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NWA EDITORIAL | THURSDAY’S THUMBS: Arkansas gets an “election integrity unit,” but will it live up to its name?

Will ‘integrity’ be at election unit’s core? by NWA Democrat-Gazette | March 23, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
A roll of voting stickers is seen on Election Day, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Elm Grove Community Center at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Fort Smith. Voters in Sebastian County cast their ballots for several primary, county, city and school board races, as well as special tax elections. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

It's Thursday and another chance to fire off a few up or down thumbs about some of news developments in our neck of the woods and elsewhere:

[THUMBS UP] There's little question a growing number of people are relishing the opportunity to play pickleball, a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis and is easy enough to play that people of all ages can take up their paddles to play. The demand for courts customized to the sport is high and communities are responding. Parks officials in Fayetteville, for example, recently discussed a $700,000 plan to convert on full-size and four junior-size tennis courts into eight regulation-size pickleball courts. Rogers is building a lighted pickleball complex with eight courts at Mount Hebron Park. Benton plans to build a lighted, eight-court pickleball complex at Creekside Park. Springdale proposes new pickleball facilities in its May 9 bond issue election. In December, the Sebastian County Quorum Court approved spending $558,013 to build eight pickleball courts at Ben Geren Park in Fort Smith. Fort Smith leaders have included pickleball courts in a potential $31 million indoor sports facility they're studying. Other communities are sweet on pickleball, too. It's great to see them responding to the sport's popularity by creating spaces dedicated to the its play. The goal of every parks and recreation program, after all, is to get people active. Pickleball is a great addition to the many recreational opportunities residents have.

[THUMBS UP] Pin a star on the folks at the U.S. Marshal's Museum in Fort Smith. Photographs published Sunday in this newspaper show real progress on the development of interactive exhibits documenting the legendary history of this law enforcement agency and its place in U.S. history. It's hard to believe it's been 16 years since Fort Smith was announced as the museum site, a natural extension of the city's historic links to taming western territories. It's been a long slog of fund-raising, which continues today. Now, it's not hard to imagine the facility opening its doors in the not-too-distant future. Will it be the draw everyone involved hopes it will be? There's certainly a fascinating story to tell. Until the doors open, who can know for sure? But we're hoping it becomes one more strong tourism-related amenity for the region.

[THUMBS DOWN] Who could possibly be bothered by an effort to ensure the integrity of state and local elections? Elections are a vital part of our democracy, after all. But as the nation has witnessed in recent years, some candidates and officeholders have made political hay out of raising questions about election integrity when evidence demonstrated their concerns lacked substance. In other words, their pursuit of "integrity" lacked the very thing they said they were concerned about. So now Arkansas' new attorney general, Tim Griffin, has announced his office has created an Election Integrity Unit, intended to track violations of election laws. Whether it's an effort worth creating depends entirely on the integrity of the unit itself. Will it play political games that undermine faith in Arkansas' election proceedings without evidence? Will it use its powers to demonstrate when Arkansas election officials perform admirably and with professionalism, as we're convinced most accomplish every election season? Or will little hiccups that are naturally going to occur with such a massive undertaking be blown out of proportion for political ends? Let's hope Griffin's unit understands integrity as its most basic responsibility.

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Want to give some brief feedback on news? Someone who deserves a pat on the back? An idea that needs a dose of common sense? Recommend a "Thursday thumb" by calling Greg Harton at (479) 872-5026 or by email at [email protected]


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