Do you have an opinion on state ballot questions? It’s yours to share for $75
PHOENIX -- Got an opinion on whether to hike income taxes on the most wealthy?
Mandates for renewable energy?
Or even voucher expansion?
Want to tell -- and try to influence -- more than just your immediate circle of friends and coworkers?
Well, you can. For $75.
That’s all it takes to put a 300-word argument into a pamphlet that’s going to be mailed to the homes of all 3.6 million registered voters ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.
But you’ve got to act fast: The deadline is 11:59 p.m. this coming Wednesday.
It’s all part of a long-standing state law that allows individuals, organizations and political committees to make their own pitch to voters about ballot issues. The Secretary of State’s Office then mails these out, one to each head of household with at least one registered voters.
Arguments have to be submitted electronically. In fact, the agency has set up a web site at: https://ballotarguments.az.gov.
It’s pretty much self-explanatory.
First, pick out which of the seven measures set to be on the ballot that you’d like to share your thoughts. Then it’s a simple matter of deciding whether you’re “for’’ or “against’’ the measure.
Be aware that one ballot measure is a bit of a trick.
That’s the referendum to ask voters whether they approve of the decision by state lawmakers last year to expand who is eligible to get a voucher of state dollars to send a child to private or parochial schools. Foes succeeded in getting sufficient signatures to put the issue on the ballot, listed on the Secretary of State’s web page as “R-02-2018 Save Our Schools Arizona.’’
But here’s the thing: If you want people to ratify what the Legislature did, you have to urge a “yes’’ vote; if you agree with referendum organizers who want to quash the law, a “no’’ argument is necessary.
For all the rest, it’s pretty much straight forward. Just type in what you want to say -- up to 300 words -- fill out the rest of the form and then, when prompted, make your $75 payment online.
And don’t worry if you don’t know what number is going to be assigned to the measure. Just write it out to say “Proposition XXX’’ or “Prop XXX’’ and the Secretary of State’s Office will fill in the number when it’s assigned.
State Elections Director Eric Spencer said what you decide to do with those 300 words is pretty much up to you. He said his office isn’t going to be editing for content.
“We peruse it for something horrible like hate speech or threats of violence,’’ Spencer said. “But no one has ever submitted like that.’’
And if someone chose to spice up an argument with a four-letter word not normally used in polite conversation, Spencer said he would consult with the Attorney General’s Office.
But pretty much anything else is in bounds, whether it actually relates to the ballot measure or not.
“Someone could write ‘Mickey Mouse’ 500 times and that would get printed in the publicity pamphlet, unfortunately,’’ Spencer said.
Well, not 500 times, given the word limit. But you get the idea.
One thing that’s relatively new is that those making arguments will have to do so with simple text. The web site won’t accept efforts to use bold or italics to make a point, though Spencer said people are free to capitalize for emphasis.
The other thing is that only online submissions will be accepted. Forget about typing or printing up something at home and showing up at the Secretary of State’s Office, paper in hand.
But Spencer pointed out that there are two computers available in the lobby of his agency, on the seventh floor of the Executive Tower, and he said agency staffers will assist those whose computer skills may not be up to par.
Oh, and that $75 fee? Spencer said that’s “not even close’’ to covering the actual cost of printing and mailing out the pamphlets.
“It probably doesn’t even make one-one thousandth of a dent,’’ he said. “It is a massively expensive proposition.’’
Part of the problem, Spencer said, is the latest trade war.
“Because of tariffs on paper, the cost of the pamphlet has gone up,’’ he said.
But that’s not all.
“When you combine that with a higher-than-normal number of initiatives, we think we’ll get more arguments than normal,’’ Spencer explained. “So this is going to be a heavier pamphlet and it’s going to cost a lot of money.’’
And one other thing: While the deadline for submitting arguments is Wednesday night, court challenges, name counts or court challenges could result in one or more of the measures not making the ballot.
There are no refunds.