Paul Jacob

When California voters read Proposition 28’s ballot title, they overwhelmingly support the June 5th measure. Yet, once voters get more details as to what the ballot initiative really does, that robust support not only dissolves, it completely reverses.

The Public Policy Institute of California poll shows 68 percent of voters in favor of the ballot proposition and only 24 percent opposed. Surveyed Californians were understandably responding to the official ballot title, which reads that Prop 28 “reduces the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years and allows 12 years’ service in one house.”

Voters clearly want to reduce the time legislators spend in Sacramento. So, accordingly, they like Proposition 28. But then again, a poll commissioned by Citizens in Charge Foundation (the non-partisan, pro-initiative group I work with), addressed the same measure, except that voters were told, “Proposition 28 increases the total amount of time a person may serve in the state assembly from 6 years to 12 years. It allows a person to serve a total of 12 years either in the Assembly, the Senate, or a combination of both.”

Hearing that, voter support dive-bombed to a mere 28 percent, with almost twice as many, 49 percent, opposed. Gee whiz, the wording voters see on the ballot really matters.

This phraseology comes from then-state attorney general, now Gov. Jerry Brown, who wrote this title two years ago, ably making it seem Prop 28 would toughen the limits, while the measure, in fact, actually weakened the limits.

Jon Fleischman, the volunteer co-chairman of No on 28, charges that the ballot title was “written to fool the voters.” Former game show host Chuck Woolery became so offended by the ballot language trickery that he posted a YouTube video, telling listeners, “They're lying to you. Passing Prop 28 will allow legislators to increase their time in office and the self-serving power that comes with it.”

So, what does this measure actually do?

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.