Elections are wonderful, even when the results are awfully hard to take. Last night in Arkansas, Issue 3 passed very narrowly — in a sea of voter confusion.
That confusion had been instilled by disinformation in the ballot wording.
The win for Issue 3 means the term limits on state legislators will now be dramatically weakened from six to 16 years in the state’s House and from eight to 16 years in the Senate.
Plus, a new commission appointed by legislators is now poised to give legislators a big, fat pay raise.
The politicians who schemed up Issue 3 are slippery smart. Give them that. They slipped a doubling of their allowed terms in office as well as a scam to hike their pay into a constitutional amendment featuring a popular partial ban on lobbyist gift-giving to legislators. Oh, and the measure will also add an extra year’s delay before a legislator can switch-hit to work as a lobbyist.
Still, the respected Talk Business/Hendrix College poll repeatedly demonstrated that telling voters what the measure actually did — the popular gift ban as well as the unpopular weakening of term limits — led voters to overwhelmingly come down against the ballot measure, weeks ago by 62 to 23 percent.
But on the ballot, while voters were told about the measure “barring gifts from lobbyists,” they were not told about the doubling of the term limit. Instead, the ballot language deceptively said the measure was “setting term limits.”
A strong grassroots campaign crisscrossed the state trying to alert folks, but confusion reigned. On Facebook, countless early voters were angry to find they’d been duped:
“I was fooled, we ought to petition to revote on that issue with wording that is straightforward and not so obfuscated.”
“I, too, was misled into voting for it. The ballot printed version is an out right lie!”
“It was set up to be tricky . . . I caught it, but there are a lot who won’t!”
“Dang! It is a trick question! I voted wrong!!!!”
One friend of mine, no fan of term limits, offered, “For all of our other differences, I’m with you on this. It’s a bait-and-switch designed to snooker the electorate.”
An Arkansas Term Limits leader noted that the Yes on Issue 3 campaign “pursued a campaign of silence, letting the deceptive ballot title do their work.”
Sen. Woods (R-Springdale), who co-authored the measure with a House Democrat, slyly told reporters, “I would advise anyone going to the ballots to read Issue Three and tell me it is not a good bill.”
“For this to fail,” he added, “it would send a bad message to law makers. Because, it would just show people aren’t necessarily that big on us working together.”
Woods even dubbed Issue 3, “bipartisanship at its best.”
The senator and the forces of boss rule are about to meet a bipartisan grassroots at its best.
“If this passes, it’s because many voters were tricked,” explained Kay Carico Wilson days ago. “Lots of people are saying they did not understand it and voted the wrong way. The interesting thing is that many Conservatives and Liberals are equally upset over this. We have found some common ground.”
It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature; it’s not wise to trick the voters. To these deceivers, the politicians who cheated the people of Arkansas: There will be another election.
See you there.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.