The Times and Democrat
S.C. election law: 'Easier to vote, harder to cheat'
Though South Carolina did not have major controversy following the 2020 election, state lawmakers saw the need for election law changes that capitalize on pandemic-inspired methods and prevent future problems with the integrity of the vote.
We joined many in advocating a move to permanent early voting instead of the former method of de facto early voting through an absentee-ballot system that allowed just about anyone to vote early anyway. The 2020 turnout for early voting inspired lawmakers to put a system in place. It worked well in June's primaries (though the voting period needed to be longer for the runoffs).
A bigger test will come in November's general election, when turnout will be higher. Early voting should alleviate long lines on Election Day and give a lot more people the opportunity to vote.
Importantly, South Carolina made the early voting process mirror Election Day, with the person coming to the polls needing a photo ID. The next step for the state is to put more early voting polling sites in place.
The South Carolina Policy Council is a watchdog on state government. The think tank founded in 1986 focuses on limited government, free enterprise and individual liberty and responsibility. It's no cheerleader in a red state, with its research and analysis frequently being critical of state leaders.
Not when it comes to 2022 changes in the voting law. Dallas Woodhouse, Policy Council executive director, says South Carolina should serve as a model for the nation.
"While other state legislatures often have been divided into two camps on election integrity, South Carolina's General Assembly has proved that expanding early voting and combating fraud can be done at the same time."
Woodhouse cites the co-sponsorship of Republican Sens. Chip Campsen and Sandy Senn and Democratic Sen. John Scott in gaining approval of legislation that is a "major victory for those who believe in free and fair elections."
South Carolinians agree. A poll authorized by the Policy Council, which randomly sampled 606 likely S.C. voters, found that four out of five responded positively toward the new law, with a 92% and 59% approval rate among Republicans and Democrats, respectively.
While early voting is a well-known part of the changes, there are other important parts of the law, particularly regarding absentee voting, as pointed out by Woodhouse:
- Only citizens above the age of 65 can vote by mail without a reason. If you are out of the state on Election Day, sick or in the military, you can vote by mail. Otherwise, you must vote in person on Election Day or during the in-person early voting period.
- With respect to ballot harvesting and drop boxes, a person must be authorized to turn in a ballot other than their own. Voter ID requirements apply to all voters, including those voting by mail or dropping off a ballot.
- The law limits the number of ballots returned by a person in an election to five in addition to his or her own.
- Auditing of elections is now spelled out clearly under law in a process that both Republicans and Democrats endorse.
- A ban in the law on fusion voting, in which candidates run for the same office for more than one party, will go into effect next year.
- Anyone who voted or attempted to vote fraudulently, or to have helped someone else do so, will be guilty of a felony if convicted - up from a misdemeanor - and face a fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and a maximum five-year prison sentence.
Voting laws will always remain a source of debate. Opposing political forces both say they want fairness, but each wants the law to be a little "fairer" toward them.
Let's hope all changes ultimately live up to Sen. Campsen's assessment in a quote to The Nerve, a Policy Council publication: "This bill made it easier to vote but harder to cheat."
The Post and Courier
Locking students inside fortresses isn't the way to keep them safe
The argument for installing metal detectors in every school building is pretty straightforward: Bad guys can't shoot up schools if they can't sneak in undetected with their weapons and ample ammunition.
So it makes a lot of sense to arm our schools with metal detectors, court and prison style.
If we're willing to install them at every entrance.
And if we're willing to monitor every entrance all the time, and search or turn away anyone who sets off an alarm.
And if we're willing to make sure no one ever lets anyone walk around the metal detector, no matter how long it's taking to get everyone through.
And if we're willing to make the penalty for leaving an exterior door open so severe that no teacher, administrator, volunteer or student would ever dare do that.
And if we're willing to lock our children inside of armed fortresses and forego all the other protective measures we could purchase with the money it would take to pay for that.
Of course, none of that would stop bad guys from changing their tactics and coming in guns blazing and shoot up all the kids waiting in line to go through the metal detector.
Unfortunately, too, as we saw at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 and at Uvalde, Texas, this spring, we also can't prevent mass school shootings by assigning a school resource officer to every school. Or even a few hundred armed police.
The problem isn't that metal detectors don't work; you don't need a study to understand that they do. The problem is that we aren't disciplined enough to use them effectively. That means, as The Post and Courier's Hillary Flynn and Devna Bose report, they can give us a false sense of security. And they do little if anything to protect us from the more commonplace threats to our children at school, which come from students in the classroom with them rather than from gun-toting terrorists storming their schools.
Fortunately, there have been no mass school shootings in South Carolina since mass shootings became a common part of our lexicon. In this century, a total of two students have been shot to death at S.C. schools, in 2016 and in March of this year; four other students and a teacher have been wounded. Yet in 2021 alone, The Post and Courier's Education Lab reports, schools recorded 13,095 violent disciplinary incidents involving students; only about 500 of them involved weapons.
We don't mean to downplay the horror of mass school shootings. The still blessedly small number of them is growing, and in any event, one is too many. But we do need to keep the threats in perspective, and we need to engage in a cost-benefit analysis whenever we spend public money and make public policy - perhaps especially when we're making those decisions in response to horrific but still very-out-of-the-ordinary events such as, most recently, the Uvalde massacre.
If the only acceptable policy is one that results in zero deaths in our schools, then we need to close our schools, because one student is going to get a concussion on the playground and die. One student is going to catch COVID-19 or the flu or some other communicable disease and die. More significantly, hundreds are going to die every year in traffic accidents, some of them on the way to or from school. And those deaths are just as tragic as if they had been killed by an armed gunman. In many cases, the agony is even greater for their parents, who were at the wheel when the wreck occurred.
Ms. Flynn and Ms. Bose found a lot of support for softer programs, particularly those that improve the relationships between students and school officials so officials are more likely to recognize when students are on a path to harm themselves or others, and so students are more likely to report when they see or hear warning signs.
Yes, it's easy to find a lot of experts who tout touchy-feely "solutions" that don't always make a lot of sense - and some of the ones they found fall into this category. But it's also hard to dismiss the idea that we're a lot safer when students are willing to trust responsible adults and when responsible adults are watching out for warning signs in kids.
And it's too easy to overlook the fact that mass school shootings are less a product of our schools than of a sick society, where rage has become a perfectly acceptable response to the slightest provocations and where even angry young men who have displayed numerous red flags can get their hands on all the guns and ammunition they want. Those are problems that will only be solved when those of us outside the schools are willing to confront them.
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