Ballot measures look easy but still require thought

Think of the ballot measures in November’s election as simply complicated.

The simply part of that derives from the fact that voters are facing only two statewide measures on the ballot.

And one of them is a mere 17 words, while the other appears to be an easy call.

In recent elections, West Virginia voters have rarely faced more than one or two such measures.

Yet, in some past election years as many as five constitutional amendments were proposed in our state.

But despite the tersely worded Amendment 1 and the all-but-certain-to pass Amendment 2 it gets complicated, as such initiatives should be.

Just as it should be to get a bill passed by the Legislature or a local tax levy on the ballot.

As many readers are aware, judging by the volume of letters to the editor, Amendment 1 pushes a hot-button issue across the nation, abortion.

Amendment 2 gives the Legislature some oversight of the state judiciary’s budget, which doesn’t appear to be a hard call in light of recent scandals rocking the state’s highest court.

Amendment 1, the proposed “No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment,” is written as follows:

“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”

Amendment 2, the “Judicial Oversight Budget Amendment,” runs to about 125 words, that shifts spending oversight to legislators.

Currently, the judiciary controls its own budget. The court system is spending about $139 million this year, a thin slice of state spending.

We’ll have more to say about both these measures as Election Day draws nearer. But in the interim, if you need a framework to assess such measures, consider this:

  • Amending the state Constitution should meet a higher standard than a statutory measure. Do these proposals need to be embedded in our state’s Constitution?
  • What, if any, is the potential financial impact of these proposed amendments? It might be marginal, but may be difficult to predict.
  • Should these measures remain in the Legislature’s purview? Some proposals are complex enough that detailed scrutiny from lawmakers, along with public input, is smarter.

    But legislators know when to duck, and if they steadfastly refuse to take up an issue you can bet they don’t want to be the final word on it.

  • As a rule, journalists adhere to a guideline that goes: When in doubt, leave it out. Accordingly, we suggest when voters are in doubt about a ballot measure, leave it blank.

A two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature was required to advance these ballot additions to the Nov. 6 election.

But it just takes a simple majority for ratification.

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