- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


Nov. 25

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo on driving during the Thanksgiving weekend:

Mississippi’s Highway Patrol begins enhanced patrols statewide tonight in an effort to prevent motorists from driving recklessly, dangerously or drunk, three red flags that can prevent preventable - sometimes fatal - accidents.

This Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which extends on roadways until midnight Sunday, is among the busiest travel times of the year, and unfortunately, that means more wrecks on our roads.

Mississippi’s Department of Transportation reminds all drivers that it’s always essential to wear your seat belt.

This Thanksgiving nearly 42 million Americans will travel on the road, and buckling up is your best defense against injury or death in the event of a crash.

In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported the national average for seat belt usage rate was 87 percent. Thanks to enforcement laws in each state, seat belt usage rates have been on the rise since 1995. Mississippi inexcusably consistently falls below the national average for seat belt usage. In 2014, Mississippi averaged a 78.3 percent usage, which can only be laid on stubborn refusal to buckle-up.

During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2013, there were 301 people killed in traffic crashes across the nation. Tragically, 58 percent of those killed were not buckled up. It’s proven that when you wear your seat belt as a front-seat occupant the risk of fatal injury goes down by 45 percent.

NHTSA estimates that seat belts saved the lives of 12,584 passenger vehicle occupants age 5 and older in 2013. But if everyone had worn their seat belts on every trip that year, an additional 2,800 lives could have been saved. Make this Thanksgiving different from years past.

No matter your Thanksgiving destination, safety is the theme of this holiday season. MDOT offers these tips for safe driving this Thanksgiving:

. Before putting the car in drive, make sure that you and all your passengers are securely buckled.

. Be particularly sure to buckle up when you’re traveling at night; statistically, nighttime is deadlier than daytime in terms of seat belt use.

. Eliminate all distractions while you drive. That call or text can wait; put your safety first.

. Don’t speed. Slow down and be mindful of construction work zones and animals darting across the roadways.

. Be aware of other drivers; don’t assume that everyone else is driving as safely as you.

Surviving Thanksgiving driving this year can be as simple as buckling up. In the last decade, seat belts saved the lives of more 100,000 people in the United States.

For tips on traveling safely during the holidays, visit MDOTTraffic.com, download the smartphone app and dial 511 for up-to-date traffic information.




Nov. 22

The Enterprise-Journal of McComb on race between Rep. Bo Eaton, D-Taylorsville and Republican challenger Mark Tullos:

Democratic legislative candidates in Mississippi have finally figured out a way to beat Republicans: Draw straws.

That’s what happened Friday when incumbent state Rep. Bo Eaton, D-Taylorsville, won his game of chance against Republican challenger Mark Tullos.

Certified results showed each man received 4,589 votes, and under a rarely needed state law, luck decided the winner.

It was high-stakes theater - perhaps the state’s most interesting game of chance since that first little riverboat casino opened 20-plus years ago in Tunica County.

Not only was a House seat at stake, but if Tullos won, he would have provided Republicans with a “super-majority,” meaning the GOP would need no Democratic votes on tax bills that require a three-fifths margin.

Since Gov. Phil Bryant is a Republican, and the party already has a super-majority in the Senate, a Tullos victory would have completed the sweep.

Alas, it was not to be. With Bryant and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann looking on, Eaton picked a silver-plated business card box out of a bag that contained a long, green straw. Tullos got the short, red straw.

The race may not be over. Tullos has already gone to court over the results of the election, questioning whether the votes were counted fairly. And the Republican-led House itself may play a role: The state Constitution says each chamber of the Legislature is the final authority on which candidates shall be seated.

It’s not too much of a stretch to see House Republicans, greatly tempted by the power a super-majority would give them, to vote in Tullos over Eaton - although that surely would prompt a lawsuit from the Democrat.

Mark down Eaton’s “victory” as a spotlight on two state laws that ought to be changed. First, when there’s a tie vote, it’s fairer to have a second election than to draw straws for a winner.

Second, the Legislature shouldn’t have final say in seating its own members. It’s too easy for one candidate - an incumbent or a member of the majority party - to have an unfair advantage. A neutral court should settle the dispute.




Nov. 15

The Enterprise-Journal of McComb on Mississippi’s vote-counting system:

Peter Rinaldi, publisher of the Miss-Lou Magazine in Natchez, has some good observations about flaws in Mississippi’s vote-counting system that the state Legislature should fix.

In the magazine’s Nov. 11 edition, Rinaldi compared Mississippi’s system to Louisiana’s, and found the Magnolia State’s lacking.

In Louisiana, every parish uses the same computer software. Once a precinct’s “data packs” arrive at the clerk of court’s office, the information is downloaded into a computer system. Printouts are available quickly, and results are transmitted to the Secretary of State’s office and posted online as well.

But in Mississippi, counties have to buy their own vote-counting systems. Some have new software and voting machines, while a few still use paper ballots.

In elections that aren’t close, this setup often goes unnoticed. But when there’s a tight race, like the Senate contest between Melanie Sojourner and Bob Dearing, any delay in obtaining vote totals makes the news.

The state has a legitimate interest in simplifying the vote-counting process. Plus, it makes sense for all 82 counties, along with any towns that count their own votes during municipal elections, to use the same systems.

Seeking bids on a uniform statewide system is likely to result in a lower price than if counties sought the bids on their own.

The cost, if split between the state and counties, surely is affordable. This would be a sensible improvement for Mississippi elections.



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