"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Formerly known as

Ben Ysursa

Ben Ysursa

Voter confusion does happen, and a guy immersed for a third of a century in running a state’s elections certainly would be sensitized to that. And to attempted end runs around the system, too.

So Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa seems right in his proposal – which looks likely to fly this week through the soon-ending legislature – to require that when a person legally changes his or her name to a political slogan and then runs for office, that the ballot include (just as record store rack jobbers did with the musician Prince) a note that this person was formerly known as, whatever. In this case, the candidate name “Pro-Life“, formerly known as Marvin Richardson. Ysursa pointed out that some voters may check off “Pro-Life” thinking they’re supporting an issue, and another candidate for the Senate as well, resulting in an “overvote” – invalid balloting.

Richardson’s – ah, Pro-Life’s – response was predictably negative: “It’s pretty stupid, really, to say that a voter doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

The problem is that Richardson’s name-change gambit has to be premised on just that kind of confusion: To encourage a voter to approve him based on approval of an issue. Why else would Marvin Richardson, running as Marvin Richardson campaign on a pro-life platform, not be good enough? You periodically see candidates with unusual names on the ballot (say, the perennial Mike the Mover in Washington). Most of them don’t generate any real confusion, though. “Pro-Life” does. If ballots should be clear and simple, and they should be, the added bit of information Ysursa calls for ought to help.

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