Thursday, March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021

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Cheers & Jeers: Voter turnout impressive

The Columbian
Published:

Cheers: To voters. We have mentioned this several times editorially, but we continue to be impressed by local voter turnout for this year’s election. The numbers are not yet official, but it appears about 280,000 Clark County residents turned in ballots, dwarfing the 211,000 that participated in the previous presidential election. Population growth plays a role in that, but so do increases in the rate of voter registration and the percentage of registered voters who turned in ballots.

“We think it’s a wonderful thing,” said Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, the region’s top election official. “The system works better the more people who participate.” Indeed. Voter participation has increased across the country, perhaps because of the coronavirus pandemic or maybe in spite of it. Either way, it is a good sign for representative democracy — provided that all legal votes are counted.

Jeers: To coronavirus. While the election has received the bulk of attention in recent weeks, the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc with increasing numbers of infections. Now, hospitals are preparing for increased activity through the fall and winter.

With cold weather bringing more people inside, cases are expected to spike, and several states have reported hospitals at or near capacity. In order to avoid an overflow of patients in Clark County, we remind residents to wear masks, practice social distancing and frequently wash their hands. Now is not the time to be lax regarding precautions.

Cheers: To computer assistance. The state government is using $24 million from its share of the federal CARES Act stimulus to provide computer devices for underserved students. A bulk purchase of 64,000 laptops and tablets will be distributed to school districts based on how many students lack the tools needed for remote learning. Earlier, state government spent $8.8 million of CARES funding to bolster internet service for needy students.

Remote learning has demonstrated the vast difference in resources between districts and students. Gov. Inslee’s office has not yet determined which districts will receive the computers, but working to close the education gap is a worthy use of the state’s funding.

Jeers: To inadequate mental health care. The pandemic has exacerbated Washington’s struggle to effectively — and legally — deal with mentally ill people facing criminal charges. A recent report from Crosscut detailed that 161 residents deemed too ill to stand trial are waiting in county jails across the state despite legal requirements that they be quickly transferred to a hospital.

County jails are poorly equipped to deal with mentally ill suspects, adding to the burden faced by corrections officers, patients and families of those who need help.

Cheers: To college football. In a slight nod to normalcy in a most abnormal year, Pac-12 Conference football teams are returning to the field today. Washington State plays at Oregon State to start the long-delayed season, while Oregon plays host to Stanford. Family members will be invited to attend games, but the general public is not allowed because of coronavirus restrictions.

The pandemic will have a lasting impact on big-time college sports, with revenue declining by tens of millions of dollars for each school. And there is no telling how many games will have to be cancelled because of coronavirus outbreaks, as has happened with the University of Washington’s scheduled opener. But for this week, at least, it will almost feel like a normal fall Saturday in front of the TV.

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