There were a couple of things that bothered me when I went to cast my vote earlier this morning…
A Ridiculous Amount of Legalese, Specifically Looking at the State Amendments
Seriously – this is some important stuff, so why isn’t it a requirement that these things have to be placed on the ballot in plain English? Not everyone is a scholar when it comes to translating contract law, not to mention a lot of these things are purposely written in a confusing manner so that voters don’t even know if they’re supposed to be voting for them or against them!
Here in Florida we have 11 amendments to consider on our 2012 ballot. Now just looking at the first one, which is easier to understand???
This would add an amendment to the state constitution that attempts to prohibit the government from requiring individuals to purchase health insurance.
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to prohibit laws or rules from compelling any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage; permit a person or an employer to purchase lawful health care services directly from a health care provider; permit a health care provider to accept direct payment from a person or an employer for lawful health care services; exempt persons, employers, and health care providers from penalties and taxes for paying directly or accepting direct payment for lawful health care services; and prohibit laws or rules from abolishing the private market for health care coverage of any lawful health care service. Specifies that the amendment does not affect which health care services a health care provider is required to perform or provide; affect which health care services are permitted by law; prohibit care provided pursuant to general law relating to workers’ compensation; affect laws or rules in effect as of March 1, 2010; affect the terms or conditions of any health care system to the extent that those terms and conditions do not have the effect of punishing a person or an employer for paying directly for lawful health care services or a health care provider for accepting direct payment from a person or an employer for lawful health care services; or affect any general law passed by two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature, passed after the effective date of the amendment, provided such law states with specificity the public necessity justifying the exceptions from the provisions of the amendment. The amendment expressly provides that it may not be construed to prohibit negotiated provisions in insurance contracts, network agreements, or other provider agreements contractually limiting copayments, coinsurance, deductibles, or other patient charges.
And keep in mind, that’s the straight forward one because it’s basically asking whether Florida should be able to refute the Affordable Healthcare Act or not! There are plenty of others looking at property taxes and state court governance, and honestly at least a couple that I’m still not quite sure what I was voting on. If our (unfortunate) standard for news media in this country writes at an 8th grade level, then why are we shoving a ballot in front of them that requires a law degree to decipher?!
A Complete Lack of Supporting Documentation to Help Voters Make Their Decisions
And yes, I know that it’s always been this way, but we’re trying to find ways to improve the process here! 😉
The example I’ll give for this one is all of the state and local representatives who were on my ballot. I didn’t know who any of them actually were! Sure, I’d heard names here and there, but nowhere near the info required to actually make an informed decision about whether they should get the job or not. We’re given plenty of information regarding the Presidential election, but when it comes to the Mosquito Control Commissioner, how am I supposed to know if that lady is qualified for the job?!
Side Note: I didn’t make that job up – there’s actually a seat in our county government for a Mosquito Control Commissioner.
Anyways, let’s be honest – in addition to the president, there are 18 other state & local positions on my ballot, and I really only know what I’m doing for the big guy. Well, also for our US Senator, but that’s only because the other guy’s campaign posted a particularly obnoxious tweet Sunday night and it swayed me to vote the opposite just out of spite! For the rest, as well as the amendments mentioned above, I could’ve used all the help I could get, and I really think that this is a place where technology could shine because if voting was more of an interactive process, there’s no saying that you couldn’t have a nice multimedia interface that presents the facts for each item on the ballot to help make your decision. Show me one by one what each of the contenders is standing for, and let me use that to help drive better results on my part!
Because honestly, a good half of my non-president votes went strictly down party lines and the rest just got earmarked for people who happened to have cool names! Realistically we can’t expect people to be informed on every single one of the people on that list, and even then, who’s going to bring with them a cheat sheet* to help them remember who they want to be voting for?! Give the people some more information – we do live in The Information Age, after all – and then let them make the right decisions.
* Funny thing is, I actually did consider writing down a list of my choices for the amendments when I was looking through the sample ballot and doing a little research the other day, but I nix’ed it under the assumption that I wouldn’t have much problem picking them out one by one on my own. I guess I didn’t realize that there were five different amendments just about taxes! 😳
My point is simply this – an election is only as good as the quality of its votes. If we can make the process easier and less painless for everyone involved, maybe we can get our voter turnout up a little higher than 58%.