- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

A Great Election, Against All Odds

The New York Times

Nov. 22

The 2020 election was not simply free of fraud, or whatever cooked-up malfeasance the president is braying about at this hour. It was, from an administrative standpoint, a resounding success. In the face of a raging pandemic and the highest turnout in more than a century, Americans enjoyed one of the most secure, most accurate and most well-run elections ever.



Don’t take our word for it. Listen to the state and local officials of both parties in dozens of states who were tasked with overseeing the process.

“Numbers don’t lie,” Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said on Friday when he certified his state’s vote total following a hand recount of about five million ballots. Joe Biden won Georgia by a little more than 12,000 votes.

Same story in Michigan. “We have not seen any evidence of fraud or foul play in the actual administration of the election,’’ said a spokesman for the Democratic secretary of state there. “What we have seen is that it was smooth, transparent, secure and accurate.”

Over all, the 2020 election “was the most secure in American history,” according to a statement put out this month by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is made up of top federal and state election officials. “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

A bipartisan consensus like this may tempt some people to conclude that the dire pre-election warnings were overblown, that the risks to the election were never that serious. The reality is the opposite. The threats were many and real. There were massive logistical hurdles to running an election during a deadly disease outbreak. There was chaos sown deliberately by a sitting president to undermine Americans’ faith in the integrity of the democratic process. There was good reason to fear an electoral meltdown.

That the meltdown didn’t materialize was thanks to months of hard work and selfless commitment by tens of thousands of Americans across the country: state and local elections officials, volunteer poll workers, overburdened postal carriers, helpful neighbors and generous philanthropists.

Together, this ad hoc democracy-protection network fanned out to expand access to mail-in ballots, helping more than 100 million Americans, nearly two-thirds of all voters, to vote early or absentee. They took on poll worker shifts so that older Americans would not have to risk their lives to keep precincts open. They volunteered time to ensure votes would be counted as quickly and accurately as possible. It was a heroic effort, and the people who worked its front lines deserve Americans’ everlasting gratitude.

It is neither wise nor realistic to count on this sort of mobilization happening every four years. “The smoothness of the election was not self-executing,” said Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an organization that supports voting rights. “Don’t lose sight of how much work we did to make it this way.”

The nation will need to prioritize voting rights and election administration to a degree it has never adequately done. For example, why are Americans still waiting for hours in line to cast their ballots? In 2014, a bipartisan commission said no one ought to have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote. Six years on, the country is nowhere close to that goal.

The solutions are not a mystery. Here are three of the most obvious ones.

More money. In the first wave of the pandemic last spring, elections experts and officials pleaded with Congress to provide up to $4 billion to help ensure a smooth election. Lawmakers approved one-tenth of that amount. “We get what we pay for,” said Justin Levitt, an election law scholar at Loyola Law School. “We poured trillions into pandemic recovery, and a teaspoonful into the democracy that makes it work.”

Some of the shortfall was made up by private philanthropists, who gave hundreds of millions of dollars to state and local governments. Professional sports teams offered up their empty arenas so voters could safely cast ballots in person. Donors provided masks and other protective gear for poll workers. All of that was welcome, and yet the American people pay taxes for just this purpose; they shouldn’t have to rely on the beneficence of the wealthy to keep their democracy intact.

Less voter suppression. It wasn’t so long ago that both parties supported the protection of voting rights. In 2006, Congress overwhelmingly voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. Today, the Republican Party is awash in conspiracy theories and - there’s no other way to put it - fundamentally distrusts the American electorate.

In hundreds of lawsuits filed over voting and election procedures in 2020 - the most ever in an election season - Republicans consistently sided against voters. In too many cases, the courts let them have their way. They blocked reasonable, targeted measures to make voting easier during the pandemic, like extending ballot-arrival deadlines or increasing the number of drop boxes.

President Trump has spent the past five years building a fantasy world in which he can lose only because the other side cheated, and far too many people are content to live in it. In the absence of a whit of evidence, a majority of Republicans say they believe Joe Biden’s victory is the result of fraud. That’s why Mr. Raffensperger, a committed Republican, is being punished for his defense of Georgia’s electoral process with everything from death threats to a potentially illegal request by Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Republican, who Mr. Raffensperger said tried to persuade him to throw out legally cast ballots.

The United States needs members of both major political parties to support voting rights and access to the polls - not just because they believe it helps democracy, but because they believe it helps them.

Thwart disinformation. America needs a far more aggressive and coordinated response to the massive disinformation campaigns polluting social media and people’s dialogue with one another.

Social-media giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube did more in 2020 to combat these campaigns than ever before, and yet it wasn’t nearly enough. When a lie can race around the globe in minutes, anything less than an immediate response is too slow. The labels applied to misleading or factually untrue content were often vague, and did not necessarily refute the disinformation.

Also, it’s obvious that most of the disinformation right now is coming from one side of the political spectrum. Social media companies need to confront that reality head-on and stop worrying about being called biased. That’s especially important when it comes to the accounts of high-profile figures like President Trump, who have the power to deceive huge numbers of Americans with a single tweet.

Democracy is a fragile thing, and it requires constant tending and vigilance to survive. Americans were lucky this time. They were also well prepared. When pushed to the brink, they mobilized to protect their democracy. For this moment, at least, tune out the president, his flailing dishonesty and his bottomless disregard for the American experiment. Instead, express gratitude to the millions of Americans who still believe in that experiment, and who did all they could to make this election succeed in the face of daunting odds. Then help make sure they don’t have to do it by themselves again.

Online: https://nyti.ms/3m5ZUG4

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The heroes around us

Newsday

Nov. 25

Why must it take a pandemic to remind some of us about all the heroes in our midst, the sacrifices made every day, the interdependence we rely on at all times.

As we settle down to our Thanksgiving meals or sit by the TV watching pigskins fly and a makeshift parade fill in for bigger spectacles, many of us have a new awareness of how much we owe to those who work on such days.

And this year many of those work shifts will be more strenuous than ever before. In hospitals and urgent cares and nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, doctors and nurses are fighting a battle unlike any they have seen. There will be no skeleton crews working floors nearly empty of patients, dozing and dining on plates brought from home.

Instead they will push harder and harder to do good, and then head home to isolate from loved ones, or carry the fear of infecting them.

We have a new awareness of their burdens, and not just theirs. We have redefined “essential,” or finally come to see it clearly.

Truckers will be on the road while we dine, making sure the nation has food and medical supplies. Factory workers will take shifts that never existed before to make sure toilet paper is produced, and wipes and diapers and hand sanitizer and vaccines.

We remembered that butchers were essential this year, and farmers. We saw teachers in a new light as we tried to teach kids ourselves, saw day care workers as heroes we’d left unsung.

The police who keep us safe, they’ll be out. So will the firefighters, always busy on a day when cooking gets crazy.

Volunteers are feeding the poor and spending time with the lonely, and therein lies another lesson. We are all essential, or we could be. Loving, caring, kind and giving, patient and hardworking, devoted.

There is a place for everyone, a role, a way to contribute, and we all owe each other so much. If we could remember that, when the coronavirus pandemic has passed and normality has returned, oh, what a blessing.

Online: https://nwsdy.li/2J97cKS

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In This Case, Two Wrongs Endanger Peoples’ Lives

The Post-Journal

Nov. 25

Talk about two wrongs not making a right.

For weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the state would conduct its own review of possible COVID-19 vaccines because he, and by extension the state, didn’t trust the federal Food and Drug Administration to approve a safe vaccine.

“Fifty-four percent of New Yorkers say they wouldn’t take it,” Cuomo said during his Sept. 24 press briefing. “The first question is, is the vaccine safe? Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion and I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion. … On the first question of is it safe, New York state will have its own review. When the federal government is finished with their review and says it’s safe. We’re going to put together our own review committee headed by the Department of Health that will advise me – we have the best hospitals and research facilities on the globe in this state. We’re going to put together a group for them to review the vaccine so I can look at the camera and I can say to New Yorkers that it’s safe to take. I want to make sure that we know it’s safe to take.”

More recently, Cuomo has criticized the federal government’s plan to distribute the vaccine, saying he would prefer that distribution to be handled by a Joe Biden administration rather than President Donald Trump. Of course, that prompted Trump to say a COVID vaccine from Pfizer would be available to the general public by April, but not for New York residents. The president said he wants the vaccine sent to states whose residents will begin taking the vaccine immediately, not wait for a state review.

Enough.

Cuomo’s insinuation that the doctors and researchers who have worked tirelessly over the past eight months to develop a vaccine are being influenced more by politics than they are a genuine desire to prevent people from catching COVID-19 is insulting to those doctors and researchers. At the same time, the president’s willingness to withhold a vaccine from New York residents solely because of a political spat with Cuomo is simply cruel and, at the same time, plays into Cuomo’s point about politicizing the vaccine in the first place.

As we said, two wrongs do not make a right. in this case two wrongs endanger peoples’ lives and should not be tolerated of either the governor or the president.

Online: https://bit.ly/2JamZcb

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Focus on what matters most this Thanksgiving

The Auburn Citizen

Nov. 22

Although it feels like an eternity, Mother’s Day took place only a little more than six months ago. Think back to what was happening at that time.

Our schools were closed for in-person learning. Many small businesses in our community were shuttered or significantly hampered in the services and jobs they could provide. Our hospitals and health care offices were bleeding financially because of restrictions on procedures.

With the goal of starving the coronavirus so we could get those limits lifted, a huge portion of the public didn’t hesitate to keep their Mother’s Day gatherings small. Families connected on Zoom or Facetime because they wanted to keep their loved ones safe and healthy.

A few weeks later, we started to see some progress in New York state COVID-19 infection rates. Under a measured plan, some normalcy returned as businesses reopened and school districts began to prepare for returning students to classrooms in the fall.

Unfortunately, we are now in the midst of a surge of cases that threatens all of this progress, and a major holiday is looming in which some people are considering large indoor gatherings.

We’ve been disappointed and discouraged by some of the public discourse that has emerged in recent weeks regarding Thanksgiving gatherings. To far too many people, it’s being perceived as a political issue. In New York, we’re seeing a public relations war between the governor and county sheriffs over the legality of an executive order that attempts to limit the size of private gatherings, and that fight is a dangerous distraction from what is most important - the health of our family and friends.

Most of the sheriffs who have come out with statements in recent weeks to say they will not be enforcing private gathering limits have also urged people not to have large private gatherings. But their messaging has been clumsy and therefore fueled the dangerous notion for some that their traditional Thanksgiving gatherings amount to a fight for our freedom.

The governor’s own rhetoric toward the sheriffs has made the situation worse. Instead of questioning their integrity, he should be making it clear that he’s not suggesting police officers peer into windows to count heads inside of our homes on Thanksgiving Day.

Regardless of that political debate, the most important voices we should be hearing are not those of elected officials. It’s public health professionals and infectious disease experts. They are unequivocal in their stance that big indoor gatherings will lead to an even greater spike in infections, followed by more hospitalizations and more death.

So if you’re still thinking about having your typical Thanksgiving this year, try harder to remove politics from your decision and ask some crucial questions.

How important to you is keeping our schools open for in-person learning? Do you want our community’s small businesses to continue serving the public and providing local jobs? What value do you place on having local and regional hospital beds available? Is a quieter Thanksgiving worse than losing a family member to this disease?

If too many of us make the wrong decision, we may be right back to where we started at the beginning of this pandemic - massive shutdowns, deep economic pain, and unimaginable fear and sorrow.

Online: https://bit.ly/3maHDr1

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Gratitude is essential

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Nov. 25

Alright, folks - it’s time to get thankful.

Seriously, we know this COVID-19 pandemic stinks, and so does our deep political divide. This chilly, wet, dim November weather can drag one’s mood down pretty low. And each of us has our own personal reasons to feel down and out: Maybe it’s family; maybe it’s health; maybe it’s finances; maybe it’s something else.

But enough self-pity already. Each of us has it very good in many, many ways, and if we can’t see that, we’re not looking very hard.

Most of us, though not all, have plenty of resources to get by on - enough that we can afford to share with those who have less.

Most of us, though not all, have family members who love us. They may not always do what we want them to, but they do care and do try - and God knows we wouldn’t want to be judges against a scale of perfection.

All of us live in a country that - while no more perfect than we are - still does a pretty good job of offering freedom while trying to keep people safe and secure. These days, COVID-19 restrictions make it feel less free than ever, but that really is temporary.

Great progress is being made in developing vaccines to protect people against COVID-19. Top scientists and pharmaceutical companies worldwide are working ferociously to save lives.

There are still plenty of good-hearted people out there, even if we don’t dare talk politics with them.

All of us have things we enjoy doing, whether it’s reading, cooking, music, playing video games or puttering around with house and yard projects.

Once we start looking for good things in our lives, we will certainly find them. And once we find them, we can appreciate them. Heck, this being Thanksgiving, we can bask in them.

Now is the time to count our blessings, accentuate the positive, think happy thoughts - all those things that some might consider corny or unrealistic, but which really are essential.

Gratitude is, some might say, the basis of human spirituality. It requires breaking out of our heads, our egos, our self-reflection and acknowledging what is outside ourselves, what benefits us - and without which we could not live. It gives us perspective and keeps us humble. For many of us, the gratitude extends to a higher being without whom these good people and bountiful planet would not exist. If you can’t get to that, we understand, although it might be worth thinking about a bit as you give thanks this holiday.

We may find ourselves with more time to think this Thanksgiving, since we’re not supposed to be gathering with people from other households –please don’t, by the way - or going around to see other people. But this year doesn’t take away all those good Thanksgivings we have enjoyed in the past. Let’s include those warm, wonderful memories as we count our blessings on this, possibly the most meaningful of holidays.

Online: https://bit.ly/2UZCS7K

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