Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Aug. 13

The Brunswick News on opportunities for Georgia residents to learn how to use new voting machines:

The democratic process relies on us, the American people, to exercise our duty and vote. When you don't vote, you are choosing not to have a say in how the government works for you.

Voting in Georgia is set to change soon though. State officials announced last month that the state would purchase new voting machines and that they would be implemented during the 2020 presidential primaries on March 24.

The new voting machines cost $112 million and are coming south from Canada-based Dominion Voting System. The purchase was part of an elections overhaul signed into law by new Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in April. Along with a requirement that all voting machines include a paper ballot component, the law also required local boards of elections to give the public more advance notice before moving or closing polling locations, lengthened the time it takes for an inactive voter to fall off the rolls and slackened the "exact match" voter verification rules.

So what does this mean when you walk into a polling booth on March 24, 2020? Well you get to learn a new voting machine.

Since the bill's passage, local elections officials have laid the groundwork for a public information campaign to teach voters how to use the machines ahead of the primary. ...

"The new machines were announced, so we know what we're getting," said Christina Redden, assistant elections and registration supervisor. "It's really just talking about the new machines, and where we're going to go from there."

It's important that all voters take advantage of this campaign and learn how to use them. Nobody likes being stuck in a line at the grocery store, movie theater or the ballot box. If you come in prepared to vote and know how the machine works, then it will be a quick stop not just for you, but the people behind you will be grateful.

That line could be quite a long one judging from the 2018 voter turnout, where the county saw record turnout with 60.1 percent of register voters casting a ballot. That means 32,611 voters out of 54,274 registered voters went to the polls. It is safe to say we can expect more in 2020.

So when the Glynn County Board of Elections is educating the public on how the new voting machine works, we ask that you pay attention and learn what you need to know before going to the polls next year.

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Aug. 13

Savannah Morning News on shark fin exports out of the coastal port:

Here in Savannah, we're usually proud to be No. 1. Whether in sports, tourism, manufacturing or business, we like to be on top.

However, there's one controversial area in which we don't necessarily want to be the leader: shark fin exports. The Port of Savannah has been leading the U.S. in shark fin exports over the past five years. That's because shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy that can retail for $100 per bowl, is fueling the lucrative global industry.

Every year, more than $808,000 worth of shark fins — or 9,000 tons — move through our local ports. Interestingly, it's all headed to Hong Kong, where it is ultimately distributed across Asia.

AN UGLY BUSINESS

"Finning," the process of harvesting shark fins, is an ugly business. Fisherman cut the dorsal fins off live wild sharks before returning them to the open ocean. Without dorsal fins, sharks have difficulty stabilizing themselves, which dooms them to a certain death. Every year, an estimated 73 million sharks are killed for their fins.

Finning live sharks has been illegal in U.S. waters since 2000, but it's still legal to buy and sell shark fins in America.

Banning shark fin exports is more than just a symbolic gesture — it's a meaningful way to make a difference for the environment. Sharks, which have been apex predators for millions of years, play a crucial role in a healthy marine ecosystem, keeping the population of other species in check.

Sadly, a quarter of all shark and ray species are currently listed as threatened, largely due to overfishing and finning. Outlawing shark fin exports from U.S. ports is one way to make a positive impact.

THE TIDE IS TURNING

Over the past six years, Asian importers have focused on Savannah's port as a strategic location to export dried shark fins from the U.S. Interestingly, no shark fins were exported from Savannah in 2013, but the trade skyrocketed over the next few years as coastal Georgia grew to become a major global shark fin exporter.

However, the international tide has been turning against the shark fin trade. Canada, the biggest importer of shark fins outside of Asia, banned shark fin imports and exports earlier this summer. A number of other countries around the world have done so as well, drawing a firm line in the sand when it comes to the shark fin trade. UPS, which is based in Atlanta, announced several years ago it would no longer ship shark fins.

Since 2010, a number of U.S. states have outlawed the buying and selling of shark fins as a way to protect threatened species and to reject the inhumane, wasteful global finning industry. Georgia is not currently among the 12 states with active bans in place.

U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have spoken out in support of a ban on shark fin exports, including Savannah's own U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter as well as other congressman in the Georgia delegation, such as Sanford Bishop Jr., Henry C. Johnson, David Scott and Rob Woodall.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress introduced the bipartisan Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, which would ban the trade of shark fins in America. The bill is currently awaiting a hearing in the House.

Carter, who has been outspoken in his support for outlawing shark fin exports, already signed an earlier version of the House bill, known as the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act, in 2017.

Although the new bill wouldn't necessarily affect shark fishing, it would take a big bite out of the shark fin export trade. Environmental conservation groups have suggested that passing of this ban would decrease shark finning worldwide and position the U.S. as a leader in shark protection.

Sharks may not be warm, fuzzy and cute, but they deserve protection from the money-hungry finning trade. Let's join our state legislators — as well as national lawmakers — in saying "no" to shark fin exports, once and for all.

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Aug. 12

The Augusta Chronicle on frustration over the mayor's response to recent mass shootings:

A common clichéd phrase in crime stories is "the shooter acted alone."

In this case the mayor did.

It might not look like it at first blush. Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis attached his signature, with the signatures of 213 other mayors across the country, to a letter from the U.S. Conference of Mayors to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The mayors urged Senate passage of even more gun safety laws.

"We urge you to call the Senate back to session now to take up and pass these bills to help reduce gun violence and the terrible toll it takes in our cities and our nation," the Aug. 8 letter said in part.

But several commissioners were quick to distance themselves from the announcement. Whatever the mayor signed, apparently, wasn't moved forward with the Augusta Commission's unanimous backing or knowledge.

"It should come before the commission. He's trying to use his legislative experience on the commission. It don't work like that," District 9 Commissioner Marion Williams said.

"I don't know whether he signed it as representing the citizens of Augusta for what they wanted. None of the commissioners were consulted. I'd have liked for it to be brought before us," District 10 Commissioner John Clarke said.

"I'm not in favor of abridging anybody's constitutional rights, and I'd like to know who authorized the mayor to sign that letter," District 8 Commissioner Brandon Garrett said.

Davis said that he is "the only member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors representing Augusta, Georgia," and as the mayor he didn't need authorization.

Perhaps not. But we're with the commissioners on this one. At least signing on to this letter with the entire commission's united approval would have carried more weight.

But that's almost beside the point, considering the letter sought the wrong solution in the first place.

The complicated mess of gun violence won't be rubbed out with a broad-sweeping, one-dimensional solution. It's a big problem comprised of many smaller problems, meaning it's going to take a lot of solutions.

We understand the frustration of America's mayors. It's not like in the movies, where the sheriff tells all the buckaroos they can't ride into town with shooting irons. Cities — thankfully — can't ban guns outright.

But nobody's stopping cities from taking creative approaches. After all, it's not a "gun problem." It's a violence problem.

Preserve the rights of legal, responsible gun owners and instead enact policies to go after the people actually causing the real trouble — folks who are recklessly dangerous, with firearms or any other weapon. We encourage the authorities to throw the book at someone acting stupidly with a deadly weapon, because stupid people with deadly weapons are precisely how innocent people get hurt. Or killed.

City governments ought to have a strong say in dealing with unsafe lawbreakers within their limits. And one of the aims of the U.S. Conference of Mayors is for members to trade ideas on policies that have worked in their respective cities.

If there's a commonsense idea that has succeeded elsewhere and kept everyone's constitutional rights intact, we wouldn't mind our mayor taking a closer look at it. In fact we'd recommend it.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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