South Bend Tribune. Aug. 8, 2020

No excuses: Ensure a safe vote for all Hoosiers

With fewer than three months until the election, and with the nation still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Eric Holcomb needs to do the right thing to ensure that all Hoosiers can safely exercise their right to vote.

He can do so by acting to enact no-excuse absentee voting.

As it stands, Indiana is one of only seven states that require a reason to cast an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 election. The need to end this dubious distinction should be obvious. Just two weeks ago, in response to a rise in COVID-19 positivity across the state and an increase in overall hospitalizations, the governor issued a statewide face mask mandate.

“This is not about what I want to do or wished would be,” he said in announcing the mask order. “This is what the reality is.”

The reality is no one knows what things will be like in early November. But given the uncertainties of the pandemic, officials’ failure to act could force Hoosiers to choose between being possibly exposed to COVID-19 or being disenfranchised.

Instead of endorsing the common-sense course of action, the governor has expressed his personal preference for in-person voting, saying last month that “I am just one of those old-fashioned guys that wants to vote in person. And I also just wanted to see with my own two eyes whether it could be pulled off safely. I voted in Marion County, and it was.”

The half-million Hoosiers who voted by mail in the primary clearly had a different, less romantic view of going to the polls during a public health crisis. But that’s the thing: No-excuse mail-in voting allows Hoosiers to exercise their constitutional right in the way most comfortable to them.

Indiana rose to the challenge earlier this year, allowing no-excuse absentee voting for all during the primary election. Indiana’s Election Commission, guided in part by the bipartisan recommendation of state leaders, made the correct decision to ensure that Hoosiers could cast their vote in the primary election without fearing for their health.

That safety and convenience should be extended to voters in November. It shouldn’t be a controversial or political decision, as both parties have in the past acknowledged — and even embraced — absentee and mail ballots as a way to make voting easier, expand participation and lower election costs.

Former Indiana lieutenant governors John Mutz, a Republican, and Kathy Davis, a Democrat, are among those who have called on Holcomb to expand absentee mail-in voting.

“It’s impossible for me to imagine why we would want to deprive Hoosier voters the right to vote at a time when a number of people are afraid to leave their homes, let alone go to a polling place,” Mutz said.

Holcomb said the in-person election on Nov. 3 will be safe. He said he doesn’t know of a single case where someone contracted COVID-19 while voting in-person during the primary in Indiana.

But in these unpredictable, uncertain times, there’s only one way to ensure a safe and accessible vote on Election Day. And that’s by allowing no-excuse absentee voting for all Hoosiers.


(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. Aug 5, 2020

Wise move to throttle down at IMS

Decision to race 500 without fans right call

The strange year 2020 has forced dramatic change on nearly every aspect of life and our human traditions. That includes the Indianapolis 500.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials announced Tuesday this year’s 500-mile race will be run without fans in its massive grandstands. They made the right call.

To say such a twist is shocking would be an understatement. The Indy 500 earned its nickname — “the greatest spectacle in racing” — because of its immense global interest and annual fan turnouts. Nearly 300,000 people flow into the 963-acre facility every Memorial Day weekend.

Gathering a Woodstock-size audience during a pandemic grew increasingly problematic, though. The coronavirus gradually curtailed normal Indy 500 activities.

The initial outbreak of the virus in March caused IMS to postpone the race from its original date of May 24 until Aug. 23. On June 26, the Speedway — under new owner Roger Penske — announced it would limit fan capacity to 50% of its usual size. By July, officials opted to cut off ticket sales to reduce the crowd to 25% of capacity, the Indianapolis Star reported. Penske’s staff released an extensive plan to equip fans with hand sanitizer and masks, check fans’ temperatures and encourage social distancing in the seating.

Of course, such an event would still involve nearly 70,000 people, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb had just paused the state’s reopening, keeping limits on most public gatherings to 250 or fewer.

Then, COVID-19 cases climbed higher in the state and, especially within Marion County, home of the 2.5-mile oval track. Coronavirus positivity rates there had tripled since the Speedway’s announcement in June of its plan to run the race before a reduced-size live audience.

“As dedicated as we were to running the race this year with 25% attendance at our large indoor facility, even with the meaningful and careful precautions implemented by the city and state, the COVID-19 trends in Marion County and Indiana have worsened,” Speedway officials said in a statement Tuesday.

The decision to run without fans in the stands was made “with great regret,” the statement said.

It also could save lives and prevent illness.

Traditions are a cornerstone of the Indy 500, yet those rituals nonetheless get broken or evolve. Cars once motored over a course paved with 3.2 million bricks, hence the track’s nickname “The Brickyard.” By 1961, pavement had replaced all but a yard-wide strip of the bricks left at the start-finish line. “Gomer Pyle” actor Jim Nabors sang ”(Back Home Again in) Indiana” 36 times between 1972 and 2014, but other singers took turns, too, from Phil Harris in 1981 to the Walt Disney World Singers in 1985. Likewise, the traditional 33-car field has varied at times. Unusual circumstances prompted IMS to start 35 cars in both 1979 and 1997.

Now, Indy will run its first 500 without a live audience. Such a stark operation is hardly what Penske had in mind when the racing legend bought the Speedway and its IndyCar circuit from the Hulman family last November.

Still, the fact that the race will occur at all shows Penske’s determination. The potential spread of the highly infectious coronavirus forced the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournaments and the 2020 Summer Olympics. And, barely two weeks into a no-fans, shortened season, Major League Baseball is struggling to continue after COVID-19 outbreaks within several teams.

Let us hope this month’s strange 104th running of the Indy 500 comes off with no outbreaks among the 1,500 racers, crews and essential workers on duty for the racing activities. Fans at home can safely watch the national television broadcast of the race live on NBC at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23, or listen to the radio broadcast on the IMS network.

Maybe next year, the roar of the crowd will again be heard along with the buzz of the engines at Indy.


The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. Aug 8, 2020

Cops keep their cool in ambush videos

Since the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, law enforcement agencies across the country have come under intense scrutiny.

Protest marchers and demonstrators have demanded reform of police procedures, banning of chokeholds and no-knock warrants and a reversal of limited immunity.

While officers’ should be held accountable for their actions, some individuals and groups have strayed from the path of peaceful redress of grievances and turned to violence and incivility.

Most blatantly, rioters and vandals have used the social justice movement as a license for looting and destruction in some communities. In others, protesters and counter-protesters have hurled objects and profanities at the other side and at police officers.

Such actions do nothing but sow seeds of animosity among citizens and officers.

Police in Anderson and elsewhere across the country have been accosted by a related phenomenon: ambush videos.

In more than a dozen videos on YouTube, city and county police are confronted by foul-mouthed, disrespectful outsiders lobbing accusations and profanities at them. They bait officers to argue or become physically aggressive or make an ill-conceived arrest.

These videos are disgraceful charades of political activism designed to whet the viewer’s appetite for violence and conflict.

Sometimes, the people shooting and posting these videos ask important questions, such as, Why isn’t a form to file a complaint against an Anderson police officer available to the general public to fill out and submit in person or online? Why does a complainant have to sit down with an APD supervisor to file a grievance?

But the exposure of unfair policies is, in most cases, just an excuse for ambush video peddlers to annoy and irritate police.

To their credit, local police officers have generally acquitted themselves well in these videos, remaining respectful and answering questions politely, no matter the volume, tone or content of the slurs slung at them.

These ambush videos probably won’t stop anytime soon, and local officers will have to continue to keep their cool.

In the meantime, the citizens of Anderson are waiting and watching impatiently but peacefully for sweeping reform of local police policies and procedures.

How much longer do they have to wait?