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Mississippi editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Aug. 13

The Greenwood Commonwealth on high-speed internet service coming to the state:

Rural Mississippi is about to see whether its desire for high-speed internet service matches the cost of providing it.

Two electric cooperatives in North Mississippi have announced plans to offer the service under rules set up a few months ago by the state Legislature.

Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association, based in Batesville, said it will start putting out fiber optic cable next month as part of a plan that will take four years to complete and cost $60 million.

Tombigbee Electric Power Association, based in Tupelo, is spending $95 million on its internet system.

Electric cooperatives date to the Great Depression and have always run their businesses frugally.

They do not have to make a profit, but they do have to distribute electricity at a reasonable cost.

Over the decades, most of them have proven to be pretty good at that.

Given this history, the two North Mississippi co-ops would not have made their high-speed internet plans without solid information that their electricity customers want the new service and that the investment will eventually pay off.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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Aug. 11

The Daily-Journal on the aftermath of immigration enforcement raids in the state:

Nearly 700 employees at seven worksites across Mississippi were arrested last Wednesday in what has been deemed "the largest immigration enforcement sweep in a single state in U.S. history." Within a day, approximately 300 were released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), pending a later court appearance before a federal immigration judge.

The agents were executing warrants to arrest the "illegal aliens," according to Mike Hurst, US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. "They have to follow our laws, they have to abide by our rules, they have to come here legally or they shouldn't come here at all."

The raids were defended by U.S. authorities saying the secretive operation was successful, despite the fact that the Department of Child Protection Services and local schools were left struggling with children who went home to find their parents weren't there.

The strongest criticism of the raids lies in the lack of preparation for the effect of missing parents, which required quick actions by the school districts and the welfare services.

ICE officials said in a press release that they allowed those arrested to make a phone call to neighbors or relatives who could provide child care, and also notified schools across the area after the raids were underway that some of their students could be affected.

Despite these efforts, the images we've seen through various media following the arrests — terrified, crying children huddled together in their schools and with neighbors, with no one to take care of them — are hard to dismiss from our minds.

It is evident from these and past raids that there is no systematic plan in place to deal with the children left behind. One can't imagine the trauma they are enduring now, nor the long-term effects of these actions.

We believe the law should be followed, but we also believe it's time to remember human beings are involved, families and children. As much planning as is necessary to carry out these raids, the same should be made to deal with those left behind. Tearing families apart isn't the answer.

Online: https://www.djournal.com

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Aug. 9

The Columbus Dispatch on flaws in the absentee voting process:

Absentee voting is meant to be a tool for voters, not a campaign strategy for candidates.

In Columbus, some people don't seem to have gotten that memo.

The trick is simple. A campaign volunteer, either paid or unpaid, canvasses neighborhoods where elderly or disabled citizens live and convinces them to call the city registrar's office for an absentee ballot. Once the citizens receive those ballots in the mail, they call those volunteers back over to their homes, where they either fill out the ballot and have the volunteer sign as a witness or have the volunteer fill out the ballot for them. Then someone mails the completed ballot back to the registrar for counting on election day.

You ask the candidates, and they tell you it's a completely honest, forthright and objective process. There's no push to get these people — again, many of whom are elderly and disabled — to vote a certain way. They're out trying to raise participation and make sure these vulnerable citizens' voices are heard.

Indeed.

The numbers tell a vastly different story, and they point to Columbus candidates racking up backroom votes at a rate astoundingly disproportionate to the rest of the state.

After the 2017 citywide election, The Dispatch did an in-depth look at the local use of absentee ballots. Columbus voters cast 1,069 absentee ballots. The most we could find cast in a similar-size city were 402 in Meridian (about 50% larger than Columbus). There were only 194 cast in Starkville's election.

Moreover, the impact was pretty clear. One incumbent, Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens, garnered almost exactly the same number of absentee votes as machine votes (180 machine and 178 absentee) en route to re-election. In Ward 4, Marty Turner lost the runoff election to Fred Jackson, but beat Jackson by a 111-23 margin in absentees during the primary three weeks prior.

Jackson has since vacated his Ward 4 seat, and the campaigns of six candidates vying to replace him in an Aug. 20 special election are in full swing.

But District 5 Lowndes County Supervisor Leroy Brooks — who is no stranger to absentee ballots himself — is calling for an Attorney General's office investigation into the race, since 73 voters in that ward have already asked for absentee ballots.

Speaking to The Dispatch, one candidate said she's actually been present when voters requested absentee ballots from her campaign volunteers. Wonder who those people voted for?

Right now, at-home absentee voting is perfectly legal, and if anything improper takes place it's hard to prove or regulate.

So we'll see Brooks' call for an investigation and raise him one better. The Legislature needs to change the law to close this loophole through which elderly and disabled citizens are being exploited.

One way to knock it back is implementing no-excuse early voting. Now, you must be 65 or older, claim you'll be out-of-town on election day or that you're disabled, and you can vote absentee in-person or by mail. Allowing people to vote by machine at a centralized location for two to three weeks before and election would significantly cut down on the need for absentees, save for military personnel deployed overseas.

Otherwise, opportunist candidates will keep stuffing ballot boxes with ill-gotten gain, and the results of our city elections will continue to be, at best, ethically ambiguous.

Online: https://www.cdispatch.com

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