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Sunday, Jul 07 2013 11:01 PM

HITS & MISSES: Voting should be a Saturday option, too

By The Bakersfield Californian

HIT: For those who still prefer to cast their ballots at polling stations but find it difficult to carve out enough time during that traditional first Tuesday in November, here's some good news: A California state senator is sponsoring a bill that would open up at least one county polling station on a Saturday prior to Election Day. The bill by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would also allow parents to bring their children into the voting booth on this special day. It makes sense.

In terms of voter turnout, the U.S. doesn't come close to nations like Iceland, Sweden and New Zealand. Why? Their citizens vote on a weekend day, but in the U.S. we've voted only on Tuesdays for more than 150 years. In 1845 Congress established that as the day to vote because, the thinking went, Saturday was for farming, Sunday was for church, Monday was for travel to the polls at the county seat and Wednesday was for the return trip home.

Voting by mail, which has become increasingly popular, has greatly changed that dynamic. But there will surely be a need for an in-person voting option for years to come. Yee's bill looks like a good if only partial solution to the problem of weekday voting.

HIT: Keeping cool amidst the heat

Don't want to run up that PG&E bill? Can't cool down with those swamp coolers, which lose effectiveness in high heat? The Kern County Parks Department, PG&E and other Kern County agencies have opened up cooling centers for days when temperatures exceed certain highs -- 105 degrees or higher for the valley; 108 degrees or higher in the desert; and 95 degrees or higher in Frazier Park. There are various centers around Kern County and two in Bakersfield including one at the East Bakersfield Veterans Building and another at the East Niles Senior Center. High heat can be dangerous, especially for older folks, so these are potential lifesavers.

MISS: State's highways among worst

This shouldn't be a shock to anyone: California recently ranked 47th out of 50 states for the nation's worst highways, ahead of only Hawaii, Rhode Island and Alaska. And yet, incredibly, 47th is a slight improvement for the Golden State, which ranked 48 in the previous two studies. The best highways were found to be North Dakota, Kansas and Wyoming, states that also have the most cost-effective highways. While California's urban interstates are not surprisingly the most congested in the nation, more than 16 percent of the state's pavement is in poor condition. It almost makes you want to walk.

HIT: Yoga is good for you

Overruling parents' complaints about bringing religion into the classroom, a San Diego Superior Court judge will allow an elementary school district to incorporate yoga into its exercise practices. Encinitas Elementary School is the first public school to offer the popular stretch and stress-relief techniques to kid. To put parents' minds at ease, the school has removed all references to Hinduism and Sanskrit, replacing move titles with more kid-friendly names. Children, too, deserve the chance to learn healthy ways to cope with their stress. So, namaste, kid.

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