Better approach to vote centers

Election officials are once again considering establishing vote centers to allow voters to cast their ballots at any polling place in St. Joseph County.

But this time around, the proposal calls for a more thoughtful, less rushed approach.

That's one way that this latest plan represents an improvement on the earlier proposal. The plan of more than four years ago called for substantial consolidation of polling locations right off the bat. It was scrapped after opposition from county Democrats who were concerned it could depress voter turnout.

There would be no consolidation or closing of precincts under St. Joseph County's latest plan, at least not yet. All 146 polling locations would be kept through next year's presidential election.

Voting centers aren't a new idea. The model is already in use in 38 of Indiana's 92 counties. Elkhart County implemented vote centers in 2014, and Marion County began using vote centers in the last primary to increase the number of options voters have to cast their ballots.

The county election board has asked the county council and commissioners to approve the idea. The board must also submit its plan to the Indiana Secretary of State before public comment and unanimous re-approval by the election board. Then after public comment and unanimous re-approval by the election board, the plan would be in place, "hopefully by New Year's," according to county clerk Rita Glenn.

Glenn noted that after analyzing data from the 2020 elections, the election board could consider consolidating some polling locations or scaling down the number of machines, depending on voter turnout.

We support efforts to make voting easier and more efficient without disenfranchising anyone in the process. Allowing people to vote at any polling place that's most convenient to them, whether that place be close to their home or workplace or on the way to their children's school, seems to fulfill those goals. But we are also sensitive to concerns about ensuring such change is discussed publicly so that it doesn't confuse or discourage anyone from voting — and that any decisions about any future consolidations are made with transparency and with reliable data.

Changing the way a community votes is no small thing. It strikes to the heart of our democracy, to our rights as citizens. And so moving to vote centers shouldn't be done in haste, and without first getting buy-in from the voters.

- South Bend Tribune

Social media and suicide prevention

When it comes to early warning signs of suicide, social media may be an undervalued resource.

Mike and Shelly Roberts, whose 17-year-old son Nolan took his own life in September, shared their story at Highland Middle School on Oct. 29. Nolan’s friends would later tell them that he had left disturbing posts on social media in the days preceding his death.

We commend the Robertses for sharing their story, which couldn’t have been easy to do.

Their story contains a powerful lesson that in order to read the warning signs, we must be looking in the right place.

Social media, for all its ups and downs, is a part of our lives and is a major part of how young people communicate.

It might be time to break through all the polarizing arguments that clog up our news feeds, to look past all the bickering and complaining and use social networking for what it was really meant to facilitate — human connection.

We ought to look past the negativity and recognize that there is an actual person behind every post.

Though it may be tempting to scroll past unhappy messages, it may be worthwhile to stop and check in on a friend who is showing signs of depression.

You may be the one to respond to a friend’s last cry for help.

Social media is frequently criticized for severing our connections to the real world and to the people who are right next to us. However, if we know the language, we might find that people using social media are communicating loud and clear and that we would be wise to listen.

- The Herald Bulletin, Anderson

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