Saturday Mailbox


December 02, 2006

Young voters faced problems at polls

It was great to see the column by Ray Martinez III and Avi Rubin on voting problems nationwide ("Voting system still needs fixing," Opinion Commentary, Nov. 28). But it should be noted that the problems here in Maryland were almost as severe.

In Maryland, many young voters began experiencing problems well before they reached the polls.

The voter registration forms require an ID number. While many voters use their driver's license number, the form says a voter can also use the last four digits of his or her Social Security Number as identification - and many students who do not have a Maryland driver's license do so.

The state, unfortunately, did not process some of the forms that used the last digits of the Social Security Number in time for the election.

The state sent hundreds of letters to students, informing them that their registrations were in "pending" status, and that they might not be able to vote on Election Day.

For the students who tried to vote, the process was frustrating and disempowering.

Those in pending status had to fill out provisional ballots, while many whose registrations should have been processed found they were not on the rolls when they got to the polls.

In College Park, students experienced three-hour lines.

In Somerset County and other parts of Prince George's County, some poorly trained poll-workers did even not offer some students provisional ballots

According to most student accounts, Baltimore City and Baltimore County did a much better job processing student voters. But many still felt disempowered by their provisional-ballot voting experience.

If our state wants to continue to have a strong democracy, we need to learn to treat our first-time voters with dignity and respect and make their first voting experience an empowering one.

Julie Handa

College Park

The writer is director of Maryland Votes, a nonprofit organization that works to register young voters.

Factor VII saves injured soldiers

In a recent series of articles, The Sun mischaracterized our use of recombinant Factor VII in Army combat hospitals ("Dangerous Remedy," Nov. 19-21). This does a disservice to our doctors and their commitment to injured soldiers and their families.

A significant portion of combat deaths occurs as a result of uncontrolled hemorrhaging from injuries to the chest and abdomen.

Factor VII is used on a case-by-case basis, in specific circumstances as ordered by a physician, to control life-threatening bleeding. It often saves the lives of our most severely injured troops.

A randomized, controlled study published in 2005 demonstrated no increased risk attributable to Factor VII and our analysis of cases at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center has also shown no increase in complications attributable to this drug.

The Sun also alleges a lack of record keeping. However, we do have records and can identify patients who have received Factor VII, although in the Iraqi theater of war, we do not at the present time have an electronic patient record capability that enables us to track the long-term outcomes of each soldier who receives this drug.

But Sun readers need to know that we take our responsibility to save the lives of our injured troops very seriously.

Our efforts to save lives will continue and we will use all available technologies to provide the best trauma care possible.

Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley

Falls Church, Va.

The writer is the surgeon general of the U.S. Army.

Banning spanking just isn't enough

In "We don't hit animals; why do we hit children" (Opinion

Commentary, Nov. 22), Susan Bitensky backed laws banning parental use of corporal punishment on children.

I agree that legislation would be a great first step. It would also create much-needed public discussion on this issue.

However, many parents erroneously feel that corporal punishment plays an important, even indispensable, role in child rearing.

Others may regret that they resort to this tool, but feel that they lack effective alternatives. And for still other parents the use of physical punishment is simply a manifestation of the struggles and frustrations in their own lives.

Unless all of these issues are addressed, legislation would be little more than a symbolic gesture.

And if a ban is to be truly successful, it must do more than decrease the use of physical punishment. It must also lead to an increase in the quality of parenting and the mental health of children.

For this to happen we would need at the same time to conduct a national effort to educate all parents on alternative methods of discipline.

And parents who feel the alternatives to corporal punishment are failing them must have ready access to assistance.

As always, prevention can be more successful and more cost-effective than treatment.

We need to work to make sure that future generations of parents have correct information on discipline before they have their children.

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