Friday, October 24, 2014

Ensuring Government Provided Preschool

The City of Seattle has figured out a fabulous way to ensure that the city residents support and pay for publicly organized pre-school.

Our ballots for this November ask Seattle residents to vote on Propositions 1A and 1B.  Both concern providing funding for and creating regulations of pre-schools in the city.  1A was added to the ballot through the collection of signatures.  1B was added by the city council.

The city council also decided that these two initiatives were in competition.  Rather than an up-or-down vote on each initiative we have a two-question ballot:

  1. Should either of these measures be enacted into law? [Yes / No]
  2. Regardless of whether you voted yes or no above, if one of these measures is enacted, which one should it be? [Proposition 1A / Proposition 1B]

We can choose to pass 1A, pass 1B, or pass neither... and the city has stacked the deck in favor of increasing government provided preschool by reducing exposure to the idea that voters can in fact vote "No" across the board... that the third option of rejecting both is actually available to the voters.

Seattle Municipal Code lays down the guidance that the city must produce an election pamphlet prior and mail it out the city.  Regarding initiatives, SMC 2.14.010.A.1 states that the pamphlet shall contain:

For each measure, the identification by serial number, the ballot title, the text, an explanatory statement, and arguments for and against the passage of the measure;

Since the two propositions are bundled together on the ballot, the pamphlet contains the explanatory statement for 1A, the explanatory statement for 1B, statements in favor of and in opposition to 1A, and statements in favor of and in opposition to 1B.

Notice what's missing?

The pamphlet does not contain statements in favor of and in opposition to the first question on the ballot.  The "Please do not allow the city government to become more deeply involved in the provision of preschool!" viewpoint is not represented in the pamphlet.

The absence is telling.

By deciding that these two propositions are in direct competition and combining them on the ballot the city council has reduced the likelihood that the voters will consider whether either of these initiatives is worthy at all.  The conversation in the pamphlet is about choosing between 1A and 1B, (and that is likely the case in the public discussion as well), and all voters are asked to select their preferred proposition, even if their answer would otherwise be "No" to both individually if they were presented with the option.

Politics is a messy sport.

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