Editorial: Dead voters, reporting obesity – ‘they did what?!’

Today’s editorial is one in my ongoing series of “They did what?!” with today’s highlighting government overreach.

First up is the Arizona Legislature, in which Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, sponsored a bill to prevent voters from casting ballots using the names of the deceased.

Yes, dead people.

The House advanced the bill unanimously last month and it is awaiting a formal vote in the Senate. The logic is we want integrity in elections and no one should be allowed to cheat. I get it.

Here’s the clincher: They have done so despite any evidence of this type of voter fraud occurring in Arizona.

A call to Stevens’ office was not returned before press time.

I will be the first to fight for voter rights and clean elections, but this is a waste of time. You cannot legislate common sense (or elect it, apparently).

The second example comes out of New York, where reportedly for 10 years now, public schools have been putting on students’ report cards a body-mass index (BMI) number, weight percentile and a designation of “underweight,” “healthy weight,” “overweight” or “obese.” (Last year, they did switch to “needs improvement,” instead of “overweight” or “obese.”)

Really.

While a number of students attending school come from low-income families in which, in the school officials’ minds, the parents also need to be educated (or the parents depend on the schools for guidance and information), a new study (surprise!) finds being labeled fat doesn’t spur weight loss.

Forget that labeling someone, anyone – especially a child – as “overweight,” “obese” or “needing improvement” likely takes their self-esteem in the wrong direction. And, logically the government wants to help people to be more fit – because the opposite does end up costing taxpayers money (social and medical agencies/programs) and getting children to be healthy moves toward life-long fitness.

However … “It’s not enough just to get the information out there,” one of the study’s authors, Syracuse University education and economics professor Amy Ellen Schwartz said. “You have to get it to people in a way that’s actionable.”

Go figure.

Clincher No. 1: Using four years of measurements for all New York public school students, Schwartz, Columbia University economist Douglas Almond and Columbia graduate student Ajin Lee compared boys and girls just over the “overweight” or “obese” threshold for their age. They found no indication that those over the lines lost weight. In fact, the average overweight girl gained a bit more than did her peer just below the threshold.

Clincher No. 2: New York appears to be alone in this, but the National Institute of Medicine has recommended in-school BMI screenings, which debuted in Arkansas in 2003. At least 19 states now have instituted the screenings, though “only some require reporting the information to parents.”

Unfortunately, a look at the study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences does not reveal if Arizona is involved at all. Thankfully, though, we have confirmed schools in the Prescott area do not do this.

I am frustrated, even if only because we had to check.

Clincher No. 3: “Critics feel the approach (BMI screenings) stigmatizes children and fuels unhealthy anxieties about weight, based on a measurement that can mistake a muscular kid for a flabby one. Massachusetts abandoned its BMI-reporting requirement in 2013, though parents still can request the information.”

Hmmm … parental control. Imagine that.