Friday, March 17, 2006

It's debatable

The Providence Journal recently ran "Voter initiative threatens R.I. elites" which was a response by Sen. Marc A. Cote to Rep. John Shanley's earlier column opposing voter initiative legislation. It was excellent and shed important light on a timely issue.

These two articles symbolize the best tradition of a democracy - debate. The Journal has performed a valuable service to the people by providing a forum for debate which allows people to consider both sides of an issue before making up their minds. What better way is there to insure the success of our democracy?

When ballot questions came up in Massachusetts, where I spent most of my life, I was especially gratified that the Secretary of State mailed a brochure to everyone in which each question was explained, along with two opinions, pro and con. The opinions were written by people chosen by each side to represent it's views.

This was extremely helpful to me, and I am certain, to most voters. I called the Secretary's office in Providence and asked that they do this in Rhode Island as well. I never received a response nor have they done so.

Here is what is currently required of a ballot question: 

1) Descriptive Heading. The descriptive heading shall be a brief caption of the question including the purpose of the question and the dollar amount, if applicable.  The heading should be limited to 12 words and a dollar amount, if applicable.

2) Authorization. The authorization shall be a line containing the cite to the authority for the question to appear on the ballot.

3) Text of the question.  The text of the question shall be the exact language of the referenda/question that shall appear on the ballot.

In my view there should also be a summary of the pro's and con's of each question to help the voter.

Respectful debate. Then let the people decide.

But maybe that's just me