Voter Deception on Georgia’s Ballot Initiatives

I noticed this when I voted for the first time in 2012: Georgia’s ballot initiatives, which are typically amendments to the state constitution, are frighteningly biased in their wording to push voters into voting yes.

Here are the ballot initiatives, verbatim1, for 2016, which Georgians are voting on as I type these words:

Amendment 1: 

Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

Amendment 2: 

Authorizes penalties for sexual exploitation and assessments on adult entertainment to fund child victims’ services.

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is adjudged guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children and to allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services for individuals in this state who have been or may be sexually exploited?

Amendment 3:

Reforms and re-establishes the Judicial Qualifications Commission and provides for its composition, governance, and powers.

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission; require the General Assembly to create and provide by general law for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges; require the Judicial Qualifications Commission to have procedures that provide for due process of law and review by the Supreme Court of its advisory opinions; and allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner?

Amendment 4:

Dedicates revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services, and public safety.

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the proceeds of excise taxes on the sale of fireworks or consumer fireworks be dedicated to the funding of trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and local public safety purposes?

 

Given the very low proportion of voters who actually research these initiatives in-depth, who would actually vote against these? Look at the title of Amendment 1! Yet deeper examination, especially on Amendment 3, reveals disturbing aspects of some of these amendments that are obscured by their biased phrasing. (Just start Googling if you’re curious)

While voters should research what they’re voting on, that shouldn’t give the state a free pass to deceive them. I’d be surprise if any of these amendments fail to pass; in the future, if you’re a Georgia voter and haven’t researched the ballot initiative, leave it blank, or, if you’re going to vote on something you haven’t researched (which the vast majority of people voting “yes” are doing”), just vote no, regardless of what the amendment is. Don’t let the state deceive you2.

Footnotes:

  1. View the text of the ballot initiatives at http://sos.ga.gov/admin/uploads/2016_Proposed_Constitutional_Amendments.pdf
  2. Perhaps the solution is to implement something like California’s State Voter Guides, which features, “an impartial analysis of the proposal and the potential costs to taxpayers as prepared by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, arguments in favor and against it prepared by proponents and opponents, the text and a summary prepared by the Attorney General or the Legislature, as well as other information.” While certainly there is opportunity for bias in this system, it’s still an order of magnitude better than Georgia’s current ballot deception.

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