Thursday, October 27, 2011
Ballot issues surface
By BARRY BURLESON
Last week issues arose over the wording of the statewide initiatives being offered for vote on the November 8 ballot. There was an announcement that many counties would have to reprint ballots or add “inserts” after absentee voting has already begun.
Attorney General Jim Hood said he believed the “fiscal analysis” or cost to taxpayers for each of the initiatives should have been included on the ballots, according to the state Constitution. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, after reviewing applicable statutes, agreed.
“Pursuant to code section 23-15-367, it is the responsibility of the secretary of state to prepare the ballot and the governor to approve it,” Hood said. “Luckily, one of our career election lawyers was reviewing another matter and discovered that the secretary of state had failed to place the fiscal analysis on the initiative as is expressly required by the Constitution (Section 273). Our assistant attorney general immediately called the secretary of state’s office to notify them of their error.”
The fiscal analysis for each initiative was prepared by the legislative budget office. That office found there was no financial impact for the personhood and eminent domain initiatives and a $1,499,000 financial impact for the voter identification initiative.
For personhood and eminent domain, the additional wording will read – “There is no determinable cost or revenue impact associated with this initiative.”
For voter ID, the fiscal analysis on the ballot will read: “Based on Fiscal Year 2010 information, the Department of Public Safety issued 107,094 photo IDs to U.S. citizens of voting age. The individuals were assessed $14 per ID to offset a portion of the $17.92 cost per ID. The cost is estimated to remain the same, but the assessment will no longer be allowable under the provision of Initiative 27 (voter ID). Therefore, the Department of Public Safety is estimated to see a loss of revenue of approximately $1,499,000.”
Hosemann said, “Our office has taken great strides to educate the public on these three initiatives. State law required we hold five public hearings across the state on the initiatives; our agency held nine. Those hearings were transcribed and placed on our website, along with written comments submitted to our agency, at www.sos.ms.gov/elections/initiatives. I encourage the public to take the time to read these discussions and be informed on the issues before they head to the polls on November 8.”
The secretary of state’s office published the original statewide ballot to individual counties on September 14, and most circuit clerks, including Lucy Carpenter in Marshall County, had already developed their ballots and had begun absentee balloting.
Pamela Weaver, director of communications with the secretary of state’s office, said absentee votes cast up until the change will count and the secretary of state’s office will pay the counties’ extra printing expenses. She said she did not know how many counties would have to reprint, how much it would cost or whether some would simply add inserts. Inserts are being added on absentee ballots, she said.
Carpenter said she will not have ballots reprinted.
“I have a real issue with that as tight as money is now,” she said. “It could be handled another way.”
She said she will use the new data base to change the voting machines so the new language will be added to the initiatives. Plus, there will be “an insert” added to the paper ballots for absentee, affidavit and curbside voting, according to Carpenter.
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