Saturday, June 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Standing up for voter rights

There is no better evidence that the Voting Rights Act is still needed to protect equal access for minorities to the ballot box than the examples of North Carolina and Texas. Both states put in place new rules adversely affecting minority voters soon after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the law's chief enforcement tool. The Justice Department announced last week that it was suing North Carolina, just as it sued Texas over its voting changes in August. This aggressive litigation strategy is the best approach left to challenging voter suppression in the states.

Under the guise of protecting the integrity of elections, Republican-controlled states such as North Carolina and Texas have made it harder to vote. There is no widespread voter fraud problem in the United States, but it's a convenient excuse when a state chooses to erect hurdles to voting that unfairly impact poor, minority voters who lean Democratic.

Among the four provisions of North Carolina's new voting law being challenged is a strict voter identification law that requires a photo ID. But it can't be a student ID, a public-employee ID or an ID issued by a public assistance agency. All are types of identification that Democratic-leaning constituencies would carry. State statistics show that African-American voters are disproportionately more likely not to have identification from the state's motor vehicle department, an acceptable ID.

Other harmful provisions in the North Carolina law include the elimination of the first week of early voting, the ending of same-day voter registration during early voting and the rejection of provisional ballots when a voter casts a ballot in the wrong precinct. A voter ID law in Texas is also being challenged by the department.

This kind of mischief was fairly predictable after the five Republican-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in June that the preclearance formula was outdated and tossed it. That meant nine states, mostly in the South, and parts of six others, including five counties in Florida — Hillsborough, Collier, Hendry, Hardee and Monroe — would no longer have to submit voting changes to the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges for prior approval and demonstrate that minority voters were not adversely affected.

There is hope that the Justice Department's litigation strategy will breathe life back into the preclearance requirement, but the cases won't be slam dunks. If the department can show that a state was intentionally discriminatory, new preclearance requirements on any future changes would be put in force. The bulk of the evidence against strict voter ID rules and other limits on voting is that they have a discriminatory impact on minorities. Intent is harder to show.

The Obama administration is doing what it can to temper the impact of the Supreme Court's disappointing opinion. There is no more important right in a democracy than the right to equal ballot access.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18