Forum seeks to demystify ballot issues

Thursday, October 23, 2008 | 10:29 p.m. CDT; updated 10:16 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

While the presidential candidates capture almost all of the media attention this election season, the ballot issues take up most of the space on a ballot.

Undecided voters are abundant when it comes to these wordy, less understood items.

Around 40 people attended an educational forum Thursday to get up to speed on the issues. The forum was put on by the League of Women Voters at the Daniel Boone Regional Library.

The forum featured speakers on each of the upcoming amendments and propositions, as well as the candidates in the 21st District House race, Democrat Kelly Schultz and Republican Steve Hobbs.

The forum was the final one put on by the league. It allowed mid-Missouri speakers to lay out the pros and cons for each ballot issue and field questions from the audience. Opposing speakers cordially traded opening and closing remarks.

For many in the audience, the forum was a chance to clarify the propositions and amendments. For some, voting decisions have yet to be made.

Columbia residents Rachel Carter and Tom Wellman said they were glad the forum was held in the evening, a time when they both could go.

Carter said she was "not at all familiar" with the ballot issues she'll be voting for on Nov. 4. She said Proposition B was the issue that she will have the most trouble deciding on.

Proposition B would allow home health care workers to use collective bargaining power in negotiations for benefits and higher wages.

Carter said she is typically pro-union, but at times during the presentation, she was unsure of how to vote.

"I'm full of admiration for the League of Women Voters," she said. "(The forum) gives me evidence to explore the issues further."

Wellman said the ballot issues were in many cases poorly worded, which made studying them a bit difficult. One such case is Amendment 4, a densely constructed ballot item that would allow the state to bond stormwater projects previously approved by voters in 1998. Wellman pointed to a line in the description he was sure was incorrect after hearing more about the issue.

Boone County resident Dan Dunham also said he did not have a chance to look carefully at the ballot issues until the forum. Afterward it was Proposition A that struck him the most.

The proposition would do away with a law allowing gamblers to purchase only $500 in chips every 2 hours. It would also restrict the number of casinos in Missouri to those already built and those already under construction. Proposition A would create new funding for elementary and secondary education, but Dunham was skeptical.

"It kind of seems like an industry promo," Dunham said, who has traditionally opposed all ballot initiatives related to gambling. Still, he was impressed by what he saw and conceded "there is still a possibility I'll reconsider."

Dunham said he thought numbers alone might doom Proposition C, a statute that would require major electric utilities to generate specific percentages of their power using renewable sources. He said the issue was doomed just because the description says it will cost the government.

"I think if a lot of people see numbers in it then they won't vote for it," Dunham said. "That's the reality...This time around there is so much behind (the ballot issues) you don't know what you're voting for. Voters need to be educated."

To see summaries of the ballot initiatives visit The Stone Quarry, a Missourian neighborhood news blog.

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