Post and Courier. August 24, 2022.
Editorial: SC has enough election deniers; we can’t let carelessness create more
There’s a vocal minority of South Carolina voters who are convinced that election officials are corrupt — not because of anything S.C. election officials have done, not because of any evidence, but because they choose to believe that, because it fits in the conspiratorial worldview they have chosen to adopt.
For evidence, look no further than the Horry County Republican Party, which is demanding that the Legislature disband the State Election Commission and reform our election laws — just months after the Republican-dominated Legislature passed and Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed a sweeping election reform law designed to address both real and perceived failures of our own election system and election systems in other states.
This is dangerous for our republic — and not just because of the possibility it will spawn violence like we saw on Jan. 6 and continue to see with threats to election officials. It’s dangerous because our government in general and our elections in particular are built on public confidence and trust.
Political leaders must go out of their way to win back the confidence of those doubters rather than egging them on, and election officials should go out of their way to ensure that they don’t do anything that inadvertently grows the number of doubters.
Which brings us to the State Election Commission’s decision to add the names of Labor Party candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and the 1st Congressional District to the ballot even though the party missed a state deadline by two months.
Frankly, we don’t care whether the Labor Party has candidates on the ballot or not. We doubt that Gov. Henry McMaster or U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace care much either, although obviously the Democratic Party — which needs all the help it can get if it hopes to defeat either incumbent — cares about any votes Labor candidates could take away from its own challengers; that’s why it sued to get them off the ballot.
We certainly have no reason to believe that the State Election Commission cares about anything other than staying on schedule to get ballots prepared in time for military and out-of-state voters to be able to participate in the Nov. 8 general election.
But it’s frankly bizarre that while correctly concluding that it couldn’t referee an intraparty dispute about whether the Labor Party actually nominated Gary Votour, Harold Geddings III and Lucus Faulk, the Election Commission somehow overlooked the fact that the party’s nominating convention wasn’t held until July 30 — more than two months past the May 15 deadline in state law.
As Circuit Judge Alison Lee wrote in her Aug. 18 order barring the commission from including their names on the ballot, state Election Director Howard Knapp himself testified that political parties that nominate candidates by convention have to meet that deadline, which is prominently displayed on the Election Commission’s website.
“Mr. Votour’s arguments that the Labor Party acted in good faith and Plaintiff has unclean hands do not address the issues in this matter,” she wrote. “The question in this case is controlled by statutes that set deadlines for certain activities connected with the election process. State law is clear and unambiguous on the deadlines and no exceptions are provided. This Court is constrained to apply the law as written.”
Clear and unambiguous.
Judge Lee agreed with the Democratic Party that “the issue for the Court is not to decide the internal dispute of the Labor Party or to review the Election Commission’s decision that it lacked discretion to reject certification of the nominations,” but instead “the issue is whether the nominating convention complied with the statutory deadline. The evidence on that point is clear: It did not.”
Some Democrats have been sewing the idea that the State Election Commission has become a partisan body since longtime Director Marci Andino was forced out last year. She had angered Republicans by writing a memo to legislative leaders suggesting several changes to state law, including the elimination of the witness signature on mail-in absentee ballots. Their concerns were magnified when the reform bill the Legislature passed in May said the director could be fired for making public statements “discrediting the merit of a state election law” — which some believe could include suggesting changes to the law.
Although election conspiracies have become a religion on the fringes of the right, conspiracy theories have never been limited to one side of the political spectrum. The Election Commission’s failure to enforce a clear and ambiguous law in a case that the Democratic Party believes would have helped Republican candidates easily could feed the idea on the left that it has become a partisan body. We don’t believe it has; we tend to believe it was merely careless — perhaps so fixated on how to deal with the dispute within the Labor Party that it overlooked a glaring violation of state law.
But with all those voters on the right convinced that the commission is fraudulent, it can’t afford to be careless or make further mistakes that will feed that narrative on the left.(backslash)
Times and Democrat. August 23, 2022.
Editorial: S.C. defying U.S trend in road deaths
U.S. traffic deaths continue to climb, jumping about 7% in the first three months of 2022.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 9,560 killed, the largest first-quarter number since 2002. The new estimate comes after a year in which traffic deaths jumped 10.5% to 42,915 in 2021.
The Biden administration has called the nation’s traffic toll, which has risen consistently during the pandemic, a “crisis.” But Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says the government lacks a plan to address “this immediate crisis.”
“We have seen a troubling lack of commitment to take action to stop the slaughter occurring on our roads,” MADD said in a statement on Aug. 17.
It called for a “return to the basics of enforcing hazardous driving behavior laws and prosecuting these choices to the fullest extent of the law.”
In South Carolina, long a state with among the highest number of per capita traffic deaths, the S.C. Department of Public Safety is taking action. As part of the Sober or Slammer enforcement campaign, SCDPS will be cracking down on impaired driving through the Labor Day weekend.
The holiday weekend caps off what law enforcement calls the “100 Deadly Days of Summer,” the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day during which traffic fatalities historically increase. In 2021 alone, there were 10 fatal collisions with 12 fatalities in South Carolina during the Labor Day weekend.
“Many people try to enjoy one final vacation in these last few weeks of summer,” SCDPS Director Robert G. Woods IV said. “Our troopers and officers are preparing to make sure those trips remain safe for everyone traveling our state’s roadways. People can expect to see increased enforcement, especially around popular vacation destinations and high-collision corridors.”
The enforcement effort comes as highway fatalities in South Carolina have defied the national trend, decreasing this year compared to 2021. As of Aug. 16, 631 people had been killed on S.C. roadways compared to 718 at the same point of 2021.
“While we are pleased to see a decrease in the number of fatalities from last year, we truly believe that even one life lost on our roads is too many. That’s why we urge you not to let your guard down as we close out the 100 Deadly Days of Summer,” South Carolina Highway Patrol Colonel Chris Williamson said. “The three main things we encourage all drivers to do is drive defensively, follow the posted speed limits and designate a sober driver if you plan to drink alcohol.”
One life lost on the roads is indeed too many. But the sad reality is even with South Carolina showing a decline in traffic fatalities, history indicates that by year’s end, the number of deaths will be near 1,000. That’s 1,000 lives.
Everything law enforcement can do to help curb the carnage is needed.
As NHTSA Administrator Steve Cliff said in a statement: “Now is the time for all states to double down on traffic safety.”