Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: email@example.com
Newspapers nationwide have upcoming elections on their minds, as several editorial boards have tackled the issues of redistricting and changes to voter registration laws this week.
Treasure Coast Newspapers in southeast Florida criticizes the state's new election laws that outline strict parameters for those wishing to help people register to vote and applies harsh fines to those who fail to follow the proper procedures. The state's election policies were already among the most stringent in the United States, its editorial claims, and there have been rumblings that the law is an effort by Republicans to drive down registration of traditionally Democratic populations -- low-income and minority voters, for example.
"While there's no proof of such a motive, the ability to register and vote should not be a matter of partisanship by either Republicans or Democrats," the editorial says. "Efforts to turn public involvement in the process toward one party or another through partisan legislation is chilling and harmful to the concepts of a free government."
In Wisconsin, the Sheboygan Press smells partisan motivations in the new maps drawn by the state legislature. The newspaper's editorial board accuses Republican state lawmakers of calling a special session with the hope of passing new district boundaries that would make it less likely that members of their party would be recalled. Under a new bill, the lines would be implemented more than a year earlier than originally planned.
The "badly conceived" bill is a blight on fair lawmaking, the Press says, and should be blocked. Instead, it recommends the state establish a non-partisan board that would draw district lines in the future, preventing political motivations from overtaking the process.
The progressive Capital Times, based in Madison, Wis., takes the issue even farther, asserting: "redistricting games threaten democracy." As recall efforts continue against some GOP legislators, the newspaper says residents must be given an opportunity to vote in their current districts. Otherwise, some citizens "will not be represented by someone they elected," the editorial laments.
The Delaware County Times also recognizes political maneuvering in the redistricting debate underway in Pennsylvania. The most recently proposed plan would put the seats of Democrats in the county in jeopardy, its editorial observes, a consequence that surely didn't escape the Republican-majority committee that designed it. "Residents should let state legislators know that they will not be political pawns," the Times says.
The story in Idaho is significantly different, though. The Times-News in Twin Falls pleads with the Twin Falls County Board to avoid a legal battle over new districts that were recently approved by state lawmakers. "Let's not be that county," the editorial suggests. Noting that an evenly distributed bipartisan board drafted the boundaries, the newspaper believes some board members still feel threatened by the proposal. But, Times-News says: "The county has to be divvied up somehow."
"Put aside partisanship, back the mathematically valid map, and let's all move forward together," the editorial board asks its representatives.
The political process has failed in South Carolina, too, the Sun News in Myrtle Beach writes, disparaging a voter ID law that has been lambasted by opponents who say it will make it more difficult for poor and minority citizens to be admitted to the polls. There was no demonstrable need for such a law, the newspaper argues.
"We consider it a gross waste of precious tax dollars to make voters show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot," its editorial says, "since there is no reason to believe that it will prevent voter fraud -- or even that there's a statistically significant amount of fraud to be prevented."