Clear language in ballot initiatives is crucial for voters – get it right!

The Saint ReportReferendum/initiative, saintblog, Transportation, Uncategorized

By Owen Eagan,
Senior Vice President, The Saint Consulting Group

ballot_initiativesWhat is the most important piece of information for voters on ballot initiatives?  Is it knowing who the sponsors are?  Is it knowing who the endorsers are?  Is it knowing if there are any tax or cost implications?  Is it knowing whether the issue is related to partisan politics?  Is it knowing whether the issue is a vote of conscience?  Is it knowing that the issue is related to complex public policy and should be left up to the legislature to decide?

While all of these aspects are important considerations for voters, they all have something in common regardless of the issue they address.  That is, they are all contingent on the most important piece of information for voters.  Give up?  It’s the ballot language.  The ballot language is the single most important piece of information because it is the one bit of information that every voter is guaranteed to see.  Get it right and your chances of success dramatically improve.  Get it wrong and you are destined for failure.

So important is the ballot language that it is the first issue that the opposition will likely challenge through decision-making authorities and/or legal channels.  When it comes to transportation issues, whether you’re considering light rail, a toll road or highway improvements, you need to make sure you get the language right before you go down the ballot initiative path.  Otherwise, your journey might be over before it even starts.

Owen Eagan is senior vice president for The Saint Consulting Group, email eagan@tscg.biz , phone 781.831.2494