Tag Archives: ballot issue

Top 7 Election Manipulations of 2014

Election manipulation is a problem. It happens when elected government officials manipulate citizens by using their power to trick voters at the ballot box or preventing a ballot question from reaching voters. It happens more often than you would think, bond proposals placed on special low turnout election dates, deceptive ballot language, or undercutting citizens when they attempt to place initiatives on the ballot. Here are the top voter manipulations of 2014.

 

7. California’s AG shut down an initiative with biased ballot language.

California’s Attorney General used political power to stop a petition drive before it started. Mayor Chuck Reed of San Jose proposed a statewide amendment to allow changes to future pensions in California. The AG wrote language naming the most popular state workers (teachers, nurses, peace officers) and suggesting their retirement security would be compromised. Voters never had the chance to decide this issue.

 

6. Election to increase road taxes scheduled for the worst month for potholes.

Michigan voters were justifiably angry last spring when it became obvious the legislators had neglected one of their core duties, funding road repair. All year the legislature avoided the issue, promising to find a resolution after the November election. Late in the session a senate proposal for $1.2 billion in new taxes was pitted against a revenue neutral ($0 new taxes) house proposal. Elected officials then avoided the issue by proposing a constitutional amendment for a $1.7 billion tax increase. They chose to have a special election will be in early May, during Michigan pothole season.

 

5. Change the law to undermine petition gatherers.

Petitioners in Michigan gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to change the state minimum wage law. However, as they neared the deadline to submit the signatures politicians passed a lesser minimum wage increase. When the legislators passed their increase they changed the law and negated all the petition signatures that had been gathered. This was not an example of legislators passing a law to compromise. The legislature went out of its way to prevent a vote on increasing the minimum wage, most likely to avoid higher democrat voter turn-out in November.

 

4. Lie on the ballot.

Phoenix voters voted against something that was never proposed. The issue? The city council wrote ballot language that lied to voters, the section of interest “prohibit City contributions to any other retirement plan, including deferred compensation plans, post-employment benefit plans and the police officer and firefighter retirement system.” The initiative did not affect police or fire employees (the pension programs for police and fire are covered under state law not touchable by city initiative).  At the ballot box voters were mislead to believe they were protecting public safety employees but they were instead protecting the city council’s ability to continue promising benefits without paying.

 

3. Cheat voters through legal loopholes.

After legislators passed a law allowing wolf hunting the HSUS (Human Society of the United States) petitioned to call a vote using the Michigan’s referendum process. Rather than back down, legislators passed another law to allowing wolf hunting, again the HSUS stepped in and gathered signatures using Michigan’s referendum process. Yet a third time the legislature passed yet another law to allow wolf hunting, but this time they included a spending provision to preclude another referendum petition. In November Michigan voted against wolf hunting (twice) but wolf hunting goes forward due to this voter deception.

 

2. Politicized courts block initiative.

Illinois courts stopped voters from voting on term limits. In 1994 petitioners in Illinois gathered signatures to place term limits on the ballot. Courts at that time decided the proposed law was only structural and must be structural and procedural due to this clause in the state constitution “Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.” This year an amendment was proposed that included structural and procedural changes. The courts this year changed their justification and simply shot down the measure as “unconstitutional.”

 

1. Trojan Horse, hide something people don’t want in something they like.

Arkansas legislators tricked voters on term limits and pay increase. Arkansas legislators are allowed to put three legislative referrals on the ballot every 2 years. Historically this has worked to limit legislative attempts to push through too many constitutional changes each election cycle. However, in a move to trick voters in to passing an unpopular term limit extension and avoid asking voters for a pay increase politicians rolled thirteen amendments to the state constitution into one ballot question. This twenty-two page proposal labeled “ethics reform” gave lip service to popular issues like banning gifts from lobbyists, stopping legislators becoming lobbyists, and a commission to set pay for elected officials. The last phrase of a long ballot title (written by the politicians) “establishing term limits for members of the General Assembly” was obviously intended to deceive voters. Arkansas had 6 and 8 year term limits, this amendment more than doubled those limits to 16 years. Pay raises will now be approved by a commission appointed by the people getting the raises. Voters were duped and approved this measure 52%-48%.

 

 

 

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Massachusetts’ Question 1 Questions Automatic Tax Increases

After the Massachusetts Legislature raised the state’s gasoline tax and then passed a law making future tax hikes automatic, tied to cost of living increases, citizens mobilized to gather enough petition signatures to put the issue of the automatic tax increases to a voter referendum on this November’s ballot. The referendum is known as Question 1.

Unless Question 1 passes, whenever the cost of living goes up, the cost of driving your car will go up as well. At a protest against the automatic tax increases, Richard Sourcinelli expressed a popular sentiment, “Let’s raise taxes, they never have an alternative, it’s always let’s just raise taxes.”

Voters should have a say in how and when the gas tax is raised, if at all. Question 1 would eliminate the automatic hikes, requiring a vote in the legislature to increase the tax.

But winning a Yes vote for repealing the gas tax law won’t be easy. CommonWealth Magazine reports that, “The Vote No campaign has raised nearly $1.7 million, far more than the $91,000 raised by the Vote Yes group.”

Why the disparity? The gas taxes collected are slated to go toward road construction and maintenance in the Bay State. And – surprise, surprise – the biggest opponents of Question 1 are construction companies doing business with the state.

“The big supporters of gas tax indexing are the Construction Industries of Massachusetts Advancement Fund of Framingham ($200,000), Suffolk Construction ($100,000), the Utility Contractors Association of New England ($100,000), the Massachusetts Aggregate and Asphalt Pavement Association ($100,000), and Hostetter ($90,000),” the magazine reports.

“The biggest donor to the Vote Yes campaign is the Liberty Initiative Fund of Woodbridge, Virginia,” according to the magazine, noting that LIF is “a group whose stated goal is to hold government accountable, fight crony capitalism, and protect individual liberties.”

WWLP-Channel 22: Locals protest Massachusetts automatic gas tax
Gas taxes automatically increase every year

CommonWealth Magazine:Breaking down big donors to ballot campaigns

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Grand Rapids Battle Over Term Limits

Term limitation for politicians is typically a hotly debated issue wherever it is proposed and Grand Rapids, Michigan, is no exception. The grassroots Grand Rapids Citizens for Municipal Term Limits group worked for months to gather enough petition signatures to place the issue on this November’s ballot.

Supporters argue that term limits open up the system and promote new ideas, preventing elected officials from becoming too comfortable in office and encouraging them to be more responsive to voters. The group hopes to raise enough money to be able to send out at least one mailer to voters.

Take a look at the mailer from proponents of municipal term limits: Term Limits Card 

Bonnie Burke, a leader of the pro-term limits group, wrote for the Grand Rapids Press:

“Term limits mandate that open, competitive elections are held in every seat at least once every eight years. This ensures that the commission better represents the current thinking of the citizens.

“Open-seat elections inspire serious, goal-oriented candidates to step up to the job, putting their experience from the private sector to work. This experience, much broader in commissions with term limits than those saddled with entrenched incumbencies, can be put to work in fresh ways.”

Meanwhile, opponents of term limits quickly organized against the charter amendment. The group, Protect Your Vote GR, consisting mainly of the big business lobbyists from the Chamber of Commerce and representatives of organized labor, has already stuffed mailboxes in the city with postcards claiming the ballot issue amounts to “hijacking of our local democratic process” and will “erode local control and silence your voice.”

Yet, it’s what those mailers don’t say that is most interesting, going out of their way not to mention two words: term limits.

MLive: Advocates make their pitch for and against term limits in Grand Rapids
http://www.mlive.com/opinion/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2014/10/guest_columns_advocates_make_t.html

Common Sense: Grand Rapids’ Grand Alliance
http://thisiscommonsense.com/2014/10/10/grand-rapids-grand-alliance/

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LIF President Blasts Sneaky Arkansas Legislators

In his Sunday column at Townhall.com, entitled “The Deceivers,” Liberty Initiative Fund President Paul Jacob takes on two Arkansas state legislators – Sen. Jon Woods (R-Springdale) and Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) – for their dishonest attempt to amend the state constitution via Issue 3 on this November’s ballot.

Woods and Sabin authored Issue 3, which the legislature voted overwhelmingly to refer to the ballot. The so-called “ethics reform” measure does contain some watered-down ethics provisions, but stuck into the massive 22-page constitutional amendment are several hidden provisions, most horrendous being the gutting of the state’s voter-enacted legislative term limits law.

Had Woods and Sabin written an honest ballot title for their amendment, which more than doubles the time legislators such as Woods and Sabin can stay in the House or Senate to a whopping 16 years, voters would have overwhelmingly defeated Issue 3.  Instead, their ballot title tells voters that Issue 3 is “establishing term limits.”

Arkansas voters established term limits in 1992 with a 60 percent Yes vote. In 2004, when legislators sought to weaken those limits, voters said No by an even bigger 70 percent margin, defeating the attack on term limits in all 75 Arkansas counties.

Issue 3 would also establish an “Independent Citizens Commission,” in charge of setting the salaries for elected officials in the Natural State. However, a majority of the commission would be made up of cronies appointed by the legislative leaders, rather than individuals elected by the voters. There would be no limit to their power to – you guessed it – hike the pay of the politicians who appoint them.

While Issue 3 does include some provisions relating to ethics reform, the proposed amendment uses those reforms as camouflage to hide the real meat of the deceptive measure.

After the 350-plus delegates to the Arkansas GOP’s state convention passed a resolution opposing Issue 3, State Senator Woods told reporters, “You just have a couple of nuts that got together on a Saturday that were out of touch with Arkansans and passed a silly resolution that in no way reflects the point of view of all Republicans in Arkansas.”

Perhaps Sen. Woods will discover who is out of touch with Arkansans on Election Day.

Paul Jacob at Townhall.com “The Deceivers”

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