Ballot summaries

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

There are efforts in the Missouri Legislature to change the way ballot titles are written for statewide initiatives. Backers claim some of the summaries -- written by the secretary of state and approved by the attorney general -- fail to adequately inform voters. One bill proposes an eight-member committee to review the secretary of state's summaries and rewrite them if found lacking.

Robin Carnahan, the current secretary of state, defends the existing process and correctly observes that most of her ballot summaries have survived legal challenges. But there also is cause for concern about the ballot titles, which is all many voters ever know about proposed initiatives.

An example is Proposition B in November. The proposal was overwhelmingly approved by voters who endorsed the concept of the summary that said the initiative would help the disabled live independently. But the summary didn't mention the provision that made it easier to unionize caregivers, which was the main thrust.

Would a committee write better summaries? Perhaps. But they would still be subject to legal challenges. The solution is not a new committee. It is the secretary of state, attorney general and judges actually doing what's fair and proper.

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