Tag Archives: ballot title

Confused Voters Rarely Vote Yes

Anyone who works ballot question campaigns will tell you, confusing language almost always results in votes against the question. Ballot titles are a big deal. If voters don’t understand they will often vote it down because they don’t understand it. I’ve written about misleading ballot titles here.

What do you think of these recent ballot titles?

San Antonio, Texas, Voters approved an amendment to require public votes before allowing for light rail or streetcar track.

SHALL THE CITY CHARTER BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE THAT NO GRANT OF PERMISSION TO ALTER OR DAMAGE ANY PUBLIC WAY OF THE CITY FOR THE LAYING OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL TRACKS SHALL EVER BE VALID, AND NO FUNDS SHALL BE APPROPRIATED AND NO BONDS OR NOTES SHALL BE ISSUED OR SOLD FOR THE PURPOSE OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL SYSTEMS, UNLESS FIRST APPROVED BY A MAJORITY OF THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF THE CITY VOTING AT AN ELECTION CONTAINING A PROPOSITION SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIED FOR AND LIMITED TO SUCH PURPOSE?

Yes or No

Some reports claimed this was confusing, but voters approved it by about 2-1.

 

Arlington, Texas, Voters approve a ban on red light cameras.

Addition of Section 12 of Article X of the City Charter to prohibit photographic traffic signal enforcement.

For or Against

I consider this a little more confusing. Voters approved it 59% to 41%

 

Michigan voters denied a tax increase measure to fund roads.

A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

The proposed constitutional amendment would:
• Eliminate sales / use taxes on gasoline / diesel fuel for vehicles on public roads.
• Increase portion of use tax dedicated to School Aid Fund (SAF).
• Expand use of SAF to community colleges and career / technical education, and prohibit use for 4-year colleges / universities.
• Give effect to laws, including those that:

o Increase sales / use tax to 7%, as authorized by constitutional amendment.
o Increase gasoline / diesel fuel tax and adjust annually for inflation, increase vehicle registration fees, and dedicate revenue for roads and other transportation purposes.
o Expand competitive bidding and warranties for road projects.
o Increase earned income tax credit

Should this proposal be adopted?

Yes or No

Confusing? Voters shot this down 80% to 19%.

 

A referendum can be even more confusing. Sturgis, Michigan voters voted to keep this law 69% to 31%.

Should the City of Sturgis repeal Part II – Chapter 10 Animals
– Article II Dogs and Cats –
Section 10-33 of the City of Sturgis Code of Ordinances?
Sec. 10-33. – Operating a dog kennel in city prohibited.
No person, group of persons, association or corporation shall keep, operate, or maintain a dog kennel within the limits of the city. A dog kennel, as used in this section means any establishment wherein or whereon more than two dogs are owned, kept, or harbored. This section shall not apply to the owning, keeping, or harboring of any dog pups until they attain the age of four months.
Yes or No

As you can see, ballot titles are not always easy to understand.

 

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, charter amendment, Initiative, Our million dollar vote, politicians

Misleading Ballot Titles

A ballot title is what you read when you vote on a ballot question. Ballot titles like push polls can result in huge differences in how voters perceive an issue at the moment when they must make a choice. In the case of recall, millage, or referendum most state statutes give fairly strict guidelines on how the question must appear on the ballot. Shall X be approved? Shall John Doe be recalled from office for XYZ?

arissue3

However when it comes to the initiative process writing a ballot title can be much more subjective. The law is different in every state and ballot titles are most commonly written in one of three ways:

State or local elections official or their agent, this might be the Attorney General, Secretary of State, or city clerk.

Legislative body, the legislature, city council, or county commission.

Proponents of the initiative, the group circulating petitions to call for an election on a particular initiative.

 

Problems occur when a ballot title appears biased. When the ballot title appears to make a yes or no vote sound more appealing, or is outright deceptive in explanation of the issue, people on the other side of the issue will justifiably take offense. In many cases this results in expensive lawsuits and people without deep pockets are at a huge disadvantage. Groups may spend tens of thousands of dollars only to have courts rule against them despite obvious bias.

This week a judge in Mississippi ruled that the legislature had crafted a ballot title that was deceptive.

“Judge Winston Kidd ruled in favor of Adrian Shipman, a mother of two in the Oxford Public Schools, that the legislature’s alternative language was too confusing and too similar to the original citizen’s initiative language. Kidd has ordered that language to be changed. The new alternative language, which was not immediately available, would follow a suggestion offered by Better Schools, Better Jobs, the group that worked to put the initiative on the ballot for this November.

The easiest remedy to this issue is to let voters read the entire measure on the ballot, but often lengthy legislation makes this impractical (I consider lengthy legislation a problem on its own).

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative, Petition Drive, politicians, referendum

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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