Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

The Index-Journal. August 1, 2022.

Editorial: Juvenile justice reform takes more than new appointee

At the risk of sounding anti-jail and anti-prison, having already weighed in on a “lock ’em up” approach that’s all too often taken to resolving crime, we say let us all hope that Eden Hendrick is successful.

Hendrick is the newest state Department of Juvenile Justice director and she’s promising needed change to our state’s juvenile prisons. Her two predecessors underperformed and ultimately resigned the post.

A state audit of the juvenile system found, among other substantial problems, that the in-house police force was “useless and ineffective” and that children in the system’s care were not kept safe. The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division also found that kids were held for months in small concrete cells, that staff had choked, hogtied, slapped and bitten juvenile detainees.

If you wonder how such treatment of imprisoned juveniles can possibly result in a reformed and successful adult, welcome to the club. If you deem such treatment appropriate, then you no doubt cheered Strother Martin in his role as the prison warden in the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke.”

Hendrick, 41, is a prosecutor who is now tasked with reforming a system to which she sent some children. That might raise an eyebrow about her ability and even inclination to be a reformer, but she deserves a chance to put into action the words of reform she has uttered.

One might imagine and hope that her experience as a prosecutor actually gives her insight into the needs these incarcerated juveniles have beyond just serving a sentence. Certainly, we would hope, she recognizes the mistreatment many juveniles received is, at the very least, inhumane and counterproductive to desired outcomes.

So yes, give Hendrick a chance, but give her the tools and resources she needs to accomplish the monumental task before her. Without that, Gov. Henry McMaster is only setting her up for failure and might find himself with yet another letter of resignation on his desk, the desk where the proverbial buck stops.

___

The Times and Democrat. July 31, 2022.

Editorial: Learning from past hurricanes

South Carolinians and the people of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts know what it’s like to live with the threat of nature’s biggest storms – hurricanes.

The calendar is turning to August. From now until mid-October, South Carolina is most susceptible to being hit by tropical weather, including hurricanes. Even young residents of The T&D Region have experienced tropical weather in the form of heavy rains and high winds, and recent years have seen hurricanes and tropical systems pose a threat annually.

But the number of people having experienced the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the state is considerably smaller.

Most infamous in The T&D Region and in many other parts of the state, including Charleston and the Grand Strand, is Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

The big storm is known as “South Carolina’s storm of the 21st century.” It left devastation from the coast and along a path through Orangeburg County, Sumter County, the Pee Dee and on into the Upstate and Charlotte, N.C.

When it hit on Sept. 21-22, 1989, Hugo came ashore as a Category 4 storm, one level of intensity shy of the strongest hurricane rating of Category 5. Until recently, records showed the only comparable storm to hit the state was Hurricane Hazel near Myrtle Beach in 1954, also rated as a Category 4. South Carolina has never been hit by a Category 5 hurricane – thank God.

Joining the Category 4 club in 2016 was a storm about which people around in 1959 have talked for years. Hurricane Gracie made landfall near Beaufort on Sept. 30, 1959.

Gracie’s upgrade came as National Hurricane Center researchers reviewed the entire database of storms in the Atlantic Ocean going back to 1851.

A team led by Chris Landsea, science and operations officer at the center, has reviewed data from hurricane hunter aircraft, which flew into Gracie’s eye about an hour before landfall on Sept. 30, 1959, as well as the sparse data from weather instruments along the coast.

They concluded though mathematical formulas and earlier research into other hurricanes that Gracie’s top sustained winds were 130 mph instead of the old mark of 125, bumping the storm from a Category 3 to a Category 4.

The upgrade won’t come as a surprise to those who remember the storm. It caused significant damage in southern South Carolina and blew hard into The T&D Region.

Reports in The Times and Democrat from the time show:

• Winds were in excess of 75 mph in Orangeburg.

• Rainfall was estimated at 10 to 12 inches.

• The Edisto River at Edisto Memorial Gardens suffered from the excess water as its landing platforms and small diving platforms were several feet underwater by nightfall.

• Streets were blocked by fallen trees, notably Amelia, Sawyer, Glover, Middleton, Clarendon, Dorchester and South Boulevard.

• Homes were damaged by falling trees, with chimneys being toppled.

• No deaths or injuries were reported locally, but 10 people died in the state.

Studying storms from the past and making changes in records are about more than the history books.

Landsea told The Associated Press his team’s work had several goals. The more accurate the historical hurricane database is, the better tool it can be for predicting future storms. And an accurate picture of historical storms can help with planning and preparedness today.

Preparedness today is just what our special section inside today’s print newspaper and in electronic form at TheTandD.com is about.

Many times, all the focus with hurricanes is on the coast. And while that is justified with the potential of great damage from the storm surge, the people in inland counties not far from the coastline are threatened. We’ve seen it time and time again with damage being widespread.

Thus the reasoning for The Times and Democrat’s special attention to hurricanes. We bring you the viewpoints and memories of emergency leaders in the three counties, their advice and the advice of others on being prepared, reports on hurricanes of the past and their lessons, and general safety advice.

We thank Orangeburg County as a sponsor of the section and the S.C. Emergency Management Division for some of the graphic content from the 2022 S.C. Hurricane Guide. Any amount of information that can assist in preparation that prevents loss of life and reduces damage is needed as South Carolina prepares for the peak of another hurricane season.

___

The Post and Courier. July 30, 2022.

Editorial: This voting shortcut works for SC military; it could work for the rest of us.

Since 2006, state law has allowed South Carolinians who live overseas or serve in the military to cast their runoff ballots at the same time they cast their primary votes, through a process called ranked-choice or instant-runoff voting.

It starts just like a regular election, but after voters select their first choice, they have the option of picking their second choice, third choice and so on. If one candidate gets a majority of first-choice votes, then the election is over. But if no one surpasses 50%, we move to the instant runoff, which is a lot quicker and cheaper than those two-week slugfests we have in local, state and congressional primaries, where even fewer voters bother to participate than the tiny minority who participated in the primaries.

For round two, election officials remove the ballots for the candidate who finished last and count the second-choice votes on those ballots. The procedure repeats until someone crosses the 50% threshold.

Lawmakers approved the shortcut for overseas and military voters 16 years ago because our state’s shortest-in-the-nation runoff period doesn’t afford overseas voters enough time to receive and return their ballots.

As editorial writer Cindi Ross Scoppe reported a week ago in her column, the same problem surfaced in last month’s runoffs, snagging a number of South Carolinians who weren’t physically able to leave home or were going to be out of town and so needed to vote absentee.

It’s always been a challenge for election officials to send out ballots in time for voters to mail them back, because the state doesn’t approve the runoff ballots until the Saturday after the primaries — at the earliest. The new Juneteenth holiday makes it even more difficult, because that shuts down the postal service for one of the eight days it used to be available for sending, receiving and returning ballots.

In addition, the new state law that eliminates in-person voting on the Monday before the runoff means voters who are in town and mobile have one less workaround if they don’t receive their absentee ballots on time.

It’s worth noting that state law also provides a couple of other shortcuts for military and overseas voters: They may request ballots and even vote via the internet. And if they mail in a paper ballot, they have an extra 24 hours to get it in. We’re not suggesting that the Legislature should allow others to cast ballots online, or that we should count ballots that arrive 24 hours after the polls close — those aren’t practices we think make sense, frankly, for anyone — but both options are a lot better than making it impossible for some people to vote.

A better idea would be to expand the runoff window from two weeks to three.

But the best idea would be to use the same instant-runoff voting method that’s used by South Carolinians overseas and in the military — which has several advantages beyond ensuring that everyone who votes in the primaries has the option of voting in the runoffs.

Among the most obvious: It reduces the cost of elections to both the taxpayers and to candidates. It eliminates the annoyance of having to vote a second time in two weeks. And in the long run, it discourages extremism and divisiveness on both sides of the political aisle, because candidates who embrace either are less likely to attract those second-place votes.

Now that we know about the potentially unconstitutional barrier our runoff absentee law poses to some voters, the Legislature needs to make replacing that system a top priority in its next session.

END