ABSTRACT

ABSTRACT OF A POSSIBLE VOTER EDUCATION LAW

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Statement of Purpose

In order to advance the general welfare through a more informed electorate, the Legislature authorizes the creation of a Division for Voter Education (DVE) to oversee of a process for the education of voters, as described below.  The DVE will create no educational materials itself.  This process shall apply to the election of candidates for both state and federal offices.  Municipalities are also authorized to adopt such a process for their respective local elections. 

Party Eligibility for the Voter Education Process

For the Initial Election:

In the initial implementation of the voter education process,  eligibility will be granted to the two political parties whose candidates for governor or US senator receive the highest percentage of the vote in the prior state or national election, respectively.

For Subsequent Elections:

Subsequent to the initial election, voters may, through a ballot feedback question, may increase the number of possible eligible parties to four.

Delegation of Eligibility:

Eligible political parties may participate in the educational process as parties, or they may delegate their eligibility to a specific political candidate or candidates.

Alternative Basis for Eligibility:

In elections subsequent to the first, voters, through a ballot feedback question may select the following alternative means of determining party eligibility: All parties with candidates on the ballot will be entitled to submit a proposed debate resolution to be addressed in the educational process for the subsequent election; these proposed resolutions will be included on the ballot and will be identified with the party submitting them.  Instead of the vote received by a party’s candidate for governor or US senator determining eligibility for the educational process, the vote percentage received by a party’s proposed debate resolution will determine it. 

Challenges

Challenges and Counter-Challenges:

Eligible parties may challenge other eligible parties to an email debate on a specific debate resolution, or to one without any such resolution expressed in the challenge, but which would be expressed, respectively, in the opening statements instead (which would effectively lead to two debates running concurrently.)  Challenged parties may accept the challenge, and may also counter-challenge with a debate resolution of their own.  In the event of a challenge with counter-challenge, the number of words allowed to each will (unless the contesting advocates agree otherwise) correspond to the percentage of the qualifying vote received by the parties involved.

Decline of Challenge:

A challenged party may also decline to accept the challenge, in which case the entire allowable word length will be awarded to the challenging party.

Debate Format

Allowable Word Length:

In the initial election cycle, the total allowable word length for the process will be 4000 words, divided between the eligible parties in accordance with the percentage of qualifying vote received by them.  In the second (and subsequent) cycles, if voters choose to allow eligibility for up to four parties, the total allowable length will increase to 5000 words, except when the voter percentage of the two smaller parties exceeds 20% of the vote, in which case the allowable length will be 6000 words.

Elements of the Email Debates:

The email debates will consist of opening statements, followed one week later by rebuttals, followed one week later by counter-rebuttals.

Insertion of Responses into the Text of Opponents:

With the use of a distinguishing font color, advocates may insert their rebuttals and counter-rebuttals piecemeal into the text of the statements of their opponents, directly following the point they are responding to.

Questions for Voters:

Subsequent to the debate, the advocates for the parties will be entitled to 100 words to pose questions to the voters relating to the facts and arguments of the debate.

Binding Referendum: 

After the first two elections, the ballot in every subsequent election will include a binding referendum question asking voters if they want the voter education process to be employed in the subsequent election.

Responsibilities of the Division for Voter Education

English-speaking citizens:

Upon completion of the email debates, the DVE will post the transcripts of them online.  Through email and postal mail, it will notify voters of such transcripts and of their requirement to “conscientiously consider” the arguments made by both sides, and to make a “good faith effort” to answer any questions put to them by the advocates.  The DVE will also mail hardcopies of such transcripts to those voters requesting them, and shall also make audiotapes available online, and in libraries. 

Non-English-Speaking Citizens:

In compliance with the bilingual election requirements of the Voting Rights Act, the DVE will post translations of the debate transcripts and provide hard copies on request. If the non-English-speaking citizen speaks a language that is not translated, such citizen must, through a translator, attest to such incapacity, and — as apparently required under the VRA — would be given a waiver to vote.

Voter Affirmation:

Required Affirmation:

Prior to voting, citizens must to affirm to having “conscientiously considered” the voter education materials and to have made a “good-faith effort” to answer any questions submitted by the advocates for the participating political parties (or candidates.) One-time waivers will be permitted for ignorance of the requirement; 8-year (or indefinite waivers) for foreign-language speaking citizens for whom no translations of the voter materials are provided; waivers for extenuating circumstances, and also for conscientious objection.

Initially, the voter will make his or her affirmation orally.  Or, in the case of absentee voting, the voter will submit it in his or her handwriting.  In subsequent elections, a signature following the affirmation will suffice.

Failure to Comply:

Should a citizen refuse to affirm compliance, and refuse to seek or qualify for any waiver, including the waiver for conscientious objection, then the citizen will be advised that he or she may nonetheless exercise his or her vote, but that, if he or she chooses to do so, such non-compliant exercise will be placed in solitary confinement for 12 daytime hours, with the only voter education material available for diversion, and, and other materials (debates or exchanges between conflicting parties) jointly agreed upon by the eligible political parties of such election cycle .