In politics, name-recognition is key, when the appointed auditor Jan Shabro was asked about the contentious issue of adding her own name to election materials her response was… “As the elected officer, the buck stops with you, and people need to know who you are…” However…Shabro is not elected, she has only been appointed, and so this controversial tweaking of our ballot materials is especially inappropriate at this time.
A recent lawsuit filed against the language of County Proposition 1 highlights another concern about Shabro’s decision making and commitment to fairness. Fair elections require fair ballot titles – fair ballot titles must be concise, neutrally worded and free of persuasive language.
As the lawsuit shows, the ballot title for County Prop 1 has some controversial language. This language was added by the prosecutors office for no apparent reason, other that to make a point or to be persuasive. The ballot language adds: (this will be) “, consistent with term limits in effect for Auditor, Assessor-Treasurer and Sheriff;”
So, what’s the big deal about a little extra “factual-information”. The problem is that this wording sounds like a sales pitch, it’s not needed and it is not necessarily neutral. The wording subtly makes an appeal for consistency – it’s along the lines of saying… “look, these other offices are already like this – so let’s just be even, fair and consistent here, Okay?”
It’s called a baited argument; you “bait” the question with a universally appealing concept, like equality or consistency (something that everyone basically likes) and then you link it to something that’s still undecided. This marketing gimmick has no place in a county ballot title itself.
To further highlight the point about this language being a pitch, three years ago with a similar question on the ballot about extending term limits – The ballot title did not add the phrase: (this will be) “, inconsistent with terms for other county offices”. Why? Because it wasn’t appropriate, it wasn’t included then and we shouldn’t be including that kind of language now.
I have twice politely asked auditor & candidate Shabro why she decided to accept the controversial language for the ballot title of Prop 1. The response from her both times has been – “It is the prosecutor who is responsible for writing the ballot language, not me..” – She follows that by saying that if there is a problem with the language of the ballot title it can be brought up with the prosecutor’s office.
The problem with that is that – insuring fair and impartial elections by correcting bias or controversy should not be my job; it should be and must be the auditor’s job. Election law only says only that the ballot title shall be prepared by the prosecuting attorney and submitted the auditor. It further says that anyone, including the county auditor, can appeal the ballot language.
The law and convention says that ultimately; it is the county’s auditor who is responsible for ensuring the content, equity and fairness of our local elections. I am not made confident by the appointed auditor’s decision making thus far…
In contrast, Julie Anderson disapproves of altering election materials in a way that could be considered helpful to anyone’s campaign. She has also expressly said that she would review submissions by the prosecutor and not simply re-print anything the prosecutor’s office submitted.
Ms. Anderson has committed to working hard to make sure that our county ballot titles and all election materials are always fair, accurate and concise. I am further impressed by the strong values, professional endorsements and executive experience of Julie Anderson. She has the right commitment to independence, being non-partisan, equal treatment and fairness when it comes to being our next county auditor.
(ballot titles) shall be prepared by the prosecuting attorney of the county…
(the auditor or) any person dissatisfied with the ballot title prepared by the prosecuting attorney, may appeal the title to the superior court of the county.