I hear you crying out in the wilderness, Missouri voters. The words are faint because you’re deep in the forest, but what I’m hearing is: “Please, help me understand this long, crazy election ballot.”
Today and tomorrow, your supplications will be answered.
Since The Kansas City Star is not in a position to render much assistance (its editorial board having been effectively wiped out by a new publisher bent on taking the paper in a new editorial direction), JimmyCSays will help you cut through the ballot fog.
I voted absentee Wednesday at Center High School, and I can assure you the lines and wait times will be long at the polls next Tuesday. It took me 30 to 40 minutes to check in, wait in a line of six or seven people to get a ballot and then fill out the paper ballot by hand. (At Center, you do not have the option of voting absentee on one of the relatively few electronic machines the Kansas City Election Board has.)
…As an aside, Missouri and the Kansas City Election Board are incredibly backward when it comes to election systems. Missouri does not allow early voting because the Republicans who control the Legislature want to keep the vote down. And the KCEB clings tenaciously to the paper-ballot system, which makes voters feel like kindergartener experimenting with their first sets of crayons.
Anyway, the Kansas City, MO, ballot includes five state constitutional amendments; a statewide proposition; three Jackson County questions; three Kansas City questions; and, in parts of the city, a Mid-Continent Library proposition.
Today, let’s take a look at the five constitutional amendments and the statewide proposition. The biggest oddity on the ballot is dueling measures that would raise the cigarette tax — the lowest in the nation, at 17 cents a pack. We look at the dueling measures first.
Amendment 3 and Proposition A
:: Amendment 3 would add 60 cents to the cigarette tax, to be phased in over four years. The revenue would go toward child health and education programs.
The initial backers of this amendment were early childhood education advocates in St. Louis. Their intentions were, and are, good. The main problems: the tax hike is not large enough to deter people from smoking, and none of the revenue would go toward educating people about the hazards of smoking or smoking cessation programs. Here’s another wrinkle: R.J. Reynolds, seeing an opportunity to pre-empt a larger tax increase down the road, jumped in and decided to push hard for passage. So far, it has spent $12 million promoting the measure…That should tell you everything you need to know.
My recommendation: Vote NO on Amendment 3.
:: Fielding its own pawns and bishops in this smoking chess game, the convenience store industry countered with Proposition A, which would raise the cigarette tax by a measly 23 cents a pack and would allow marketers of discount cigarettes to keep their price advantage over the major brands. (One part of Amendment 3 would eliminate that advantage.) Revenue generated by Proposition A would go for roads and bridges.
Like I said, the convenience store industry is promoting the measure…That should tell you everything you need to know.
My recommendation: Vote NO on Proposition A.
This is a proposed renewal of a one-tenth-of-a-cent sales tax that generates $90 million a year for soil and water conservation and to help cover operational costs at state parks and historic sites.
Voters first approved this sales tax in 1984. It’s been a big positive for Missouri.
My recommendation: Vote YES on Amendment 1.
Since 2008, Missouri has had no limit on campaign contributions in state races. Amendment 2 would set a limit of $2,600 per election cycle — $2,600 in a primary and $2,600 in a general. It also would set a ceiling of $25,000 on donations to a political party. Credit for this proposal goes to Fred Sauer, a businessman from St. Louis, who says caps would help to rebuild trust in state government.
This is about as straightforward and basic as a proposal gets: Do you want to live in a state that limits campaign contributions or one where the special interests can spend as much as they like and are able?
My recommendation: Vote YES on Amendment 2.
Like Amendment 3 and Proposition A, this is another crazy proposal. It would bar any new state or local taxes on services or transactions that are not currently subjected to sales taxes. Some of its chief backing comes from realtors, who are peering into the forest and envisioning real-estate-transaction fees behind every tree.
I don’t like sales taxes. It’s the most regressive tax there is, hitting hardest those with the lowest incomes. At the same time, it makes no sense to me to attempt to pre-empt every conceivable new sales tax. I prefer to vote on tax proposals one at a time, considering the merits of each.
My recommendation: Vote NO on Amendment 4.
This looks suspiciously like Kris Kobach creep. The man who has made a name for himself by trying to limit Democratic voter turnout in Kansas must have inspired the backers of Amendment 6, which would require voters to show photo i.d. at the polls.
I’m a Democrat…Need I say more?
My recommendation: Vote NO on Amendment 6.
One final recommendation: Whatever jurisdiction you live in, go to your election board’s website and carefully review the “Sample Ballot,” which lays out exactly what you will see at the polls. You’ll be glad you took the time to familiarize yourself with the issues and ballot language.
Tomorrow: The three Jackson County questions; the three Kansas City, MO, questions; and Proposition L, which would benefit the Mid-Continent Library.