Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

Index-Journal. January 17, 2024.

Editorial: Forget about Iowa caucus: SC’s the one to watch

Forget about Iowa and its Monday caucuses. Actually, make that its one and only caucus as the Democratic Party’s caucus has been dropped.

All eyes have typically turned to Iowa as the state was viewed as a bellwether of things to come. Turns out Iowans — at least the ones who voted in the 2020 Democratic caucus — weren’t too reliable as predictors. They had Joe Biden coming in fourth, so the Democratic National Committee nixed the caucus process.

The Republican caucuses haven’t been great predictors, either. They chose Mike Huckabee in 2008, Rick Santorum in 2012 and Ted Cruz in 2016. Of course, the GOP caucus results this time around were not too surprising.

Seems it’s “For Whom the Bellwether Tolls” for Iowa.

Here in South Carolina where temps don’t hit all-time lows like they did Monday in Iowa, we still have primaries and we still gather the attention of the rest of the nation as an election barometer.

Voters opting to hit the polls for the Democratic presidential primary will head out Saturday, Feb. 3. Some might be surprised to know they have three candidates to choose from: President Joe Biden, Congressman Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson. Yeah, probably no surprises will be forthcoming that evening as polls close.

Republicans still have time to decide where they’ll throw their support on Saturday, Feb. 24, when that party’s primary takes place.

Some names will be familiar, others maybe not so much.

Listed alphabetically, they are Ryan L. Binkley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, David Stuckenberg and Donald J. Trump.

Since he dropped out ahead of the Iowa caucus, anyone who was thinking of voting for Christie might want to rethink their vote. Of course, more than a handful of Democrats might be bypassing their party’s primary in an effort to dilute the Trump votes and Christie might be on their list.

One thing is for certain, the Palmetto State’s “first in the South” status should prove interesting. Not so much on Feb. 3, but definitely on the 24th. Who will still be holding on? Time will tell.


Times and Democrat. January 11, 2024.

Editorial: The way of democracy and freedom

Public officials and the press often don’t agree on just how much the public needs to know about government.

Most governmental officials are well-meaning individuals attempting to honestly serve the public to the best of their abilities. But just one case to the contrary is too many.

The press acts as the public’s representative to record the proceedings of government -- both good and bad.

Between government and the press are freedom-of-information laws. The laws are twofold: protecting the public’s right to know what its government is doing and giving government the right to protect the people it serves. Finding common ground can produce tensions.

Reporters may often appear to be troublemakers. While some don’t have a realistic grasp of the need for a cooperative relationship with government, most all have an understanding of their professional obligation to bring information to an information-hungry public. It is the media’s mission.

Journalists don’t particularly cherish the role as government’s adversary. On the local level, reluctance to challenge governmental officials is understandable. This is not Washington where faceless media lawyers square off with faceless government attorneys.

But a journalist’s professional obligation is to challenge officials when the journalist deems necessary. Doing so is not pleasant. But professional obligations are not always pleasant ones.

For example, a physician ideally wishes to treat an illness with uneventful measures producing a cure. But emergency surgery can be required. When that is the case, the physician acts. That is as it should be.

In the same manner, a reporter would like to simply cover a public meeting as an observer. But sometimes the reporter must raise questions that can disrupt the status quo. That is as it should be as well.

To continue the medical analogy, some public officials understand as little about freedom of information as a reporter does about performing surgery.

The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act gives the public the benefit of doubt.

While governmental bodies are allowed to use closed-door sessions in limited instances, the practice is abused. Unless a matter specifically qualifies for an executive session, governmental business is to be conducted in public.

The public has a right to expect that journalists will fight to protect their right to know. But with or without the legal protections specifically in the FOIA, open government is only as open as those in it. Ways can be found to bypass even the most diligent reporter.

It is the legal and professional responsibility of governmental officials to abide by the laws they are entrusted to make. That is the way of democracy and freedom.

In the puzzling relationship between media and government, the issue is really that simple.


Post and Courier. January 15, 2024.

Editorial: SC’s military and overseas voters get this option. Why don’t the rest of us?

The usually routine task of mailing out military and overseas ballots became news on Wednesday because that action all but mooted a quixotic lawsuit attempting to get Donald Trump’s name removed from South Carolina’s Republican presidential ballot. It didn’t technically moot it — U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis could order those ballots thrown out and the process started anew — but her allowing that deadline to pass strongly suggests that she isn’t going to change the ballots.

We found it interesting for an entirely unrelated reason, as we never thought the lawsuit had merit to begin with. We found it interesting because it served as a reminder of a special option that members of the military and South Carolinians who live overseas have that the rest of us don’t have: the option of voting in a runoff without having to live through a bruising runoff campaign, without either going to the polls or else requesting a runoff ballot and hoping we can get it returned in time to be counted, and without the state having to spend money running a runoff election.

Instead, people who live overseas and who serve in the military (even if they live in South Carolina) get to participate in what state law calls instant-runoff voting and what advocates increasingly call ranked-choice voting: That is, they go ahead and cast their runoff vote at the same time they cast their primary vote. Instead of just voting for one candidate in a primary, they can rank as many of the candidates as they want, and if there’s a runoff that doesn’t involve their first-choice candidate, then their second choice is counted as if they had gone back out and voted in the runoff.

Of course South Carolina doesn’t require a runoff in presidential primaries; whoever gets the most votes wins, even if he or she only gets a third of the vote, as Donald Trump did in South Carolina in 2016. but we wisely do require runoffs in the June primaries for county, legislative, congressional and statewide offices to ensure that whoever wins the primary really is the top choice of the electorate: If nobody receives 50% of the vote plus one, we hold a runoff two weeks later between the two top vote-getters, and anybody who cares who represents them has to go back out and vote again. And all of us have to provide the tax money to pay for that additional election. That would make sense if there weren’t a better option, but there is.

The mathematically challenged and the logically challenged argue there’s something nefarious about instant-runoff voting, that it somehow lets some people vote twice without letting others vote twice. It doesn’t, because everybody whose candidates remain in the race through subsequent “rounds” essentially have their votes counted anew.

The consistency challenged are actually trying to pass a law to ban instant-runoff voting in South Carolina — for everybody except that small number of people who already are allowed to use it. Never mind that it’s not currently allowed for anybody except that small number of people who already are allowed to use it. Like we said, consistency challenged.

Clearly, this is an idea that frightens some politicians who are used to getting elected under the current system, and the people who profit from their elections. But then such people usually prefer the status quo, even when it doesn’t serve the public.

Here’s what you should ask your legislators: Why do you allow overseas residents of South Carolina and South Carolinians who are in the military to cast instant-runoff ballots? Because it’s a quicker and easier and more efficient way to vote?

Then ask them this: If it’s OK for overseas residents of South Carolina and South Carolinians who are in the military to cast instant-runoff ballots, why is that not OK for the rest of us?

Why are you making us endure a two-week runoff campaign and trudge back out to the polls a second time in two weeks or, if we’re going to be out of town, jump through all sorts of hoops to get a runoff ballot and get it returned in time to count?

Why are you making us pay to print and mail more absentee ballots and staff the polling places a second time? Why all that when it is completely unnecessary? When there’s a perfectly sound alternative to all of that? What are you so afraid of?