Monday, December 11, 2017
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the five Republican-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in June that the preclearance formula was outdated and tossed it.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: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17