- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 6, 2021

South Bend Tribune. April 4, 2021.

Editorial: Indiana bill is pushback on necessary election changes made during a pandemic

Last year, in the midst of a public health crisis, Indiana officials came together in a bipartisan fashion to change the date of the primary election and allow for no-excuse mail-in voting - a decision driven by concern for the public good, not politics.

Well, we can’t allow something like that to happen again, now can we?

Senate Bill 353 is a clear reaction to the changes made by Indiana’s Election Commission, which was guided in part by the recommendation of state leaders in moving to ensure that Hoosiers could cast their vote in the primary election without fearing for their health.



The measure, authored by Sens. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, Eric Koch, R-Bedford, and Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, prohibits the commission from “instituting, increasing or expanding” vote-by-mail or absentee vote-by-mail and changing the time, place or manner of holding an election. It also prohibits the governor from changing “the time, place, or manner of holding an election” during a declared disaster emergency.

The bill would give the Indiana General Assembly authority to change the timing and procedures of elections. The point of the bill, according to Houchin, “is that we won’t have what happened across the country. We will not see courts and statewide elected officials and others who are not the General Assembly making changes to the manner and process by which we vote on a statewide basis.”

What happened last year was an unimaginable reality that challenged every phase of life. It also created an obstacle to voting, and the change to allow no-excuse absentee voting was an effort to remove the barrier to Hoosiers safely exercising their constitutional right.

More than a half-million Hoosiers, a record number, requested to vote by mail for the 2020 primary. Despite those numbers - and a pandemic that was still raging into the fall - Indiana officials chose not to do the right thing and expand mail-in voting for the general election.

It’s worth noting that SB 353, which is scheduled for a House committee hearing on Tuesday, would have required proof of citizenship to register to vote, but was changed at the last minute after the Secretary of State’s office said making people prove they are citizens is “unconstitutional,” according to the bill’s author.

It’s as if the goal is to make voting more difficult.

That’s hardly unique to Indiana: Over the last few months, a flood of bills has been introduced by Republican lawmakers across the country at the state level that - if passed - could make it harder for millions of Americans to cast their ballots. It’s all being done in the name of election security, all while there is still no proof of widespread voter fraud.

Last year’s rescheduled primary, which allowed all Hoosiers the option of safely casting their ballot during a pandemic, was the right decision and resulted from responsible leadership.

Nope, can’t let that happen again.

___

KPC News. April 2, 2021.

Editorial: Masks: Let them keep working for us

The significant reduction in influenza activity has been attributed mainly to the precautions Hoosiers are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Masking, distancing and proper hygiene have greatly reduced flu and, we hope, the spread of the coronavirus, as well as other viruses.

During the last full week of March, the majority of Indiana’s counties were rated blue - the lowest and best level - for the spread of COVID-19. And on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced what many believed was the best news ever: The state mask mandate would be reduced to an advisory.

We believe Holcomb jumped the gun. Based on anecdotal evidence - visits to grocery stores and other public places where mask mandates have been loosely enforced - people have been behaving as though the mask order was rescinded on March 22 as opposed to April 6.

“We have been very clear since the outset of our desire to try to drive down deaths and hospitalization rates; they have come a long way, moving in the right direction,” Holcomb said Wednesday in his weekly address on the pandemic.

“But having said that, it’s not just one number that I focus on, it’s many numbers in terms of our ability to care for those who are hospitalized, those whose lives are threatened. We do want to make sure we keep up our surveillance,” Holcomb continued. “By no means, this is not mission accomplished. Yes, there is some personal responsibility that will be demanded if we want to continue to manage our way through this.”

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but in recent days the number of cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 have started to increase ever so slightly in Indiana. Cases in Michigan have started surging at the worst rate in the nation.

According to a report from Kaiser Health News, the time has not yet come to drop mask requirements as we wait for more people to be fully vaccinated.

In the past, we have applauded our governor for being bold in the face of a sometimes unwilling public and a recalcitrant General Assembly that often doesn’t have the medical resources and guidance Holcomb has at his fingertips through the Indiana State Department of Health. But we think Holcomb got it wrong this time.

We long for the day when mask wearing becomes a thing of the past. But now is not the time to put masks aside. The governor has acted too early, and we’re afraid that like putting toothpaste back in the tube, if Indiana starts seeing another significant spike in cases, it will be next to impossible to expect people to start wearing masks again.

Or will it?

Indianapolis is going to keep its mask mandate in place. Schools will continue to require masks through the end of the school year. Trine University in Angola is keeping its strict public health policies in force until the end of its academic year. Other communities are weighing whether they should do the same.

Most importantly, we encourage individuals to stay up to date on the information and make wise choices for themselves, their loved ones and the people they don’t even know.

Wearing a mask is a sign of love and respect for others. Wearing a mask expresses gratitude for the dedicated health care workers and front line responders toiling at great personal sacrifice.

We encourage area communities, business and individuals to be bold and take action on their own.

___

Kokomo Tribune. April 3, 2021.

Editorial: Indianapolis struts its stuff

Indiana will go down in history as the first state to play host to an NCAA men’s basketball tournament from beginning to end. From all indications, the event has been a huge success.

Why shouldn’t it be? This state knows basketball. Indiana invented March Madness.

OK, few of us likely predicted an 11 seed would make the Final Four, but who can fault us for that?

The organizers of this year’s event have not skimped on the details. Take that 47,000-square-foot bracket adorning the side of the JW Marriott Hotel.

“Indiana: Where Champions Are Crowned,” reads the text across the top, and the message is clear: If you want a city that knows how to stage a first-class sporting event, Indianapolis is the obvious choice.

Putting together the world’s largest bracket wasn’t a simple task. Installers had to assemble it from 800 individual pieces, each of them about 4 feet wide and 2-3 feet tall. That task alone took more than 4 hours.

As the tournament progresses, workers have been adding the winners’ names on the morning after each set of games, but they’ll do that one better for the championship game on Monday night. As members of the winning team depart Lucas Oil Stadium after cutting down the nets, the bracket will be complete, with the name of the winning school already in place.

Pulling off an event like this is a big deal.

Tourism officials estimate the financial impact to the Indianapolis economy will be at least $100 million.

“The exact number won’t be calculated until the nets have been cut down and a champion is crowned, because we won’t know exactly how many visitors come in and out of the city and how spending is categorized,” Chris Gahl of Visit Indy told The Indianapolis Star.

“But we feel very confident in a very conservative pre-game estimate that a healthy nine figures in economic impact will be felt from hosting March Madness in its entirety.”

Even with significantly reduced crowds, the impact has been enormous. Just housing tournament participants and the media for that first weekend required roughly 2,500 hotel rooms.

The NCAA awarded this event to Indianapolis at least in part because of the health and safety procedures tournament organizers had put into place.

Things got off to a rocky start. First, six officials were sent home after one of them tested positive for COVID-19. Then Virginia Commonwealth was forced to forfeit its opening game after multiple players had positive tests.

But the NCAA’s bubble ultimately worked, and the rest of the tournament went off almost without a hitch. In spite of all the challenges, a new college basketball champion will be crowned Monday night.

Those in Indianapolis who helped to make it happen should take a bow.

END

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