Ballot language

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Much has been made recently of the phrasing used by Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan for the upcoming ballot issue that deals with ObamaCare.

And for good reason.

The ballot language currently reads:

Shall Missouri law be amended to deny individuals, families and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans through a state-based health benefit exchange unless authorized by statute, initiative or referendum through an exchange operated by the federal government as required by the federal health care act?

What a loaded question.

Regardless of a person's viewpoint on the national health care act, it's stunning that the secretary of state, in her official capacity, approved and continues to defend this biased language. One of the secretary of state's primary responsibilities is to ensure that the state's elections are fair, yet she appears to be stacking the deck in her political favor.

It should be pointed out that the initiative was put on the ballot for political reasons, as are all such initiatives. Republicans are doing all they know how to do to oppose the national health care law, citing federal government overreach and high costs for implementation.

In reality, the ballot initiative is a question of executive power in Missouri. Voters will be asked to decide whether the governor should be allowed to set up health care exchanges with his executive authority or whether it should only be done through voter referendum or with legislative direction.

An exchange is an online market that would allow consumers to compare health plans. ObamaCare allows states to set up such an exchange by 2014 or have one operated by the federal government.

High-ranking GOP political figures filed a lawsuit Tuesday hoping to strike down the language, and offered some alternative ballot wording in the lawsuit that would be more straight forward. (GOP lawmakers who pushed this issue had an opportunity to write the language, but did not do so, leaving it up to Carnahan.)

It is vitally important to our society that our voting process rises above the political rhetoric. The ballot should not resemble a political push piece. In a state that forbids electioneering practices such as wearing a candidate's T-shirt or placing political signs at least 25 feet from the door of a polling place, it would be inappropriate for Carnahan's political pitch to appear on our ballots come Nov. 6.

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