- Associated Press - Monday, September 14, 2020

The Mining Journal. September 10, 2020

State Senate should be proactive in ballot legislation

It has been said that desperate times call for desperate measures. Well, 2020 certainly qualifies, and state lawmakers are looking to address the issue of absentee ballot processing before it could become a major issue.

A bill that would allow Michigan clerks to start processing absentee ballots before Election Day is not dead, and the August primary legitimized concerns that some officials will not be able to quickly handle a surge of mailed-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, a legislative leader said.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, said the Senate continues to “finesse” the bipartisan proposal that has been on hold in the chamber since May. It is sponsored by Republican Sen. Ruth Johnson, a former secretary of state. Similar legislation, backed by Democrats, is pending in the House, according to an Associated Press story.



“It wouldn’t surprise me that we get enough support to do something before the general election and then evaluate it afterward,” Shirkey, who previously opposed the measure, told The Associated Press last week. Allowing clerks to begin processing, but not counting, ballots the day before the election would not necessarily be a permanent change, he said.

Temporarily revising the law, Shirkey said, would enable the state to take “controlled steps, acknowledging that things have changed but not putting the integrity of the election in jeopardy.” He said he could not predict if or when the Senate would act but said it is “being very seriously considered.”

A record 2.5 million votes were cast in the primary, as people took advantage of no-excuse absentee voting during the pandemic. About 1.6 million ballots cast were absentee - returned by mail, at drop boxes or inside clerks’ offices - topping the record of 1.3 million from November 2016.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, local clerks and voting-rights groups have urged the Republican-led Legislature to let election workers start processing absentee ballots the day before Election Day. Benson has warned that the results of close races in November likely will not be known until three days later - maybe longer - without such legislation.

Michigan allows any voter to request a ballot by mail, although voters can also cast their ballots the traditional way. If you plan to vote from home, you need to fill out a mail ballot application, which should be done as far in advance of the election as possible. The deadline to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 30, and requests must be received by 5 p.m. that day.

With many voters, especially those in the high-risk category, not wanting to risk their health by standing in lines to vote, it’s safe to assume mail-in ballots are going to surge this year.

We are glad to see state leaders taking action to address this mail-in ballot issue now rather than later.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. September 9, 2020

The wheels on the bus go bump, bump, bump

Back in the day, schools taught the three Rs - reading, (w)riting and ‘rithmetic.

We’d like to add three Ts to this year’s lesson plans - transparency, testing and tolerance.

TCAPS students logged on Tuesday for their first day of school, opening the seasonal funnel of Michigan’s kids into classrooms.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic funneled them to different formats - in-person, temporarily-online, virtual for the year - like a multiple choice problem.

Only, with these problems, there’s no answer-filled Teacher’s Edition. In fact teachers, administrators, parents and lawmakers seem as confused as the rest.

Transparency, testing and tolerance need to structure this squishy environment. Safety needs to be the focus on all fronts, simultaneously. So while we were glad to learn that the state backed off its murky resistance to disclosing school outbreaks - once weekly updates on a public portal (set to launch Sept. 14), given test result-lag, this could mean two weeks or more before exposures appear.

That’s not timely enough for sensible decision-making on the behalf of parents or students in high-risk groups for whom COVID exposure could be deadly.

For school workers, too, which brings us to the second T - testing.

A Sept. 8 report in MarketWatch said nearly a third of teachers in the U.S. are 50 and older, citing the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ramping up regular schoolworker testing seems a no-brainer, just like mandated testing in nursing homes and correctional facilities.

But testing only works to contain COVID-19 spread if results are timely. Otherwise it’s just more wasted money.

The third T is tolerance, as we know how easy it is to oversimplify the many issues that COVID-19 presents in education this year.

Navigating the technology involved all-too-quickly leaves certain parents, kids and teachers behind. The logistics of offering and operating several school options simultaneously with shared resources between them is no easy feat. Parents are seeing more of what day-to-day looks like in schools; teachers and administrators are getting a closer look at students’ homes. It’s easy to criticize.

But our kids watch and learn from it all - from the happy face we put on for them or when it slides off.

School has always been much more than the three Rs, and the lessons students take away shape the trajectory of their future.

This year we need to recognize that it’s going to take dissolving the factions of teachers, administrators, parents and government to pull the kids though - which will take three Ts, if not more.

We may even learn something.

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The Alpena News. September 10, 2020

Smart911 just smart

In an emergency, seconds count, and information is power.

That’s especially true here in Northeast Michigan, where the downside of our natural, rustic beauty is that it can take paramedics, police, and firefighters more time to reach a scene than it might in a denser urban area.

The more emergency crews know before they reach a scene, the more efficiently they’ll be able to perform, and that can mean the difference between life and death.

That’s why we agree with Alpena emergency officials’ push for locals to download the Smart911 smartphone application.

The app allows users to input as much or as little information as they like to make available to emergency crews en route to them. Everything from medical history to the location of the key hidden under the front mat to the phone number for a son or daughter to coronavirus test results can be stored in the app.

It’s like the 21st century equivalent of a medical alert bracelet.

To us, the Smart911 app is just smart. We choose to live in this place where we get some space between us and our neighbors, and we know that comes with certain risks. But we should do all we can to mitigate those risks, and the Smart911 app seems an important means toward that end.

We encourage readers to consider downloading the app for themselves or, for those of us not so tech-savvy, having a more proficient relative do so for us.

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