Matt Driscoll

Apologist for criminals? Naive about voter fraud? You rip. TNT columnist responds

Columnist shrugs off verbal abuse, contests reader’s view of needle exchange program

News columnist Matt Driscoll responds to reader mail, shrugging off verbal abuse and contesting one writer's view of the needle exchange program in September's edition of "You Rip, I Respond."
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News columnist Matt Driscoll responds to reader mail, shrugging off verbal abuse and contesting one writer's view of the needle exchange program in September's edition of "You Rip, I Respond."

It’s time, once again, for my monthly, “You rip, I respond,” column.

You know how it works: Angry folks write or call, and I respond. Then hilarity and an occasional expletive ensues.

First, however, I’d like to pose a sincere question to readers.

I’ve been writing the mailbag column for a full year now. Mostly, it’s been a fairly enjoyable exercise. It’s even been cathartic at times — providing a creative outlet for some of the utter nonsense that finds its way to my inbox.

At the same time, it hasn’t always felt fun. Take July’s column, for example. I wrote several immigration-related columns that month, and the emails that ensued — while perhaps predictable, given the current state of things — left me feeling conflicted about the entire endeavor.

When I’m out and about, this column is the one people talk to me about the most. Some people love it. Some people hate it.

Which brings me to the question: Should I continue doing this for another year? Do you appreciate reading it? Or should I try something new?

Let me know how you feel. As my critics know, I can be reached at matt.driscoll@thenewstribune.com

Now, on to this month’s emails …

In a city with bums injecting heroin everywhere and (expletive deleted) on private property, it is hilarious that you’re writing about electric scooters and how disabled people might be affected. This is why The News Tribune is a (expletive deleted) rag that nobody except brain-dead liberal baby boomers still read. You are a jokester pop-up ad salesman. — Jordan

Sick burn, Jordan.

Who hurt you?

As usual, your conclusions are short on research, long on personal opinion. We voted 11 days early and our ballots have not been tabulated. Voter fraud happens in every model. Don’t be naive in thinking it doesn’t happen here. — Mark

Thanks for reaching out, Mark.

There’s plenty of evidence to show that all-mail voting is a simpler and easier way for people to vote. In fact, it’s really not even close.

Just take what we saw across the country earlier this month. At physical polling locations across the country, power outages effected people’s ability to vote. Car crashes effected people’s ability to vote. Humidity — yes, freaking humidity — affected people’s ability to vote.

It’s ridiculous, and as Washington citizens we should take pride in the fact we’ve adopted a better system.

That was the argument I made in the column, and I stick by it.

To be clear, I did not make the argument that all-mail voting is a panacea for everything — including turnout — or that it prevents all forms of voter fraud.

Obviously, oversight and transparency are needed in all elections, whatever the method of voting.

When it comes to voter fraud, I’m not naïve. I don’t believe it’s a complete fallacy, but I do think concerns about it tend to be overblown. It’s rare, and the public officials overseeing our elections in Washington — whether it’s Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson or Secretary of State Kim Wyman — do an impressive job keeping things on the up and up.

Most of all, I think it’s incredibly dangerous and intellectually dishonest when politicians use concerns about alleged, rampant voter fraud in an attempt to restrict legally registered voters’ ability to cast a ballot. They know precisely what they’re doing, and folks who buy into it are either being deceived or complicit.

Finally, I would recommend reaching out to the Pierce County Auditor’s office if your ballots have not been counted.

How is it that you you’re comfortable taking a cheap shot at Brian Kemp for voter suppression due to Georgia’s exact match requirement yet propose going to a mail ballot system when there is a potential for the ballot failing to reach the voter due to inaccuracies in the names and addresses of voters? Your thoughts on mail-in voting only demonstrates why exact match is critical to protect integrity in the voting system. I’d love to see you address this in your monthly article on the letters you receive! — Scott

Thanks for the note, Scott. I appreciate it.

The shots I took at Brian Kemp were not cheap. In fact, I probably went easier than he deserved. As secretary of state in Georgia, it was Kemp who oversaw this year’s gubernatorial election — in which he was a candidate — and it was Kemp who oversaw the purge of more than a million voters from the state’s rolls.

It was also Kemp who suspended the registration applications of 53,000 voters — with 70 percent belonging to African-Americans.

Oh, and according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 214 local voting precincts were closed across the state since 2012. Coincidentally, Kemp served as secretary of state from 2010 until this month.

I don’t care what your politics are, Scott. If you can’t see how wrong and wholly undemocratic that is, I don’t have much time for your concerns. As I said earlier, you’ve either been deceived or you’re being complicit.

When it comes to Pierce County, vote by mail “eliminates most of the opportunities to actively suppress votes,” according to Auditor Julie Anderson,

Vote by mail, Anderson said, “provides superior access to democracy and electoral participation. Many of the suppression issues are moot.”

Finally, when it comes to exact match, it’s a good thing Washington doesn’t subscribe to that nonsense — because it’s totally unnecessary and is really just a sneaky way of suppressing votes.

“We contact the ‘no signers’ and ‘bad signers’ with a letter, as well as a phone call, and provide them with a way to cure their signature. They have 20 days to rectify the problem — the day prior to certification of the election,” Anderson explained of Washington’s system.

“Only 1-percent to 1.5-percent of ballots are rejected because of signature issues.”

How does gang members pointing guns at children become a feel-good story? Would you feel the same had your children been looking down the barrel of that gun? … Who are you to determine he paid his price? So many questions, such a ridiculous article! — Robert

Hi, Robert. Good hearing from you.

It came as no surprise that my column about Zyion Houston-Sconiers elicited a number of responses from readers. Houston-Sconiers’ crime — the Halloween 2012 gunpoint robbery of trick-or-treaters, including children — was jarring, and, understandably, people still remember it.

The 31-year sentence Houston-Sconiers initially received also was jarring. Thankfully, it was eventually reduced, thanks to a Washington State Supreme Court decision giving Superior Court judges greater discretion when sentencing juveniles convicted as adults of criminal misconduct.

In my opinion, it was the right decision.

Houston-Sconiers was released from prison earlier this year, after serving five years for his crime. At 23, he’s now trying to put his life back together — including speaking to kids at Jason Lee Middle School this year. I sincerely hope he’s successful.

I don’t believe my column was simply a “feel-good story.” I think it was a real reflection on the often complicated human experience, including the mistakes people make, the factors that contribute to those mistakes and how people attempt to move forward.

Finally, it’s not up to me to decide whether Houston-Sconiers paid the price for his crimes.

It’s up to the courts. That’s how our system works.

Matt Driscoll is a reporter and The News Tribune’s metro news columnist. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Driscoll lives in Central Tacoma with his wife and three children. He’s passionate about the City of Destiny and strives to tell stories that might otherwise go untold.


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