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May 8, 2014

THEIR OPINION — For May 8

Recent editorials from Indiana newspapers. Distributed by The Associated Press.

Clear the obstacles at primaries, and voters will come

It’s time for the state of Indiana to consider changing the way it allows Hoosiers to select candidates for general elections.

While we understand the allure of allowing voters to go to polling places to support candidates in a primary, the process in this state inhibits participation by forcing individuals to publicly pick a party for which to cast a ballot. And not any party, only Republican or Democrat.

Further, the law states if you pick a party’s ballot, you must intend to vote for a majority of the candidates from that party in the general election.

That’s ludicrous and unenforceable, but still, it could lead to irritating challenges by overzealous party members who want to block someone from voting. The issue was raised in the 2011 city primary in Bloomington when the hot race was on the Democrat ballot. So much for a private ballot in which voters can simply vote for people, not parties.

Most people simply stay away. Over the past 10 years, Monroe County primaries have attracted only about one of 10 registered voters. So the primaries become contests for the most faithful party regulars, often those on the wings of the parties. And the county taxpayers must foot the bill. ...

Indiana’s isn’t the least open, in that voters don’t have to register with one party or another before Election Day. They only have to declare their intention at the polling place. Things could be worse.

But we have to wonder whether political caucuses or conventions, funded by the parties instead of taxpayers, might be a better way to choose who’s going to run in general elections.

With turnout so low and public service needs far outstripping available public funds, let’s cut the spending on primaries — except in presidential years. Parties besides the Republicans and Democrats have to go this route anyway. Why not level the playing field for all, then let the races play out in the general election?

Since no such system is in place, though, we would encourage registered voters who don’t want to declare a party to hold their collective nose and go to the polls Tuesday anyway. In Monroe County, each party has some races worth your time, such as the sheriff’s race and clerk’s race on the Democrat ballot and races for county council nominations on the Republican ballot.

Both ballots have races for a grassroots level of government, township trustees and advisory boards. While a broader discussion about the system should occur, exercise your right to participate in the process we have now and vote.

— The Herald-Times, Bloomington

Out of the shadows

Like the image of a rapist lying in wait amid the bushes on a moonless night, the issue of rape itself has for too long been kept in the shadows. It’s something we don’t like to talk about in polite company, something far too many men minimize, something the least intelligent among us even see as deserved.

But, now, the issue has made huge and welcome headlines, nationally and locally, in recent days — perhaps more than ever before in our nation’s history. President Obama, to his great credit, has summoned the power of the federal government to spotlight a violent offense that has not been stopped, even though, by our words, we all say it is wrong, very wrong.

In late January, Obama targeted for federal attention a part of our society in which rapes — and related sexual offenses — are rampant: our college campuses. The combination of heavy drinking, date-rape drugs, close contact, inappropriate role playing and even what a United Nations study has called “sexual entitlement” has produced a pandemic of rape on campus.

A factor in this, New Republic magazine wrote in January, is that victims find that “schools’ internal judicial proceedings can be confusing and off-putting for victims, who find themselves appealing to administrators with little understanding of the issue.”

In other words, at too many colleges, not all offenses that would cause an arrest out in the community are dealt with criminally on campus. That can include sex crimes. Instead, internal discipline, too often cloaked in secrecy as part of the student’s so-called academic record, is meted out — sometimes even in cases of he-said, she-said (or, increasingly, he-said, he-said) sexual offenses, that, alas, cannot be proved.

On campuses where the allegation fits, the situation must be immediately acknowledged and almost as immediately remedied.

The latest national development came last week when the administration, first, issued task force recommendations to the nation’s campuses on the matter of sexual assaults, and, second, listed 55 colleges with open “sexual violence investigations.” Among those 55 were two from Indiana (IU-Bloomington and Vincennes University) and two from Illinois (Knox College and the University of Chicago).

That unprecedented listing of schools under investigation — including academic powerhouses such as Harvard, Princeton, Southern California, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State — speaks to the new seriousness that is being brought to bear on the issue of rape and its related crimes. But just as being on that list is not welcome (even as Education Secretary Arne Duncan says it carries “absolutely zero presumption” of guilt), not being on that list is no assurance that all is well.

All is not well. Much is very bad in a situation in which one in five women and one in 71 men has been a sexual assault victim. Much is very bad when a Harvard study finds that men who rape in college are likely to become serial rapists. Much is very bad, in that women between 16 and 24 are four times more likely to be raped than women overall, according to the Center for Public Integrity. And it is shameful that it has taken our society this long in its human evolution of right and wrong to get this far.

But at least these recent developments — both the words and the government actions — are a new beginning against rape. We cannot undo the harm done to victims of the past, but we do have the power as a people to alter the future for our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends and strangers. We can eliminate rape in their lifetimes.

— Tribune-Star, Terre Haute

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