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News Bites: Vote if You Can; A Peach of a Part; Big Brother is Running Your Tags

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VOTE—IF YOU CAN

Election season is upon us, and you can always tell when it’s near when it comes time to start throwing people off the voting rolls. Just kidding—voting is a sacred act of civic pride, and we would never do anything to interfere with anyone’s ability to participate in our democratic process. Mmm-hmm. But there is nothing wrong with a little extra scrutiny of potential scofflaws, as Kile Brewer reported in the July 3 edition of Clay Today.

In response to a request from Clay County’s Supervisor of Elections, the Florida Department of State did a deep-dive into the issue of so-called mail-forwarding services, which have apparently been used to somewhat sketchy effect, as far as voter registration is concerned. He wrote, “The opinion states that a person who uses a mail-forwarding service to establish residency in a county, but has no residential address there, is not a legal resident of the county and that is not sufficient to establish residency for voter registration.” This opinion, issued June 19, potentially affects as many as 3,000 registered voters in the county.

Clay’s SOE then met with the owners of one mail-forwarding service and told them their clients would no longer be registered to vote there, and one of them, in turn, sought redress from the County Commission. The 3,000 people currently in question will be evaluated individually, using questionnaires and a list of 14 “overt acts” clients can use to establish legal residency. It’s unclear how any of this will impact the voter status of people using similar services in other counties, but with the 2018 elections looking to be about as close as they always are, every single vote counts—or not.

A PEACH OF A PART

When you think of Georgia, what’s the first word that comes to mind? If you said “cinema,” you’re a weirdo, but you may have a point, if a recent story in the Tribune-Georgian is any indication. Reporter Jill Helton profiled local actor James Ballard, who’s carved out a nice little living acting in productions around the state. “Since Georgia has become one of the top destinations for film production,” she wrote, “acting opportunities are closer to home than they have ever been. Ballard, 27, commutes to movie sets all over the Southeast each week, but for now, he is still maintaining Camden as his home base.”

The six-foot-three-inch military veteran has landed a number of small roles that play to his type, and that’s pretty cool. He’s racked up two credits this year, with another seven in the works for 2019. The roles have been small, but the productions have been, well, not small. “[T]he titles could not be any bigger,” Helton wrote, “and often include some of Hollywood’s most popular actors—Clint Eastwood, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Liam Hemsworth, John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Brendan Fraser, Naomi Watts, Lawrence Fishburne, Bradley Cooper and so many others.” His persistence has certainly paid off, and the same can be said for the Georgia film community, in general.

 

BIG BROTHER IS RUNNING YOUR TAGS

St. Johns County Sheriff’s Department has recently taken a lead with its use of so-called “LPR technology” in crime-fighting efforts. Its investment has generated serious dividends, according to Jared Keever of the St. Augustine Record. LPR stands for “license plate reader,” which has allowed the Sheriff’s Office to get the jump on car thieves and other miscreants in the community. After starting it quietly as a pilot program last year, the department has slowly expanded its use of these devices.

“They come in different forms,” Keever writes, “these cameras that scan plate numbers and check them against a database of vehicles that have either been tagged as stolen or connected in some way to a serious crime.

“Some can be mounted to patrol vehicles and scan traffic as a deputy goes about his or her daily routine, others can be mounted permanently in high-traffic areas, and others can be moved around and placed in areas where they are needed most. The Sheriff’s Office is using the car-mounted and the moveable type.”

Results came quickly and dramatically, leading to a sharp increase in vehicle theft arrests and, more important, the arrests of several folks wanted for violent crimes in other parts of the country, including an accused sex-criminal from Missouri and a murder suspect from Wisconsin. The program has gotten some negative heat, particularly from the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which worries about potential overreach by police, who could use the technology to spy on citizens whose only crime is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a legitimate concern, but until specific evidence of abuse materializes, it seems likely that the program will continue, and maybe even expand into other counties. After all, everyone likes a winner.

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