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Mississippi editorial roundup

The Associated Press

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Aug. 19

The Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth on state absentee ballots:

Delbert Hosemann is rightfully suspicious. Mississippi's secretary of state compiled a county-by-county tally of absentee ballots cast in the Aug. 2 primaries, and the numbers look inordinately high.

Twenty counties, including both Leflore and Carroll counties, had at least 10 percent of their ballots cast by absentee vote. Quitman County led the way with 29 percent, followed by Claiborne and Grenada counties, both with 18 percent. Leflore and Carroll counties had 12 percent each.

Statewide, the percentage was 6 percent, three times higher than the absentee ballot ratio during the presidential election of 2008.

These rising numbers are cause for concern because absentee ballots are wide open to fraud, as has been demonstrated in Leflore County and elsewhere over the years. All it takes is a dishonest candidate with a voter registry, an ink pen and some "witnesses" who get paid by the number of absentee ballots they deliver. It's a whole lot easier to rig an election that way than impersonating voters at the polls, which has been the major focus of those who are keen on voter ID.

There has been a lot of exaggeration in recent years, from both sides, about voter ID. In November, Mississippi will get a chance to finally settle the question in a statewide referendum. We expect the initiative to pass handily.

But we also expect it will do very little to reduce voter fraud, since voter ID is not applicable to absentee balloting, where most of the shenanigans occur.

Hosemann knows this, but he is being a good Republican Party soldier by sticking with its top priority _ voter ID _ before championing other, more substantive reforms to ensure cleaner elections. He has said before that once the state gets past the emotional issue of voter ID, it will be easier to tackle absentee balloting reforms.

He has recommended that Mississippi consider allowing early voting in person at the courthouse, as other states have done. With early voting, there would be a whole lot less need for absentee ballots and a whole lot better way to ensure that the person voting is not an imposter.

One other needed change with absentee balloting is to scale back the blanket exemption for voters age 65 and over. A lot of the absentee ballot fraud takes advantage of this exemption.

Besides, the able-bodied, no matter their age, should have to vote in person if they are going to be around on Election Day.



Aug. 19

The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss., on unemployment:

Mississippians may have known generally that the state's economy was still sluggish, but a new report shows it's even worse than that.

CredAbility, a nonprofit consumer credit agency, has rated Mississippi among the most distressed state in the nation for the quarter ending June 30. Only Nevada (hit hard by the housing bubble) and Michigan (decimated by the loss of auto manufacturing jobs) had worse scores.

Two main factors given: Mississippi leads the nation in mortgage delinquency rates; its high unemployment rate at 10.3 percent is above the nation's 9.2 percent.

Mississippi, like the rest of the nation is hurting for jobs. President Barack Obama announced that he will soon produce a package to address the issue.

It couldn't come at a better time. ...

Nearly 14 million people are out of work, and that doesn't count the millions more who have given up trying to find jobs.

The president has been hitting the theme of providing jobs _ especially in rural areas _ during a tour in Iowa.

He has called on farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth nationwide.

Obama is expected to unveil his economic strategy in a speech right after Labor Day. He has indicated that he will reframe the debate about the nation's debate by offering tax incentives for jobs, along with public works employment, so boost the economy, along with targeted spending cuts.

Any plan will be subjected to partisan attack. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle talk about creating jobs as a priority. Yet, there is little cooperation toward that common goal.

A balanced approach should be adopted in a bipartisan effort.

It isn't the deficit that's keeping businesses from hiring; it's uncertainty over government's ability to provide bipartisan leadership.

Once businesses know what the rules are, they can plan _ and hire _ accordingly. But intractable partisan gridlock in Congress is killing jobs and markets.



Aug. 17

The Sun Herald, Gulfport, Miss., on a NOAA Gulf shrimp industry ruling:

We're glad to hear the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the shrimp industry have found common ground in an attempt to stop the mysterious deaths of sea turtles.

Several environmental groups, concerned that shrimpers weren't doing enough to protect the turtles, had lobbied for a virtual takeover of the industry. But when NOAA investigated it found up to 87 percent of the shrimpers in some areas were properly using turtle excluder devices (TEDs), gadgets that allow turtles to escape shrimp nets.

So, it rightfully rejected the call by the environmental groups for further regulation of Gulf shrimpers. But NOAA pointed out it will be watching for violators of the current regulations. Fair enough.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance, we are encouraged to hear, said it welcomes NOAA's enforcement efforts.

"Deliberate efforts to skirt TED rules are unacceptable and hurt everyone in the fishery," SSA Executive Director John Williams wrote in a letter on the subject. "Being in compliance is one very clear way our fishery can prove we are not the cause of an unusual number of turtle strandings. Being out of compliance just hands groups like Oceana a weapon with which to attack us.

"We can't just look the other way when we see someone out of compliance. We all have to take responsibility for the fishery."

The alliance has been holding workshops to make sure shrimpers know how to use the devices and know how important it is to the survival of the turtles, and the industry, that they use them.

NOAA deployed more people at the start of shrimping season to ensure shrimpers' TEDs were working before their boats left the docks. For those who still aren't motivated to save the turtles, NOAA has been writing tickets that can cost from $5,500 to $26,400.

And it will be doing an environmental-impact study to determine, with input from both sides, what more needs to be done.

Fishermen and environmental activists alike surely can agree on the importance of getting to the bottom of the turtle mystery.

All three are important to the Gulf. And that wondrous body of water is important to us all.