Voters Pamphlet: Changes Coming Soon?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

In a wide-ranging interview (that's fascinating to us political junkies) with Peter Wong at the Statesman-Journal, the new state director of elections - Stephen Trout - notes that he's exploring changes to the Voters Pamphlet.

Wong: Do you foresee any changes in Oregon's voters pamphlet? I notice that California's pamphlet is different, with one set of arguments for and against a ballot measure, and one set of rebuttals. It's obviously a lot thinner.

Trout: I'm interested in learning about the history and culture behind Oregon's publication. My goal, once this election is completed, is to do some polling and focus groups to learn how useful the current voters pamphlet is for voters. I do not want to prejudge it. I think we all have opinions on how useful it is. We're never going to satisfy everybody's needs. But I want to get some data to see what the public really thinks.

I want it to be a useful tool. I don't want to put it out there just to have it out there. I want it to be something that is going to help the voters. Obviously, it costs a lot of money to print them and distribute them. Yes, we do get fees from people paying for their statements. But it's a big project. We want to make sure people get the best value they can and get something useful for them as they make their decisions in casting their ballots.

What are we going to find from these polls and focus groups? I'm not sure. There are people who love the process, and people upset with it. I want to see what the data suggest so we can make it better and more helpful to people. At the same time, we have to balance rights to political speech, so there are major constitutional issues with anything we do with the voters pamphlet.

What do you think? Is it time to drop the lengthy pro and con arguments for ballot measures? Do you find them repetitive and unhelpful? Or do they help you figure out how to vote?

What other suggestions do you have for improving the Voters Pamphlet? Let's help out the elections division. Discuss.

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    Would be great to have hyper links in the online version, I hear it's all the rage on this intertube thing.

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    Also, I know it's not necessarily the SOS's job, but being able to filter the candidates based on your address and including County / City level candidates (maybe just linking to the County Election Offices).

    But the info is really distributed now.

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      Targeted custom printing based on the address being shipped to might improve the length and usability usability of the guide. Though there is a cost savings/cost increase cross-over-threshold. Reduce page count and increase usability, though that increases the cost per piece as the number of versions ramps up.

      The contextual cross-linking is a vast area which almost all levels of online communication can be improved, both in the public escort as well as in publishing in general.

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    Scott -- Good thoughts. Yeah, they should really make a single comprehensive online voter guide that includes (or at least, links to) the county and city stuff.

    And making links into links is a no-brainer.

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      I'd also add contextual links that can be done uniformally and universally, and without political judgment applied.

      For example, measures referred by the Legislature should include links to the legislation and votes. And candidate pages should all link to the candidate financial disclosure forms and their filing paperwork (where contact info lives.)

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    The voters' pamphlet for the current election in Clackamas County was poorly organized, especialy as regards the County candidates. Statewide candidates were displayed in two sections, separated by an insert with County candidates. However, this organization was not explained nor were any of the County candidates indexed. To find information about candidates for County Commission or County Clerk, I had to page through the entire 111 page document. How many busy voters are going to take the time to do this?

    I suggest that the county and city candidate information be placed in a section at the end, rather than in the middle of, the voters' pamphlet and that a separate index for county and city candidates be included at the end of that section. Furthermore, an introduction at the beginning of the pamphlet should explain the organization of the pamphlet.

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    Although I would be in favor of a supplemental online version, I don't like the idea of changing the printed version by eliminating the arguments.

    I actually read the arguments, both pro and con and look at who is making them. I find that useful. Quite often individuals have good points that the advocacy groups completely miss.

    I also wouldn't want the SOS office to arbitrarily or subjectively pick one argument for each side. Certainly the pamphlet gets bigger with more arguments, but each argument paid $500 to be there. If that isn't covering the costs of the larger size booklet, then look at getting bids for printing outside the state printing office or have the state office compete against private printers to ensure we aren't paying higher than market prices for the printing.

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      I also prefer the pro/con arguments and support leaving them as they are.

      I'm also wondering if the deadline for the print version can be extended a little longer. Or if not, could the deadline for the online version be later? (I don't know if that's reasonable or fair..I'm just kicking it around). Due to the unfortunate and untimely death of Ben Westlund, we had all that last minute shuffling and rushing. It would be good if under such circumstances we could get a little more breathing room for endorsements.

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    The big change in the voter's pamphlet recently was that they jacked up the price of filing statements for candidates -- effectively pricing a significant number of minor party candidates and/or non-establishment major party candidates out of filing a statement.

    That should be reversed in the next session.

    FWIW, I've really appreciated having Steve Trout in the elections office. About the only major conflict we've had in recent months relates to the refusal of the SOS to maintain accurate voter registration cards, but otherwise the office has been exceptional.

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    I don't read the pro/con arguments, but I do see who is making them. That helps me know where i might generally stand on an issue or a particular candidate.

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    I think there should be a very brief job description for each of the types of candidate elections. This way voters could actually compare the experience shared by the candidates with the skills needed for position they are seeking.

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