Chicago Sun-Times

If you’re watching for waves in the current election, keep your eye out for a wave of voter suppression.

In Illinois, people already are voting at early-voting sites or via mail-in ballots. Unlike in the past, those who aren’t registered can sign up to vote right up until Election Day on Nov. 6. It’s a much more convenient — and democratic — system than the days when a long day at work, a blizzard or a family emergency could make it impossible to get to the polls.

But in some of our neighboring states and around the nation, efforts are afoot to discourage people from voting, violating the very idea of a government that rules based on popular will.

We all should be outraged at this assault on our democratic values, and we should insist other states encourage people to vote, not put up barriers.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 99 bills to make it harder to vote were introduced last year in 31 states. We see the results everywhere.

In North Dakota, with approval from the Supreme Court, voters need IDs showing their address. That leaves out many people on Native American reservations who use P.O. boxes. Because Native Americans make up 5 percent of the state’s voters, that could tip what is now a very close Senate race.

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is running for governor, is using an "exact-match law" to put 53,000 voter-registration applications on hold. Nearly 70 percent of the suspended applications are those of African-Americans, even though they make up only 32 percent of the state’s population.

Georgia also purged more than a half-million voters from the rolls last year, many of them under a rule that allows people to be purged if they haven’t voted recently.

Closer to home, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio, have passed strict voter-I.D. or roll-purge laws, which discourage turnout among groups that tend to vote Democratic.

For people who don’t have driver’s licenses, getting a getting a government ID to vote can mean traveling to state agencies that sometimes have very limited hours, taking a day off work and assembling personal documents. Aggressively purging voter rolls, often using the controversial and error-prone Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, can mean people who believe they still are registered will find out otherwise when they show up to vote.

Wisconsin has a photo ID law that some believe tipped the 2016 election in that state. Critics say an Iowa voter ID law that will be in partial effect in this election will disenfranchise many students. Ohio, like Georgia, has enacted a law that strikes people from the voting rolls if they haven’t voted recently.

Voter suppression is just one tool that is upending elections. Outside interference through social media and dark money or uncapped campaign spending also takes a toll. But that’s all the more reason voter suppression should be relegated to history, along with poll taxes and literacy tests.

Over the past couple of months, the Sun-Times Editorial Board has interviewed candidates running in dozens of Chicago-area races. We’ve heard spirited discussions and a wide range of ideas.

Those ideas, not ballot-access trickery, are what should decide elections.



The Post and Courier

President Trump’s assertion on Tuesday that he could end birthright citizenship via an executive order likely is another attempt to stir up immigration as a campaign issue ahead of next week’s midterm election.

It’s a bad and almost certainly unconstitutional idea, and had the matter stopped there, it would hardly merit serious discussion.

Then, a few hours later in a series of tweets, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he would introduce legislation "along the same lines" as Mr. Trump’s proposed executive order. It’s not the first time Mr. Graham, long an advocate of immigration reform, has suggested such a change. But he now has a president open to the idea.

Executive orders have been used inappropriately in the past to implement sweeping changes in immigration policy, and presidents from both parties have used the tactic in other sometimes dubious ways. But birthright citizenship comes straight out of the Constitution, and allowing the president to alter that document unilaterally would be a serious assault on democracy.

The 14th Amendment states that, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

There’s some room for debate about whether or not that applies to people living illegally in the United States. But presuming that the rest of the Constitution applies to all people on U.S. soil — legally present or not, citizen or foreigner — it’s clear enough that birthright citizenship would as well.

Mr. Graham is on firmer legal ground than Mr. Trump by calling for legislation, presumably to amend the Constitution. But unless Republicans pick up significantly larger majorities in both the House and Senate next Tuesday, getting two-thirds of both chambers to vote for an end to birthright citizenship seems exceedingly unlikely.

That’s probably for the best. On the whole, birthright citizenship is a boon for the United States rather than a burden. We need young Americans to grow up into our future leaders, to drive economic growth, to invent and create and innovate.

It’s perfectly reasonable to be wary of pregnant women traveling to the United States just to have a baby here, but there are less draconian ways to prevent that, like tightening border security.

It’s also true that illegal immigrants commonly have children who are granted U.S. citizenship. Over the past several years, anywhere between 5 and 10 percent of all births in the United States have been to undocumented parents, according to the Pew Research Center.

But denying citizenship to those children probably wouldn’t encourage their parents to leave. Instead, it would create a permanent underclass of effectively nation-less people who grow up in the United States but face higher barriers to living a productive, prosperous life — all through no fault of their own.

Generally, the goal of immigration reform is to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows and put them on a path toward legality, not to drive them further underground.

Illegal immigrant families do impose costs on taxpayers, particularly when their kids are citizens who are eligible for a broader range of social and safety net programs. But they also put billions of dollars into the economy each year, providing a significant net benefit by most measures.

Sen. Graham and President Trump are right that the United States desperately needs to reform its immigration laws and border security policies to protect national security and a lawful society. There is no question about that. But undoing birthright citizenship could actually undermine those efforts.

Besides, most meaningful immigration reforms wouldn’t require changing the Constitution. We’d be much better off starting with those.



Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

She lived 97 years, only to be gunned down in her synagogue.

That was the unfair end to the life that Rose Mallinger lived with energy, love and joy.

While the enormity of Saturday’s mass shooting at Tree of Life is most easily comprehended in numbers and turns of phrase — 11 dead in what has been described as the most horrific attack on the American Jewish community in U.S. history — that doesn’t begin to articulate the loss rippling across the victims’ families, professions and communities.

The victims had gifts to give, like Ms. Mallinger’s love and wisdom for her family, and they enriched the world in ways that should be celebrated and remembered.

Consider the sharp mind, healing hand and compassionate heart of Jerry Rabinowitz, a family physician who could make everything better. The field of medicine, so often criticized for bureaucracy these days, will be poorer without his human touch.

Think of Joyce Fienberg, a research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center from 1983 to 2008. Who knows how many schools, teachers and students benefited from her insights or how her work may influence the field of education for years to come?

Ponder the resilience modeled by David and Cecil Rosenthal, two brothers with intellectual disabilities who lived full lives in a world often unkind to people who are different.

Consider the cumulative effect of the many kindnesses of Daniel Stein and Irving Younger, who served as youth baseball coaches and held various roles at the synagogue. Mr. Younger often greeted congregants and bid them welcome. Vibrant communities and well-run organizations rely on volunteers like these.

How precious the example of Bernice and Sylvan Simon, a married couple whose love spanned more than six decades; of Richard Gottfried, a dentist who married a Catholic woman and volunteered his services to a free clinic run by Catholic Charities; and of Melvin Wax, whose spirituality defied an ever-more-secular world. Bill Cartiff, a friend of Mr. Wax, said that going to synagogue "was as important to him as breakfast to most people."

Only by knowing a little about the victims is it possible to fathom all that was stolen by one man with crazy ideas about Jews and refugees. If people filled with hate got to know the people they’ve come to hate, there might be more peace in the world. Who could hate Ms. Mallinger or the Rosenthals?

Mr. Cartiff asked, "How do we move from here?" The lives the 11 lived — filled with joy, civic-mindedness and compassion for others — are pointing the way.



Los Angeles Times

The social network styled itself as a defender of right-leaning and provocative speech that mainstream social networks couldn’t stomach. In that role, it blithely gave Robert Bowers, the man accused of shooting up a Pittsburgh synagogue during Saturday morning services, a place to complain openly about "the overwhelming Jew problem" and the threat it poses to white Americans.

Bowers was hardly a fish out of water on Gab, although his posts may have been more virulently hate-filled than most offerings on the site. Yet as offensive as his screeds were, none of them violated Gab’s permissive guidelines, which drew the line only against clearly illegal acts. And Gab could post Bowers’ words with relative impunity, thanks to the 1st Amendment and the protections that federal law offers to sites that publish users’ offerings without editing them.

But now Gab finds itself cut off from the Internet, at least for the time being. The companies that hosted Gab’s site, steered internet users to its domain and processed payments from subscribers and donors have told Gab that it violated their terms of service by publishing content they considered threatening. It’s hard to be an outlet for uncensored speech when no one will let you set up shop.

This page has vigorously defended free speech against efforts by the government or its agencies to stifle it. Gab’s dilemma raises a different issue because it’s been bounced off the internet by private businesses, not government bureaucrats. Gab founder Andrew Torba casts this development in sinister terms, writing, "We are the most censored, smeared, and no-platformed startup in history, which means we are a threat to the media and to the Silicon Valley Oligarchy."

But companies doing business with Gab have a right to make their decisions individually about whom to do business with, just as the Los Angeles Times has the right to decide which advertisements to run and which op-eds to publish. Gab argues that Silicon Valley is doing too much to censor the internet, when in fact companies like Facebook and Twitter have the opposite problem — they are unable to keep up with the hate, violence and deception spewed by some of their users.

Gab will most likely find other suppliers of the bandwidth and services it needs, and even if it doesn’t, its users will find other outlets to carry their views. Cyberspace has no real boundaries, after all. But no company should be forced to do business with Gab if the content that Gab embraces violates its terms of service and threatens its brand. If a business doesn’t want to be associated anti-Semitic screeds, unabashed racism or other forms of hate speech, it has the right to steer clear.



Boston Herald 

The cost of prescription medication has been an increasing burden to many Americans, and despite the Affordable Care Act, its partial dismantling and constant static from both political parties, there has been little relief.

It is thus welcome news that President Trump announced Thursday a plan to lower prices for some prescription medications. "We are taking aim at the global freeloading that forces American consumers to subsidize lower prices in foreign countries through higher prices in our country," he said.

The president zeroed in on disparities across the globe. "Same company. Same box. Same pill. Made in the exact same location, and you would go to some countries and it would be 20 percent of the cost of what we pay. We’re fixing it."

Under Trump’s plan, drugs administered in a doctor’s office and paid through Medicare would be priced downward to a level more equitable with international prices. Right now, average prices in the U.S. are approximately double those in the rest of the world.

The projected effect of the new plan can be seen with chemotherapy treatments. "Some Medicare beneficiaries use a drug to fight infection that currently costs Medicare $4,700 every time they receive chemotherapy," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "On average it costs other countries $1,100. These beneficiaries would see their co-insurance drop from over $900 every time they use the drug to under $300 after full implementation of the proposal."

The new payment model would be phased in over five years and overall savings for American taxpayers and patients are projected to total $17.2 billion, with out-of-pocket savings potentially totaling $3.4 billion, according to HHS.

This is a good first step. The plan still has to be fully fleshed out and is going to be implemented cautiously.

Other countries would need to shoulder more of the overall burden and that will require a measure of diplomacy from the Trump administration. Attacking "foreign freeloading" will have to be supplanted with something more palatable.

Regardless of what form of health care Americans want — whether it’s single-payer, a public option or something else — we can all agree that a family should not have to go broke because of a cancer diagnosis.

This is a good start to reaching that goal.