Austin Daily Herald, July 16
It's time to discuss voting changes
Mower County officials and the state of Minnesota are both right for taking steps to make voting easier for the public in an effort to boost voter turnout, and it's time to discuss more changes.
Starting with the Aug. 12 primary, Minnesota will change to no-excuse absentee balloting, which means voters no longer need to provide an excuse to election officials on why they can't make it to the polls on Election Day. Mower County Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh described this as a precursor to early voting, which happens in states like Colorado. There, voters can cast ballots starting 15 days before the general election and 10 days before the primary, with voting ending on Election Day.
While Election Day — and to a lesser degree primary day — comes with a certain clout, there's no reason voting should be limited to one day, which is why absentee balloting started in the first place. The important part is that as many people as possible cast educated, well-reasoned votes. The date that ballot is cast isn't as important.
The trends favor absentee balloting or even early voting. In the 2012 general election, 40 percent of ballots were cast before Election Day, and that number is likely to increase.
In Mower County this year, residents will be able to obtain absentee ballots at the city clerk's offices in Rose Creek, LeRoy and Grand Meadow (absentee ballots are also available via the mail). While this may seem like a minor change to some, it will save residents living on the eastern side of the county a trip to Austin during work hours to obtain a ballot. Every little change helps.
The cities of Sargeant and Taopi will also switch to mail balloting to save on election judge and other costs. It's just another sign that elections are changing, and it's time for the public and elected officials to discuss ways to engage and include voters.
The elephant in the room is voter turnout. Only 9 percent of eligible Minnesota voters participated in the Aug. 14, 2012, primary — the second lowest turnout in the 62 years state officials have kept such election records. The 2012 election was better — 77 percent of registered voters in Minnesota — but there's still room for improvement.
Other countries are switching to online balloting, which comes with several red flags: hackers, security, authenticity, etc. After the many pitfalls of the websites for the Affordable Care Act, it's unlikely the public will rally behind on online voting anytime soon. But that doesn't mean it's not worth studying.
Are we saying it's the right option? No. There's far too many unanswered questions. However, it's always the right time to be proactive in considering new approaches. Plus, the more we know now, the more secure such a system will be if it is indeed in the nation's future, however far out.
No-excuse absentee balloting is a reasonable first step in Minnesota. It's time to discuss other options.
St. Cloud Times, July 16
Tell FCC to keep Web access equal for all
Unless your home page is http://www.headinthesand.gov , you probably know the FCC is trying to draft new regulations governing how information flows to and through the Internet.
This "net neutrality" debate hinges on whether the FCC should allow Internet service providers to set up deals with companies to stream their content faster than others. Many big ISPs (think Verizon, AT&T, etc) want that option. Opponents, of which this Editorial Board is one, say Internet access should be equal for all.
Friday marks an important date for you to share your opinion. That's when the FCC will close the public comment period involving its latest proposals, issued in May.
The period was supposed to close Tuesday, but so many people were — yes — using the Internet to weigh in, the FCC's website basically crashed. You can visit http://www.fcc.gov/comments and submit comments under "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet." Or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upon closing and review of these comments, another public comment opportunity will open when the FCC releases follow-up information.
Understandably, interest is high both for the mega-sized providers and, more importantly, the mega millions of small businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs that face an uneven playing field under potential "preferred access" deals.
Look no further than Facebook, Google, Twitter and Netflix. Each started as a fledgling operation. Thanks to an open Internet, each became hugely successful. That access is why they all joined many companies in the Internet Association, which is pushing "to create strong, enforceable net neutrality rules for wired and mobile networks." A trio of points make their case very compelling:
. The Internet should be free from censorship, discrimination and anti-competitive behavior, protected by simple and enforceable rules that ensure a consumer's equal access to content they want.
. Broadband subscribers should get the bandwidth they are paying for — content should be treated equally, without degradations in speed or quality. No artificial slow lanes.
. No matter how users choose to connect to the Internet, net neutrality rules should apply universally on wireless and wired networks.
Agree? Disagree? Jump on the Internet by Friday to share your views with FCC.
Albert Lea Tribune, July 17
All-Star Game benefited state
Target Field and the city of Minneapolis hosted the All-Star Game on Tuesday and just about everything went well. The weather was unseasonably cool, but that proved to be a blessing as the humidity levels were down. It was a great time to be outdoors.
Tens of thousands of baseball fans visited downtown Minneapolis, getting a glimpse of a beautiful, clean, safe, navigable major American city. There was no crime or mayhem either to detract from the sports proceedings. Merchants and restaurateurs did well, according to news reports. And Albert Lea, as a freeway stop, typically benefits from the Twin Cities being seen as a place to host major events. The success of the All-Star Game is good for Minnesota as a whole.
A rainbow graced the home run derby on Monday, and a rain delay pushed back the event, which resulted in late-night fireworks. The booms and bangs at 12:30 p.m. didn't set well with sleeping Minneapolitans. That was about the only hitch during the All-Star festivities that could be cited. It was small price to pay for the publicity and economic benefits.