Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

___

Oct. 26

The Times & Democrat on a statewide campaign to reduce littering:

Litter remains a problem for South Carolina’s image and for the attitude it reflects among too many South Carolinians.

Why anyone with an ounce of public consciousness would discard trash along roadsides and anywhere else outside designated locations is a mystery to the many who not only don’t litter but spend time cleaning up the litter deposited by others. Littering reflects an attitude of uncaring that is certain to show up in other aspects of litterers’ lives with regard to respect for anything and everything, including human life itself.

But because there are those who cannot be expected to behave in the best interest of themselves and all, there are laws that punish offenders. In South Carolina, litter laws were strengthened in 2018 and are being more strictly enforced. But just as no law stops all offenders all the time, littering cannot be controlled by enforcement alone. It takes caring people unwilling to litter and willing to clean up when others do.

A year ago, Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette and PalmettoPride asked South Carolinians to grab a bag and clean up their communities. Grab A Bag SC was a statewide litter pickup challenge inspired by Evette’s own experience picking up in her home community and even during her family vacations. Participants, including the S.C. Department of Transportation with its Fall Cleanup, picked up more than 116 tons of litter from S.C. roadways.

In 2020, Grab A Bag S.C. is back.

Evette kicked off the new campaign at Clemson University with the help of the Solid Green Club during a press conference, followed by a litter pickup around campus. The statewide initiative is a safe litter pickup event that encourages South Carolinians to help clean up litter, one bag at a time.

“Getting outside and doing something for our community can make a tremendous impact on more than just our neighbors,” Evette said. “We want to encourage families and businesses to make it a part of their activities.”

Litter pickup events are a great way for people to safely enjoy the outdoors while doing something good for the environment. When following guidelines for social distancing, picking up litter in your community can be a purposeful way to take care of your well-being but still give back.

Grab A Bag SC 2020 organizers are asking for businesses and economic development leaders to lead by example and make litter prevention a part of state improvement conversations.

It starts with one bag, one piece of trash and all of us working together creating a litter-free South Carolina.

Grab a bag, rally your friends and family, put on your safety gear and head outside for a chance to enjoy the outdoors while making a difference.

Online: https://thetandd.com

___

Oct. 22

The Index-Journal on South Carolina’s record voter participation:

Not surprisingly, South Carolina has hit a record, and this time it’s not a bad one.

The state Elections Commission reported last week that a record number of Palmetto State residents are casting votes by absentee, by mail and in person. If the trend continues, they said, more than 1 million ballots will have been cast before Nov. 3.

Presidential election years have, traditionally, been more robust than off years, and 2020 is proving to be no different. There seems to be a great interest in this year’s election among South Carolinians, and we suspect the interest far exceeds the presidential race. Contentious and expensive advertising, some even trickling into newspapers, which have largely been abandoned by candidates on the national scene who instead rely on free coverage of their campaigns, seems to be on a non-stop merry-go-round.

What some might have seen as an attempt to sidetrack absentee voting has been explained. A few voters, in Greenwood County at least, received their absentee ballots with return envelopes already sealed. That has been explained as something less than a nefarious plot in that heat during the printing process might have caused some to seal. Maybe next time return envelopes should be the more expensive ones that require the sender to peel off a strip of paper to expose the seal.

Here in Greenwood County, Connie Moody is reporting the process is going smoothly. Moody, who is the county’s Voter Registration and Elections office director, said voters whose return envelopes were received sealed need only slit them open, put their ballot inside, tape the envelope and initial the envelope to indicate they, in fact, had to break the seal initially.

But if you are not one of those who has already cast an absentee ballot but plan to do so, you best get busy. ... And you don’t want to wait till the last minute to drop it in the mail as they are due by 7 p.m. Nov. 3, when polls also close. Moody recommends mailing ballots at least a week ahead of Election Day to make the deadline.

Of course, there’s still the option to vote by absentee in the elections office — a viable option if you’re still thinking your ballot might arrive late, like the Christmas card you sent to Aunt Jane last December and that she received right before the pandemic hit.

All in all, it is encouraging to see such interest and participation in this year’s election. But please don’t be one of those who opt to disenfranchise yourself by not voting. Sure, it’s easy to get soured on elections, with all the negative campaign materials we all see and hear, and become cynical. Even if you find yourself thinking you’re left with the choice between two evils, make a choice.

Voting is a duty, an obligation and a privilege we have.

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com

___

Oct. 20

The Post and Courier on the state's magistrate judge appointment system:

Unless you’re a landlord or someone facing eviction, you might not have paid close attention to S.C. Chief Justice Don Beatty’s order making it tougher to kick out renters.

It’s worth attention.

Unlike the chief justice’s March order putting a temporary COVID-19 moratorium on all evictions, which was done in conjunction with drastically scaling back all court activity, this latest order didn’t upend any part of the law. Quite the opposite. And that’s what makes it worthy of attention.

As The Post and Courier’s Thad Moore reports, the directive protects renters from having to pay all of their past due rent in order to appeal an eviction order — a requirement that prevented most renters from filing an appeal, even if they had a sound legal basis.

Justice Beatty sent the memo to judges not because he decided to give renters a break but because the law doesn’t require them to pay any past-due rent in order to appeal. Rather, S.C. Code Section 27-40-800(b) clearly says the eviction is delayed during an appeal as long as renters pay their rent on time during the appeal, and judges were routinely tacking on additional, burdensome requirements without authority to do so.

Although there’s a huge difference between evictions and police raids, this was actually reminiscent of an order in July that temporarily halted no-knock warrants.

Justice Beatty issued that earlier moratorium after he conducted a survey of magistrates and found that “no-knock search warrants are routinely issued upon request without further inquiry” because “most do not understand the gravity of no-knock warrants and do not discern the heightened requirements for issuing a no-knock warrant.

The chief justice said that moratorium would stay in place until he could write some clear standards — South Carolina has none now, through either state law or judicial orders — for when judges should issue warrants that essentially protect police from liability when they barge unannounced into homes and businesses.

As big a difference as this latest directive will make in the lives of people in dire situations, what’s legally and politically significant is that it marked the second time in three months that the chief justice had to step in to correct clear misapplications of the law not in an individual case but systemically.

It’s not uncommon for the court to reverse lower-court orders; that’s why we have appellate courts. What’s uncommon is for the chief justice to see mistakes that are so widespread that he has to act outside an individual appeal to set the lower courts straight.

It’s no coincidence that in both instances, the judges who were misapplying the law were our most political and least educated judges: magistrates.

Magistrates are technically appointed by the governor, but in fact they’re hand-picked by the state senator who represents the area they serve. They don’t have to be attorneys, or have any relevant experience, and as The Post and Courier’s Joseph Cranney reported last year, S.C. magistrates frequently ignore defendants’ basic constitutional rights and have less required training than the state’s barbers or masseuses.

The chief justice’s back-to-back orders calling them down for routinely taking actions on such potentially life-changing matters that don’t comply with the law underscore the need for reforms to either our magistrate requirements or our magistrate appointment system or both. And sooner rather than later.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com