It’s that time again: time to wade through 121 pages of proposed ballot measures and pro/con arguments published by the Secretary of State’s office—and that’s before we get to the judges up for review or any candidate research, so buckle up, kids.
I plan to blog through all of them (hopefully sometime before the election). Posts in the series will be tagged “AZ Ballot Measures 2012”.
Before we get into the propositions themselves in the next post, some general reminders:
If you are not already registered to vote, 9 October is the deadline. The election is 6 November. Be there. Be registered. Be having your identification with you.
- Propositions numbered in the 100s are constitutional amendments, either citizen initiated or legislatively referred. Amend with special care. Kinda a big deal. Please remember also that a constitution should really outline general procedure, not dictate specific policy. To put it another way, constitutions are meta-laws—laws about laws, not laws themselves. This is important because, for example, financial priorities may change from year-to-year and the legislature should be free to respond quickly to those changes. If the constitution says the budget for pens and pencils in all state offices is $1000, but they need $1001.63, they can’t change the budget without a lengthy, expensive special election process to amend the constitution with a ballot proposition. And while we are waiting on that special election, the lines at the MVD just keep getting longer because they are rationing pens. That’s no good. —So, to continue with the financial example, a constitution would be an appropriate place to say “the budget must be balanced-ish” (if you’re into that sort of thing), but not an appropriate place to say “we will balance the budget by limiting expenditures on office supplies to less than $1000/year, by setting the air conditioning in the State House to 87º, and by switching to 1-ply toilet paper in the Governor’s residence.” The Constitution should not micro-manage.
- 200s are citizens’ initiatives. Read carefully—I appreciate the intent of the direct democracy reforms of the Progressive Era, but there’s a reason the framers of our national government did not provide for direct democracy—there’s a valid argument for leaving some things to the professionals.
- 300s are matters referred by the Legislature to the People. The professionals couldn’t work it out for themselves and need our help.
- 400s are local. Unless you’re one of my neighbours in the City of Phoenix proper, you’re on your own here.
Other good things to remember
- A “No” vote keeps whatever the current law is. Thus, “No” is generally the ‘safer’ option, but if you’re not sure what to pick, you can leave a question blank. However, note that many local functions are authorized by ‘overrides’ that require periodic renewal. A “No” vote on an override maintains the status quo only if the override is new; otherwise, a “No” vote is a vote to allow a pre-existing override to expire. For example, local budgets are subject to a state-imposed cap with a decades-old baseline if not overridden—allowing a pre-existing override to expire could require immediate, substantial cuts to the local budget.
- Beware of unintended consequences. If a proposition you favor has vague wording that could be misconstrued, stretched, twisted, or otherwise tortured into something you don’t favor, vote “No” and work to get a cleaner version on the ballot next time.
- If they are asking for more money, tell them no.
- If you are not voting an early ballot from the comfort of your living room with all of your research in front of you while wearing your pajamas, then obtain an official SAMPLE ballot and fill it out early so you can bring it to the polls with you. You have the right to take a sample ballot with you into the voting booth.
- If for some reason your eligibility to vote is in question, including due to insufficient proof of identity, you still have the right to cast a provisional ballot. You cannot be turned away from the polls.
- Find your polling place ahead of time; they may have changed since the last election, so otherwise you’ll be driving around in circles on Election Day.