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Ballot no place for propaganda

Post by Kim Bradford on Aug. 29, 2009 at 5:38 pm with 4 Comments »
August 29, 2009 5:38 pm

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

The first rule of writing a ballot title is to plainly, accurately and neutrally describe what the measure would do.

The second is to give voters the benefit of the doubt.

Pierce County violated the first but observed the second in settling on ballot language for three charter amendments that voters will consider in the November election.

Two critics of those proposed amendments have challenged the county in court, saying the ballot titles are confusing and prejudicial. They are half right.

The three amendments would move elections of county officials to odd-numbered years, increase term limits for the county executive and County Council members, and end the county’s experiment with ranked choice voting.

Sherry Bockwinkel, a term-limits supporter, and Kelly Haughton, who led the campaign to bring ranked choice voting to Pierce County, have filed a lawsuit against the county.

They are seeking to prohibit the county auditor and prosecuting attorney from printing ballots and voter pamphlets using the current ballot titles. They have two objections:

&bull The ballot title for Proposition 1 – which would extend the term limits of county executive and county council members – notes that the new limits would be "consistent with term limits in effect for auditor, assessor-treasurer and sheriff."

&bull All three propositions ask voters to "approve" or "reject," instead of duplicating the "yes" and "no" language used for past ballot measures.

Haughton especially has reason to be sensitive to how the county tells voters to indicate their favor or disapproval. His ranked choice voting group is opposing Proposition 3 and has already ordered signs that read "No on 3."

He should have more faith in voters. They’re smart enough to figure out that "yes" equals "approve" and "no" means "reject."

The weightier concern is with the language on Proposition 1. Noting that other county officials already have longer term limits is indeed a factual statement; it also is a selling point.

A ballot measure can have an inherently influential title; a straightforward description of a proposal to cut taxes in half might always sound enticing.

The problem with the county’s wording is it doesn’t much matter how long the county auditor can be in office. That’s not what voters will decide in November.

The only reason to include the information about other county offices is to convince voters that letting county executives and council members stick around longer is the logical and orderly thing to do. Consistency is a persuasive argument, especially in matters of governance.

County officials contend that they followed statutory guidelines in writing the ballot titles. They’ll make their case to a Pierce County Superior Court judge on Monday.

The county could win on the legal merits. But just because it can do something doesn’t mean it should. It’s wrong to use the ballot to promote a proposal that’s near and dear to elected officials who see their term limits coming due.

The county’s lawyers, win or lose in court this week, should rewrite the ballot title for Proposition 1.

What's coming
Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. ldozy1234 says:

    IMHO, there’s been a lot wrong with this ballot since its conception. Placing multiple items like all three amendments , delays in getting the information out, poor choice in wording, having the Prosecutors office write the title, wording etc.
    Sad to see Mark Lindquest also choose to be associated with this ballot. Someone should fire his campaign advisers.
    It stinks to begin with and for me adds a question mark on my decision when the election for his position come up. Too bad-
    The whole mess seems too much of Pierce County politics as usual- misleading, suspect and shoved at the voters full of usual controversy.

  2. “Should the County ‘ Leadership’ be taken to the woodshed, forcibly required to drop their dungarees, bend forward at the waist and receive a stern “paddlin” as was administered to school students that can’t seem to behave and follow the rules?
    ____ Affirmative
    I know it’s a bit sincere and I’m the biggest nay-sayer when it comes to corporal punishment in schools, But why is it that every time they get it wrong, WE have to pay for it in the form of court time, lawyers fees etc.
    Enough, already! Play nice or go to your room

  3. ldozy1234 says:

    From now on, I believe if the County cannot follow sunshine rules and really do its job without all the games, it ought to come out of each county dept budget for the legal fee’s these games cause. Maybe if the depts have to place their working budgets on the line, some forced honesty might start showing up here.
    Let THEM put their BUDGET money where their games are and foot the whole bill for the garbage. Also add a rule that these budgets cannot be increased due to legal costs. Maybe then they’ll learn to at least try and play fair.

  4. ktcmairman says:

    Well, the way I see it and hear it. This would give the current office holders a reset on the clock, move the elections to years where most of the people don’t vote, and srew the rest of us as subjects. You think of extending the term limits??? Just drive past the dump at 304th and Meridian. Now Lemay sold out to the Mafia with such a sweet contract. 28 yr extention with an automatic 6% or more increase in rates, that’s every year compounded mind you, If that wasn’t payback to us who live here, what the hell is???
    They are sore losers and think, I mean we have been dumb enough to continue to elect the idiot’s over and over again, we will be dumb enough to extend their current terms.. People of Pierce Co. prove me wrong!!! SAY NO!

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