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Pig questions, confusion: It must be election time

By MARY JO MELONE, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2002

Ivoted Friday, and the last thing I want to do is discourage anybody from doing his or her duty.

Ivoted Friday, and the last thing I want to do is discourage anybody from doing his or her duty.

Do not be leery of the touch screen voting machines. Just let your index finger do the walking.

The waiter at your favorite restaurant has been doing this for years. After you order the chicken Caesar salad, he touches that entree on a computer screen near the kitchen and next thing you know, your dinner has arrived.

But do be leery of the ballot amendments.

If you have a chance to vote Monday, grab it. You'll spend less time in line waiting for the people ahead of you who are pondering how pigs got on the ballot.

So you know, the pig amendment, Amendment 10, is the brainstorm of out-of-state animal rights activists who lost a lot of sleep over how pregnant pigs are caged. In a state with only two of these kinds of pig farms, the amendment would require the pigs to be put in cages in which they can turn around.

Yes, we lose track of children in state custody and can't seem to do much to stop it, but we're devoting space and time to the care and handling of your holiday ham.

I voted no. I hope you do, too.

And I hope you vote no on Amendment 1. The amendment has to do with making sure Florida does not do away with the death penalty, even though this is not going to happen any time in the new millennium. But whether you favor or oppose the death penalty has nothing to do with why you should vote no.

Vote no to send a signal that you want ballot questions that are clearly written, that do not bob, weave and confuse.

When you get to the touch screen with Amendment 1 on it, you will discover the language of the ballot question fills the entire electronic page. It is 714 words long.

That's just the summary of the proposed amendment. The summary is longer than the amendment itself.

In this summary, you will learn that Florida legislators, the authors of this mess, put their heads together and decided to change the word between "cruel" and "unusual" from "or" to "and."

Irony piles up on irony here like cars in a train wreck. The ballot question is up for consideration because the same amendment, approved four years ago, was thrown out by the state Supreme Court. The court said the ballot summary was inaccurate. Now in place of inaccurate we have the incomprehensible.

In between Amendments 1 and 10, you are asked to tackle the cosmic, like the future of education. That's Amendments 8, 9 and 11. No. 8 requires the state to offer voluntary pre-K education for 4-year-olds. No. 9, the amendment that even its advocates say will cost a fortune, puts sharp limits on class size. Amendment 11 revises the way universities are managed by boards of trustees.

But the small and the technical also get their day.

For some reason, we who do not live there are being called upon to change the home rule charter of Miami-Dade County -- as if we care.

Another amendment tightens no-smoking rules. Another makes it harder to weaken the public records law. Another gives an additional tax exemption to people who build mother-in-law apartments on their property and then have their elderly relatives move in. Another requires the Legislature to provide cost estimates of future amendments.

I don't know how a voter who is not an editorial writer or Tallahassee insider can be expected to understand the context and impact of all these ballot questions and then cast a wise vote.

Still, just think of what we've accomplished.

We may not have a clue what we're voting on, but we've revolutionized the way we vote, using the latest technology.

If all goes well on Tuesday, at least the pigs will be happy.

-- You can reach Mary Jo Melone at mjmelone@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3402.

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