to criminal charges being filed this week against a well-known local high school football coach has drawn attention to a very serious societal problem that often occurs in secret and behind closed doors.

While reports of domestic violence in the physical sense generally gain widespread media attention, a local domestic violence advocate tells us that she believes emotional abuse is much more widespread and often can be even more devastating to the victim in the long term than physical abuse.

“Bruises heal,” said Anne Face, the associate director of Family and Community Services in Trumbull County. Emotional scars from verbal abuse can linger for years.

Face is serving as interim director of Someplace Safe, a domestic violence shelter in Warren.

Face was quick to point out that there are multiple types of abuse — including physical, emotional, verbal. Each comes with a goal of gaining power and control. Isolation or intimidation, she said, are techniques abusers often use in their attempt to control the lives of their victims, “making their world smaller.”

Other methods of control might include power plays over the couple’s children and control of money or finances.

There are signals that friends, neighbors, loved ones and acquaintances should take note of — isolation is a big one. Experts advise to take note of things that seem unusual or “not right,” such as wearing long sleeves in the summer, or quitting a job unexpectedly and cutting off contact with friends and family.

Sadly, often by the time a victim of abuse seeks help from a shelter or agency, their support system has been diminished.

So how can you help?

Family members and loved ones should stand by, offer support and suggest where to go for help. They should urge the victim to seek help, but not nag. Most of all, if you suspect abuse, you should trust the victim’s instincts. Victims generally know their abusers’ triggers. They must be trusted to know that, experts say. You should listen and make sure they have access to the resources they need. They cannot be forced to leave. They must make that decision on their own.

Friends and family must understand that often victims stay in abusive situations because there are many dynamics in play, including things like potential homelessness or loss of finances, not to mention the complex nature of the relationship.

“You keep the door open … (using) gentle reminders that you are there,” Face said, adding that victims will leave only when they are ready.

Domestic Violence resources are available in Mahoning County through Compass Family and Community Services. The Compass Sojourner House Domestic Violence Program 24-Hour Hotline is 866-436-6269.

In Trumbull County, the Someplace Safe Hotline is available at 330-393-3005.

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Newark Advocate. Sept. 5, 2021.

Editorial: : Remember our Licking County military as Afghanistan war ends

Never forget.

It’s a phrase that was often said after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. Some said it to remember who committed the atrocities of that day. Others said it to remember the feeling of unity in America after she was struck by an external enemy.

Over the years, the phrase was used again and again — on seemingly less and less important things. Truthfully, it nearly lost all meaning.

But as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of those attacks, it is important to reclaim that phrase and never forget the brave men and women who served in foreign countries fighting an almost unwinnable war against the nebulous “terror.”

It is especially important to never forget as the war in Afghanistan comes to an inglorious ending.

Last Sunday, Craig McDonald detailed the stories and feelings of several local veterans who fought on the front lines.

These men, who lost years away from loved ones and lost friends permanently, were left to ponder if their sacrifices had been worth it as the Taliban reclaimed the country.

Their responses were blunt:

— It feels like defeat.

— To be perfectly frank, I did not believe it was worthwhile while we there.

— Was it worth it? That’s a question I struggle to answer in the affirmative.

— It’s not in our best interest to stay in Afghanistan forever . . . But the way we’re pulling out? Horrible execution, horrible planning.

These feelings are not unique. Everyone touched by this war is probably having thoughts of a similar nature. And regardless of your politics or feelings on how the war ended, we should be united in supporting those who did their best in the most difficult of circumstances to represent America.

Many have compared the end of Afghanistan to the end of Vietnam. What we must not allow to happen is for those who served in Afghanistan to face the same fate at home as their Vietnam predecessors.

Fortunately, we believe that will not be the case. Most people are able to distinguish having concerns about a war while also wanting to provide support to our warriors so they can better re-integrate into society.

Unfortunately, there is still much to be done to ensure the safety of our veterans at home. In 2018, an average of 17.8 veterans died by suicide each day in the United States. The troubling end of the Afghanistan conflict could increase the mental stresses they face.

That is why it is important for all of us to play a part in their recovery. It could be as simple as thanking them for their service, asking if they wish to talk and most importantly listening if they do. If a veteran is struggling, please direct them to the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255.

In addition, the Licking County Veterans’ Service Commission is working to facilitate veteran to veteran conversations at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. The private discussions are open to all veterans, and are held at their office, 935 Buckeye Ave., Newark. People are asked to call 740-745-5006 or 740-258-4341 for more information.

We would add that people do their homework before donating money to support our veterans. Unfortunately, some people will try to take advantage of any tragedy, so be sure your money is going to legitimate organizations.

Our veterans are worth the effort, let’s make sure they are not forgotten.

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Ashtabula Star Beacon. Sept. 2, 2021.

Editorial: Masks should not be about politics

At some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, masks became less of an inconvenience and more of a political wedge.

Someone, somewhere along the line, became convinced that being compelled to wear one in a story or a school infringed upon his God-given rights as an American citizen.

And worse, that person convinced others, who convinced others, who convinced still more people that mask mandates were the work of the devil, Karl Marx and Chairman Mao.

And once some politicians stuck a moist finger into the air and figured out which way the wind was suddenly blowing among some of their constituents, they became to see masks as a political football to be used to score points.

Then — a few months ago — we all but declared victory against COVID-19 and masks largely went away, which utterly thrilled anti-maskers.

Josh Mandel, a U.S. Senate candidate in Ohio, posted a video of himself setting fire to a mask. He was not alone, but you might call it the equivalent of celebrating a touchdown before actually reaching the end zone.

As it turned out, the Delta variant arrived on the scene as if to say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Now COVID-19 cases are again surging, just as our children are heading back to school and college and just when we thought we were mostly finished with social distancing and making sure we had masks with us everywhere we went.

And it’s not just cases that are spiking again. Hospitalizations and deaths also are on the rise here and across the country.

Ohio reported 5,395 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The state hadn’t topped 5,000 cases in a day since January. On Friday, Ohio reported 70 new virus-related deaths and that 2,217 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

So if you thought the pandemic was over, think again. And if you thought you didn’t need those masks any longer, you may want to dig them out again.

They’re still a political football to some, but we can’t understand why. Studies show that masks can prevent wearers from spreading the virus. It is also known that asymptomatic people can, in fact, spread COVID-19.

So stop kvetching about your rights. Compared to being dead, masking up is a minor inconvenience.

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