TOP FIVE:  On voting machines, birth, juvenile prosecution, security and student loans

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By Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent  |  Our weekly Top Five feature offers big stories or views from the past week or so with policy and legislative implications that you need to read because of how they could impact South Carolina.  If you have stories to suggest to our readers, send to:  feedback@statehousereport.com.

  1. Paperless-voting states, including South Carolina, work to secure votes, The New York Times, Oct. 14, 2017.

South Carolina joins Colorado, West Virginia and Delaware as states without paper trails on electronic votes. After concerns of Russian hacking in U.S. elections, the states are looking to beef up security. The S.C. Election Commission has estimated it would cost $40 million to replace the state’s voting equipment, which hasn’t been updated since 2004, with machines that have auditable paper ballots. But the state has only raised $1 million toward replacement machines. An excerpt:

“(E)ven states that cannot afford more secure machines are taking steps to harden their election systems and bolster public confidence in the vote. South Carolina has accepted an offer of free ‘cyberhygiene’ scans of its system by Homeland Security experts. Colorado is upgrading its voting equipment, but it has also begun to receive Homeland Security screenings, added national guard security experts to its election team and tacked a basic security measure onto its voter-registration database: two-step authentication for anyone seeking to log into the system.”

  1. More women are giving birth in South Carolina without having prenatal care, The Post and Courier, Oct. 14, 2017.

There has been a 20-year peak in the number of S.C. women giving birth with no prenatal care. Advocates say that inadequate or no prenatal care can threaten infant health — a big concern in a state that has higher infant mortality than the rest of the nation. A 2015 investigation found that infant mortality in rural South Carolina resembles rates in developing countries. An excerpt:

“This discrepancy may be partly explained because the rate of women receiving no prenatal care is generally higher in rural counties where OB-GYNs are scarce. According to the Office of Healthcare Workforce, 11 of 46 South Carolina counties had no OB-GYN last year.”

  1. South Carolina one of four states to raise the age of juvenile prosecution, Campaign for Youth Justice, October 2017.

Four states have passed laws raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction — meaning that 16- and 17-year-olds are not automatically prosecuted as adults. The four states are South Carolina, Louisiana, New York and North Carolina. But that’s not necessarily good news yet for the state. An excerpt:

“While the unanimous passage of the legislation (in South Carolina) was a significant victory, the implementation of raise the age in South Carolina is contingent upon the legislature providing the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) with the funding required to implement the law during the 2018 legislative session. If DJJ requires additional funding to implement raise the age and the funding is not allocated, raise the age will not go into effect. If funding is provided then raise the age will be fully implemented by July 2019. South Carolina’s legislation does not require the creation of an implementation task force or committee. It only requires that and local agencies start cooperating together to move toward implementation starting in September 2017.”

  1. South Carolina one of minority of states with no security-breach legislative changes in 2017, National Conference of State Legislatures, Oct. 16, 2017.

South Carolina’s legislature did not introduce or consider any additional security-breach notification legislation or amendments to its existing law in 2017. The state already has a law on the books, which was last amended in 2013. In 2012, 3.6 million South Carolinians had their information compromised by the state. Only two states have no security-breach law: Alabama and South Dakota. An excerpt:

“At least 30 states in 2017 introduced or considered security breach notification bills or resolutions. Security breach laws require that consumers or citizens be notified if their personal information is breached. Legislation in most of these states would amend existing security breach laws applicable to business, government or educational institutions.”

  1. Student loan crisis recorded for African-American students, Center for American Progress, Oct. 16, 2017.

Black students in the United States who started postsecondary school in 2004 now owe more than what they originally borrowed on their federal student loans, no matter if they went to a public or private college. This report found that nearly half of African American borrowers have defaulted on their federal student loans. An excerpt:

“Seeing even African American students who earned a bachelor’s degree struggle also reinforces that we cannot pretend the federal student loan program exists in a vacuum. The median African American household has just $1,700 in accumulated wealth. Racial discrimination in hiring has not improved over the past quarter century. Perhaps it’s too much to expect student loans and postsecondary education to solve these structural problems, but sending African American students into an inequitable adulthood with large debts from college can put them even further behind than they already start.”

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