Voters Need Better Information When Casting Ballots
By Richard Fidler
A lot of attention about voting has focused on getting citizens to register, certifying that registrants are actually citizens, getting registered voters to vote and making sure that every vote is counted and recorded correctly.
But what about supplying the voter with better information when it comes time to vote, especially those infamous “questions” toward the bottom of the ballot?
After you find your way to your precinct’s polling station, you are immediately confronted with supporters and opponents of many of the candidates. However, if you have Questions, you may find only a few partisans or maybe none at all. After all, it’s much more exciting to support a candidate instead of an issue.
But then you get into the voting booth and after voting for specific offices you get to the Questions. And because of space limitations those Questions are not fully explained. Often they are confusing enough to bring out legal protests against their wording.
We all know about how our state was so unfairly gerrymandered. Numerous organizations have called us the most gerrymandered state and our Congressional District 3 the most gerrymandered district. The typical response is “The voters approved it.” But did they know what they were voting for? How many voters understood the Question: “Establishes the boundaries for the state’s eight United States Congressional Districts based on recent census figures, as required by the United States Constitution.” Had the question been accompanied by a map showing the proposed districts, the voters likely would have turned it down.
Each time voters were shown pictures of the newly drawn districts, either before or after the election, most were aghast at what they saw. If they had seen pictures of both the current and the proposed districts, it is highly likely that the proposal would have been voted down.
Another problem with the ballot is how the names are listed. In the primary all candidates are listed alphabetically by last name. But in the general election that’s not true; excluding non-partisan offices such as School Board Member, the candidates are listed by political party and then by last name. Furthermore, it’s not alphabetical by party name; it’s by the party of the incumbent governor. That’s the law.
Some would say that that’s good, because in the elections of 2016 and 2018 Republican candidates will be listed first. But we should learn from the past and look way into the future. Beginning with 1960, there have been 27 elections, and the incumbent governor was a Democrat for 24 of those elections. Moreover, Democrats are likely to at least hold their own for the foreseeable future. So in the long run, having candidates always listed by last name for partisan offices in general elections is better for Republicans and for the electorate.