Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

The Post and Courier. November 14, 2022.

Editorial: From the SC coast to the mountains, welcome progress on new trails

Across South Carolina, from the coast to our mountainous state line, new and expanded trails have certainly made a lot of headlines in recent months. Here are just a few of the exciting developments:

— Work on the new Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail extension through downtown Spartenburg is scheduled to finish today. Groups in Spartanburg also are more than a third of the way toward creating the Daniel Morgan Trail, or “The Dan,” a 55-mile-long web of trails from the Pacolet to the North Tyger river to Croft State Park.

— Greenville County is moving ahead with Shiloh Ridge, a $400,000 deal to add to Paris Mountain State Park and advance a vision of adding miles of hiking trails with views stretching across the county’s northern end.

— The Lower Saluda Greenway Project, an initiative to create a trail connecting Columbia to Lake Murray, now has full funding to build, paving the way for sections of the trail to open in the next several years.

— The Lowcountry Lowline, a 2-mile-long linear park envisioned on a former railroad in Charleston’s northern peninsula, received a $7 million planning grant from the federal government that will help the city qualify for yet another federal grant to build it.

— Upstate groups are negotiating with Norfolk Southern in hopes of creating a 31-mile rail trail, 16 miles of which would be in South Carolina, on the Saluda Grade railroad line, which became inactive after 2001.

— The Palmetto Conservation Foundation, which is creating the 500-mile-long Palmetto Trail across the state, is poised to work on two significant new legs next year — the 20-mile-long Gap Creek Trail in the Upstate and a 25-mile-long Fort Jackson-to-Wateree passage in the Midlands.

There are other projects we could add to this list, and it’s all good news for our state because these sorts of projects not only have conservation benefits but also provide important public access and new recreational options that will let even more of us engage with the land. We encourage state and particularly local governments to continue work with the nonprofit sector to make progress in creating these new trails and more.

Mary Roe, executive director of the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, tells us that the pandemic created fresh interest in — and political support for — outdoor trails in general, because they offered safe and badly needed recreation opportunities during a time of social distancing. Our state has lagged some others in terms of creating a network of trails. We should close that gap.

Meanwhile, residents have a new tool to help access these trails. The foundation has joined with several partners to create the S.C. Trails Coalition, which already has created a new website, sctrails.net. The site highlights at least 45 existing trails across the state, including paved trails, more nature-based trails and even blueways, a relatively new term for water routes. The coalition is reaching out to municipalities, schools and other groups that might know of more trails to add, and it plans to hold a workshop in the spring as part of a larger discussion of walkability and outdoor recreation across the state.

The new coalition also hopes to work with local trail-building efforts to help ensure the state’s growing web connects as much as possible, mainly by suggesting route revisions that would allow a new trial to intersect with an existing one. “We think we’re on the right track and have a lot of momentum to create a really connected trail system throughout the state,” Ms. Roe tells us. It’s a smart idea.

While creating and maintaining trails has mostly involved local efforts, the state has provided fiscal support to the Palmetto Trail and also has notched important success creating a new sort of trail with its emerging Black River State Park, a unique initiative to create a publicly accessible 70-mile-long stretch where the river winds through Williamsburg and Georgetown counties. We hope state lawmakers also will provide a new tool soon by creating an income tax credit for property owners who allow a permanent recreational easement across their land. Such a bill was introduced during the most recent legislative session but didn’t pass.

We strongly support efforts to conserve the most scenic and significant parts of South Carolina’s natural environment, and the value of that conservation work becomes much more clear to many more people when they have access to these special landscapes. Progress on our emerging network of trails is a vital step in providing that access and encouraging more people not only to get engaged in healthy behavior outdoors but also to appreciate the unique, fragile and beautiful environment in the state they call home.

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Times and Democrat. November 15, 2022.

Editorial: Building better ID system for voting and life

At the polls a week ago, you needed proof of your identity.

South Carolina is a model for other states in that it requires a photo ID but provides that no voter is to be denied the right to vote, with or without a photo ID.

A South Carolina voter at the polls must show a driver’s license, an ID card issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles in lieu of a driver’s license, a South Carolina voter registration card that includes a photo, a federal military ID or a U.S. passport. Free photo IDs are available from the DMV or county voter registration offices.

If a voter does not have one of these IDs, he or she may vote a provisional ballot that will count only if the person shows a photo ID to the election commission prior to certification of the election (usually Thursday or Friday after the election).

If a person cannot get a photo ID in time for the election, he or she may bring a non-photo voter registration card to the polling place and vote a provisional ballot after signing an affidavit stating he or she has a reasonable impediment to obtaining a photo ID. A reasonable impediment is considered any valid reason, beyond a person’s control, creating an obstacle to obtaining photo identification:

— A disability or illness.

— A conflict with a work schedule.

— A lack of transportation.

— Lack of a birth certificate.

— Family responsibilities.

— A religious objection to being photographed.

The ballot will count unless someone proves to the election commission that a person is lying about his or her identity or having the listed impediment.

South Carolina is protecting the right of those without a state-issued photo ID but at the same time is moving toward the ideal, which is every voter having such identification.

Proper identification is needed to do just about everything in the world of 2022. Voting should be no different.

Which brings us back to a concept put forth by Andrew Young, former U.N. ambassador, congressman and mayor of Atlanta, and Martin Luther King III.

They have proposed that the Social Security Administration by mail or at each of its offices be authorized and equipped to issue – at a citizen’s request – a Social Security card bearing the person’s photo.

A Social Security photo ID would be acceptable as voter ID in any state.

The concept makes sense since the Social Security card is the only form of ID to which every American citizen is already entitled.

The lack of photo ID is a serious burden on some citizens, especially low-income Americans. This would address that problem and go a long way toward alleviating concerns that voter ID laws disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters simply because they lack photo identification.

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The Index Journal. November 14, 2022.

Editorial: Elections workers deserve thanks

They deserve more than a thumbs up, so we’ve reserved today’s editorial space for the folks who worked up to, during and after Tuesday’s elections.

Yes, we know preparing for an election is the job for those who work full-time in the various elections offices. And yes, those who sign up as poll managers and workers get a stipend for the long day they put in.

Still, there is much that has to be done weeks ahead of the election and plenty to do day-of. Plus, there was early voting to handle, as well as absentee ballots to take care of. The rest of us, if we chose to vote in person on Election Day, had a 12-hour window to get to the polls and cast our votes. But those who worked the polls were there well before 7 a.m. and certainly plenty remained past the 7 p.m. deadline so those already in line before polls closed could vote.

Another point to consider, however, is a holdover from the 2020 elections when poll workers and election officials had insult hurled their way and, in some cases, endured threats against them and their families. That anyone wanted to be a volunteer or poll worker earning less than $12 an hour this time around is commendable.

Granted, it turns out that all went fairly smoothly, at least in our region, and that is good. Comforting, too. Indeed, we hope we are moving well past the fallout of the 2020 elections and that Americans can again be more civil about elections.

We might not agree politically or philosophically, but polity should rule the process. We can be left wing. We can be right wing. But we should remember that the left wing and right wing are attached to the same bird.

Again, we give our thanks to those who tirelessly worked to make the Nov. 8 elections work, and work well.

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