The Lima News
Secretary of State Jon Husted should stick to running fair elections and leave the persuasive writing to us.
On Tuesday, Husted’s office released the official titles for the state issues appearing on November’s ballot. Those included some pretty loaded terms, such as “protecting,” “monopoly” and, our favorite, “personal economic benefit.” Let’s see if you can identify any opinions on these labels:
State Issue 2: “Anti-monopoly amendment; protests the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit”
State Issue 3: “Grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes”
Much to no one’s surprise, Husted’s creative writing session landed him in a Supreme Court case by Thursday with people who don’t see these issues the way he does.
“After receiving public comment, the ballot board and Secretary Husted crafted the language and title with intent to mislead, deceive and defraud the voters,” Andy Douglas, a former Supreme Court justice serving as ResponsibleOhio’s legal counsel, told the Toledo Blade after his organization sued to block the ballot title.
They think the language was intentionally crafted to scare voters. Husted is trying to use the “truth defense.”
“I have an obligation as the state’s chief elections officer to make sure Ohioans understand the decision before them when they enter the voting booth,” Husted said in a statement after the lawsuit’s filing. “There is no better way to describe State Issue 3 than to say it is a monopoly that grants exclusive rights to a certain group of people, rights that would not be afforded to every other Ohioan.”
That’s where Husted is wrong. These labels aren’t where the case is made for or against an issue. The Secretary of State’s office publishes pieces by people on each side of the issue, explaining their rationale for their position.
These labels on state issues should be some of the dullest writing on the ballot, which is saying something given the dullness of the writing in the state issues themselves. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with their contents. It must be neutral language.
Trust us, we know how hard it can be to get a complicated issue explained in four or five words. We do it every day with our headlines. From that vast experience, we offer Husted this advice: Keep it neutral.
Ohioans will already have strong opinions when they see the word “marijuana” in the state title.
It’s bad enough there are two contradictory state issues on the ballot. No. 2 is the legislature’s effort to keep No. 3 from ever being relevant anyway. It claims to keep any group from using the initiative process to create a monopoly.
It’s worth noting that, if it were already passed, it probably would’ve kept Ohio’s casinos issue off the ballot, since that measure granted a monopoly to particular groups seeking to build casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. Voters had their own opinio, with 52.9 percent of voters supporting that idea.
Now this creative writing class is trying to sway the voters, in the name of education.
“My interest in this issue, as with every elections issue, is that the people of Ohio understand what is before them and leave the voting booth knowing their vote mattered,” Husted said in his release.
Husted must rewrite the issue names with simpler, less loaded language. Issue 2 could be “Amendment changing initiative process.” Issue 3 could be “Amendment allowing commercial production and sale of marijuana.”
They’re clear and concise. They’re accurate. They’re not politically loaded. That should’ve been Husted’s goal all along.