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When in doubt, vote no

Essay by Ellen Miller

Politics – November 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

Early voting started too early — on Oct. 13 — and it guarantees one thing. More political ads for a longer period of time. It’s too bad, because candidates used to marshal their money for a last-minute blitz that went on for maybe a week. Now we get three weeks of it, at least.

The trick is reading through the 30-second catch lines and spotting ads for what they really are. Years of practice have yielded a few tips on sorting through the bull. Bear in mind that truth and accuracy are not the goals of political ads.

“Stop special interests.” This is a sure-fire trick. Most campaigns that say stop special interests really mean substituting one set for another.

An obvious example this year is the smoking tax amendment. Those for it want to stop the tobacco companies. What they don’t say is that they want to substitute their own special interests. The huge pile of money that supposedly will be generated by this tax is to be doled out for anti-smoking programs by a board appointed by the governor. All the non-profits without real jobs (so they can play nanny and health police instead) will line up at the trough. So to vote on this, pick your special interest of choice.

“Election reform.” Another right-sounding but always misleading item. This year’s Doug Bruce effort, Amendment 12, promises election reform in ways only a law professor can explain. Like its predecessor, Amendment 1, it would open a can of worms and provide full employment for lawyers to sort out its provisions and ramifications.

For a good example look at Mesa County, where the commissioners think Amendment 1 means they can get out of paying for their courts and throw the costs back to the state. The state, predictably enough, disagrees. So they’ve gone to the Colorado Supreme Court, with taxpayers paying both ends of the legal bills, in order to determine whether the county or the state will pay for courts, from the pockets of the same taxpayers. So who knows what traps Amendment 12 has hidden inside. Unless you’re a lawyer, it’s going to cost you money.

“Workers comp reform.” The decision here is whether to leave the system in the hands of attorney and insurance companies, or allow more so-called medical professionals to get their hands on the dough.

Forgotten in large part by all of the above is the interest of the guy who gets hurt on the job. His employer doesn’t want to pay, the attorneys all want their piece of the action, and so do all the people who claim to be “health care providers.” This can be anybody, even your local witch doctors, should the provision pass.

“Support our schools.” This one is a real laugher. This particular amendment would allegedly allow gambling proceeds to go to the schools.

What it really does is shove gambling down the throat of Manitou Springs, where local voters have twice rejected it. It would allow gambling at airports, opening up years of litigation with the feds. If you think your own town should be able to call its own shots, look carefully at this one.

Examples are endless. Me? I’m remembering what my grandpa always told me about elections. When in doubt, vote no.

From her base in Grand Junction, Ellen Miller covers Western Slope special interests, reforms, and the like for the Denver Post.