Ballot alternative should not be intended to confuse

Published 9:50 pm Saturday, August 15, 2015

The fight for education funding in Mississippi got a bit more complicated Thursday.

The state Supreme Court ruled that a Hinds County circuit judge should not have rewritten the ballot title for an alternative initiative, also dealing with school funding, that legislators put on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Supporters of the citizen-led school funding Initiative 42 sought a new description for the legislator’s Initiative 42-A, arguing that the two were too similar and voters would be confused. Why does the ballot description matter? Because the wording of the initiatives could determine whether voters reject or accept them.

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The ballot title for Initiative 42 says the state must provide “an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.” It also stipulates that people could sue the state if education funding falls short.

The original title for 42-A, written by Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, says lawmakers must fund “effective free public schools.”

The goal behind the citizen-led effort is to force lawmakers to fully fund an education budget formula. That formula, known as MAEP, has rarely been fully funded.

The goal of the legislators’ initiative is less clear. It would appear it’s on the ballot as a way to confuse voters. Imagine looking at a ballot and seeing those two initiatives.

Would you know what you were voting for? Or what you were voting against?

Most people will have a hard time distinguishing between the two initiatives, and it appears that was the goal of legislators.

Regardless of your view on this issue, we can all agree that voters should be able to easily understand what appears before them on a ballot. Anything less is a disservice to the democratic process.