Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Keep sharp watch on voting rights

The last election cycle demonstrated that if given a chance, lawmakers will manipulate rules for voting and elections for partisan advantage. Florida's 2011 election law was an overt attempt to make it harder to register and vote, with the subtext being to discourage minority voters and give Republican candidates a boost. It took federal judges acting under the preclearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to force at least some adjustments. The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments today over whether to continue preclearance requirements, and if it overturns those requirements, it will harm voting equality and the fairness of the nation's elections.

Under Section 5 preclearance, any changes made to election laws or procedures, from new district lines to limits on what documents qualify as appropriate voter identification, must be preapproved by the U.S. Justice Department or a special three-judge federal panel for areas with a history of discrimination. The challenge by Shelby County, Ala., claims that the conditions that once warranted federal oversight no longer exist and preclearance jurisdictions are being unfairly targeted. These include nine states — mostly in the South — and scores of counties and municipalities, including five counties in Florida: Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe.

It's true that black voters are no longer subject to lynchings and other Southern terror for exercising their right to vote. But Congress has reauthorized Section 5 multiple times, with the last time being in 2006. And the Justice Department continues to have to turn back voting changes that would suppress the vote of minority citizens. For those jurisdictions that can demonstrate a clean record for 10 years, the law already has an escape clause that allows them to be freed from Section 5.

The court's conservative majority is likely to rule against Section 5. That would willfully ignore the recent efforts made by Republican-controlled states to manipulate elections by infringing on minority voting rights. Think about the swath of strict voter ID laws in some preclearance states with rules that disproportionately harm poorer residents who tend to be minorities. Preclearance jurisdictions still draw more than 80 percent of the lawsuits where voting discrimination has been proved.

Florida's experience is an example of the benefits of Section 5. After state lawmakers cut early-voting days from as many as 14 to eight, a federal panel refused to approve that change unless early-voting sites in the preclearance counties were open for the maximum number of hours. African-American voters tend to rely more heavily on early voting.

The impulse by lawmakers to protect their own power by limiting the voting rights of opponents' supporters remains too strong. Preclearance prevents a lot of this mischief and blocks much of the rest. It should be allowed to stand.

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Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Published: 01/22/18

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Published: 01/22/18
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18