Sometime in October each of you will receive a state voter’s guide paid for by $250,000 of your tax dollars and distributed through the Secretary of State’s Office. The guide should be an accurate, informational explanation of statewide initiatives that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. It won’t be.
Rather, it will be a collection of unedited pro and con arguments written and submitted by paid campaign strategists on each side. The Secretary of State’s Office will do no fact-checking and according to Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst, that’s a good thing. “The problem that we get into,” Hurst said, “is when we start editing them how far do you go?” Hurst went on to say that that there is a point in which fact-checking would become censorship.
With all due respect, Tim, that’s nonsense. Censorship, by definition, involves some outside individual or some outside entity telling someone what to publish and what to suppress. Censorship cannot be self-imposed. In other words, the Secretary of State’s Office cannot “censor” its own publication any more than the Times-News can “censor” our own content. We may at times exercise restraint — or simply lack the temerity or backbone required to print something — but that’s not censorship.
Now, if Hurst or Secretary of State Ben Ysura had argued that they don’t have the time or manpower that would be required to fact-check the paid political literature distribution that the “Voter’s Guide” has disintegrated into, that we could understand. But censorship? We don’t buy it, and neither should you.
Between now and Election Day you will receive paid political literature from groups telling you that the state has fully funded the technology and laptop portion of the Students Come First law. You will receive conflicting information funded by political groups that maintain that no long-term funding exists in the state budget for technology and laptops. While confusing to voters, that’s the nature of referendum designed to instigate or eliminate things that are now part of our state law.
However, when you have to endure the same conflicting information in a $250,000 “Voter’s Guide” funded by your tax dollars, that’s just plain ridiculous.
Censorship — real censorship — still exists in some countries throughout the world where the state dictates what gets published and what gets suppressed. Real censorship is not good. But it should not and cannot be confused with fact-checking. Contrary to what the Secretary of State’s Office would have you believe, they’re two different things.
When the Legislature convenes in January they’ll once again be faced with funding decisions both large and small. Some programs and agencies will get more money; others less. Might we suggest a quarter-million-dollar cut to the Secretary of State’s Office for publication of a so-called voter’s guide as a great place to start?