PRAISE&nays

PRAISE for West Virginia’s representatives in Congress and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce for their support of this week’s first “Taste of West Virginia.”

As West Virginia continues its celebration of 150 years in the Union, it only makes sense to highlight the pepperoni roll and other good foods that the Mountain State is known for.

Happening Tuesday evening in D.C. the event also included entertainment from West Virginia musicians and details about West Virginia-based businesses, universities and organizations.

NAY to young West Virginians for not making it out to the polls. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau released last month shows that in 2012, less than 23 percent of 18- to 24-year olds voted in West Virginia.

It’s the worst voting record of any age group in any state in the country.

This is particularly sad because it was a West Virginia lawmaker – the late U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph – who fought for decades to give 18-year-olds the right to vote.

Older West Virginians don’t do much better. The Mountain State came in last in the nation in voter turnout, making us the only state where less than half of eligible voters voted.

Youth voting declined across the country in 2012, but it fell by more than 50 percent here. Young West Virginians fell from slightly above average in 2008 to dead last by a sizable margin.

The Census voter turnout statistics are compiled using surveys, not actual voting numbers, but Census’ estimates of votes cast track very closely with the official numbers from Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.

“There’s some evidence that how competitive an election is impacts voter turnout,” said Neil Berch, an associate professor of political science at West Virginia University. “There’s a correlation between income and education level on the one hand and voter turnout on the other.”

One of Berch’s suggestions would be to extend the deadline for new voters to register to closer to Election Day. “States with same-day voter registration typically have about 10 percent higher turnout,” he notes.

We also hope this news dampens Republican leaders’ efforts to layer on more ID requirements for West Virginians heading out to vote. Now it’s clear that we need not more, but far fewer barriers to voting.

PRAISE for recognizing the important accomplishments of our business community.

Tonight’s a big night for business leaders as the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce holds its annual awards banquet.

Highlights of the event, to be held at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, will include a keynote address by Wallace E. Boston, the president and CEO of American Public University System; the George E. Vickers Business Award given to Hollywood Casino; the announcement of the 2013 Jefferson County Distinguished Citizen; and recognition of the owners of the county’s new businesses and the chamber’s officers and board of directors for the upcoming year.

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