Periodically, Virginians are called upon to vote on proposed constitutional amendment on topics ranging from taxes to eminent domain. Sometimes the proposals are clear, sometimes the amendments are so obscure and the language so tortured that I have no idea what I’m voting on. As someone who blogs about Virginia public policy for a living, I figure I’m better informed than the average Joe. If I can’t figure it out, I’m guessing that a lot of other people can’t.
It turns out that Ballotpedia and the Lucy Burns Institute, which conducted a recent study of ballot initiatives, doesn’t think Virginia does a very good job either. The study rated 41 states that have had ballot initiatives since 2009 based on six criteria relating to how well they informed voters about the measures. Only nine states met five or six of those criteria. Half, including Virginia, met three or fewer. The Old Dominion won a “fair” rating.
The study, which follows a Wikipedia format, provides state-by-state comparisons, which you can find here. Virginia’s main failings were the lack of any fiscal impact analysis and the lack of summary statements pro and con. We should do better, especially on measures that generate no press coverage. Otherwise, the citizen consultation is a charade.