- Associated Press - Monday, January 6, 2020

The Journal Times of Racine, Jan. 1

Expand the College Football Playoff to eight teams

For decades, the question of the national champion in college football was literally a matter of opinion.

Conference champions and other top teams would take part in bowl games on New Year’s Day (or thereabouts), and then Associated Press sportswriters would take part in one poll and a select group of coaches would participate in a second poll. Sometimes, the same team would be the consensus winner in both polls, sometimes not.

Then came the Bowl Coalition, then the Bowl Alliance, and then the Bowl Championship Series, the latter of which involved a select group of elite bowl games whose participants were still determined by subjective rankings but included a No. 1-versus-No. 2 matchup meant to be regarded as a national championship game. But what if your school’s team was ranked No. 3 or No. 4? Too bad. You were left with your nose pressed against the glass, watching two other teams play for the big prize.

We’re now in the sixth season of the College Football Playoff: Four teams selected by a committee to meet in a semifinal, with the winners meeting a couple weeks later for the championship.

A national champion is being picked after three head-to-head matchups.

It’s good.

But we think it could be better.

We want to see the CFP expand to eight teams: The champions of the so-called Power Five conferences - Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Pac-12 and Southeastern - and three at-large berths.

If you’re the champion of one of the Power Five leagues, you’re definitely one of the top eight teams in the nation. Having three at-large teams allows for the inclusion of a strong team finishing second in its conference, or a worthy conference champion from outside the Power Five.

As we watched the first semifinal on Saturday afternoon - when Louisiana State quarterback and in-the-near-future millionaire Joe Burrow shredded Oklahoma for seven touchdown passes (in the first half), we were even more convinced of the wisdom of doubling the CFP field. Shouldn’t a team as defensively lacking as Oklahoma been faced first with a quarterfinal challenger, leaving the semifinal berth to a team more capable of handling LSU?

(Maybe no team this season is capable of handling LSU. We’ll find out on Jan. 13 if Clemson can do so.)

As for the inevitable rebuttal that the college football season is already too long, we point to the way the standard 11-game college schedule became, in recent years, the standard 12-game college schedule. That’s followed by division winners in most Football Bowl Subdivision conferences meeting for the conference championship. As a result, teams meeting in the CFP semifinals come in having played 13 games.

Bowl games have always taken place in the break between semesters, so it’s not as if the student-athletes participating in the CFP are missing any classes in late December or early January.

Should anyone want to see the number of games college teams play reduced, we’d suggest jettisoning one (or more) of those nonconference games where an overmatched minnow takes a 70-7 pounding from a shark in exchange for six-figure (or seven-figure) monetary guarantee.

In NCAA Division I college basketball, the champion has emerged from a 68-team tournament field, winning six games to be crowned champion. Any claims of superiority are put to the test on the hardwood.

We know something of that degree can’t happen in college football. But we’d like to see an additional round of “who’s better?” play out on the field in determining the national champion.


Kenosha News, Jan. 5

Check your voter registration now

Fasten your seat belts, 2020 is here and we predict it is likely to be a barn-burner festooned with all sorts of political chicanery, attack ads and half-truths - and maybe even some foreign meddling - as we march off to the polls for a bevy of elections, including a presidential one.

We didn’t need a crystal ball to make that prediction; the election flames have been fanned all fall with the House impeachment of President Donald Trump.

And across Wisconsin the partisan fires flared when an Ozaukee County judge ruled that up to 234,000 state voters - about 7% of the state’s registered voters - should be purged from state voter rolls immediately.

Democrats decried the ruling as a wholesale disenfranchisement that targeted college students and Democrat strongholds like Milwaukee. Republicans responded it was just keeping the voter rolls current and accurate.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even chimed in with a tweet on her political account saying, “It’s beyond alarming that more than 200,000 registered Wisconsin voters will be prohibited from voting.”

That hyperbole earned the speaker a “Pants on Fire” rating from Wisconsin Politifact.

Those 234,000 Wisconsin voters got a mailing from the Wisconsin Election Commission in October after a check of multi-state databases partnered in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) - including the post office, the state Division of Motor Vehicles, voter registration and motor vehicle records from other states - indicated they might have moved and their listing on the state voter rolls might not be current.

Only 2,400 residents who got the letters from the state responded that they still lived at the address listed; another 16,500 had already re-registered at new addresses and 60,000 letters were returned as undeliverable.

But state election officials worried that up to 7% of the identified “movers” in the ERIC report might be on the mover list by mistake and wanted to delay the “purge” or reconciliation for between 12 and 24 months while they reviewed each case - which could put it past the fall presidential election.

That triggered a lawsuit from three voters backed by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) which argued that under state law the updating of the voter rolls was supposed to be done 30 days after the mailing to ERIC “movers” had been sent out and those voters who had not responded should immediately be taken off the voter rolls.

The legal dispute is over whether the ERIC list provides “sufficient reliable information” - as the Ozaukee County judge ruled - or whether the state Elections Board can take months to make sure the information on the movers list is accurate.

Now, it’s off to the races with the state attorney general appealing the ruling, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin filing a federal lawsuit, followed by WILL asking the conservative-dominated State Supreme Court to take up the issue.

That may take weeks and might even bump up against the first election of the new year in February. We hope the courts act quickly.

But voters who fret they might, unbeknownst to them, be on the purge list - actually all voters - should take matters into their own hands and check to see if they are on the voting rolls.

It would take you all of two minutes to go online via computer or smartphone at myvote.wi.gov to check your status by filling in your full name and birth date.

In seconds you can update your information and add your new address if you have moved. You can do that up to 20 days before an election if you have an up-to-date Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card. You can even ask for an absentee ballot to be mailed to you for one or more elections.

If you would rather, you can call your municipal clerk to make sure you are in good standing and your address and polling place are current. You can register at the clerk’s office until the Friday before an election.

If all else fails, Wisconsin is one of 21 states where you can register or re-register at the polls on Election Day if you have proof of residence like a driver’s license, property tax bill, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck stub, lease or workplace ID.

Your vote is important and it takes only a few minutes to protect it by checking online to make sure you are good to go on Election Day.

Take the time to do that and you won’t have to pay attention to the partisan polemics and scare stories that you’re bound to hear in the coming weeks. And don’t forget to vote.


The Janesville Gazette, Jan. 5

An optimistic ending to a divisive 2019

Congressman Bryan Steil’s biggest accomplishment in 2019 didn’t appear in a piece of legislation but in his willingness to work with members on the other side of the aisle.

While low in the House GOP pecking order, the Janesville Republican’s freshman status proved freeing. He was able to break down some partisan barriers and seek out common ground with Democrats.

Amid bitter divisions over President Trump’s impeachment, Steil has been advocating for an obscure group known as the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Steil, who represents Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, joined 32 of his colleagues in signing a Nov. 12 letter asking House leadership to allow the committee to continue its work into the new year.

In an interview with The Gazette this week, Steil said the Beltway’s partisan traditions became apparent before he even took office. About a week after winning the 2018 election, he joined 89 other freshmen members for an orientation event at the Capitol. He was stunned to find out they would travel from their Courtyard Marriott Hotel to the Capitol not as a group but with Democrats and Republicans riding separate buses.

“It was about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen,” Steil said about the bus ride. “It ingrains the partisanship versus allowing people to naturally make relationships with their colleagues.”

Changing that orientation process is part of a proposed House resolution based on the modernization committee’s recommendations, several of which aim to give Republicans and Democrats more opportunities to work together.

Other recommendations call for the creation of a “bipartisan members-only space in the Capitol,” “bipartisan committee staff briefings and agenda-setting retreats” and “biennial bipartisan retreats for members and their families.”

The recommendations and Steil’s support for them are apple-blossom-scented-spring-breeze refreshing.

If anyone can inspire this Congress to work across the aisle, it’s the freshmen class. The group is less jaded and less set in its ways than the leadership. Steil replaced a congressman known for his big ideas, but Paul Ryan wasn’t much of a bridge builder. In short supply today are people who can develop working relationships with moderate members of the other party - people who can get something accomplished.

Steil seems to want to show that he’s more than another GOP peg to fit in a GOP hole inside the Beltway. When Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small from New Mexico visited Janesville last year and toured the city with Steil, their meeting raised eyebrows. Steil perhaps possesses more moxie than his subdued, sometimes bland campaign message suggests.

We hope Steil continues to embrace bipartisan initiatives in 2020, and we encourage Democrats and Republicans alike to cheer him on.

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