Like many people around Park City, you’ve may have already sent in your ballot for next Tuesday’s election. You may have even cast a vote for or against local initiatives called Proposition 9 or Proposition 10 (on transit and buses). If you have voted, thanks! It’s one of the cornerstones of our democracy. What worries me, though, is how that cornerstone of our democracy can be manipulated. I’m not talking about some grand conspiracy theory foisted by national candidates. Instead I’m talking about how each of our votes can be manipulated at the local level.
If you still have your ballot, take a look at it. If not, you’ll notice that the front has the candidates for local elections, each with an oval next to their name. On the back, there are judges, constitutional amendments, and our two local propositions (#9 and #10). In every case for candidates, you select the oval next to their name. In the case of three constitutional amendments, you select that simply you are either FOR or AGAINST. For example with Utah Constitutional Amendment C, you choose either:
However, in the case of the two propositions advocated by our county, you choose:
FOR TRANSIT EXPANSION
AGAINST TRANSIT EXPANSION
FOR ROAD IMPROVEMENTS
AGAINST ROAD IMPROVEMENTS
What? What happened to the simple FOR or AGAINST used elsewhere throughout the ballot? Why the extra language? It’s structured in such a way that it’s asking you, “Are you for good roads or against good roads.” Who is going to say they want bad roads?
It’s much akin to a school bond ballot asking, “Are you FOR kids or are you AGAINST kids?” Who is going to say they are against children?
It is completely manipulative. If there was no thought put into it, wouldn’t it just say FOR or AGAINST? Since there is specific language, it indicates that there was at least some thought put into crafting the answers. Was the bad ballot design just coincidence or was it on purpose? Good question. Either way, it likely will influence the election. That’s not good democracy.
That said, this ballot was published ahead of time, as required by law, and it could have been challenged. Unfortunately, we weren’t paying enough attention at the time. Lesson learned.
The take away is that words do matter. In this case, on our local initiatives, the words betray the truth. You are already paying a sizable amount of money for transit and roads. The question is whether you are FOR or AGAINST paying more for those.