NJ Pundits Criticize Possible Ballot Question Overload
Garden State voters could face four possible ballot questions in next year's November elections, and that might not be a good thing.
Two of New Jersey's veteran political pundits think allowing voters to make decisions on some of New Jersey's key issues is a bad way to set public policy because it's putting too much on the voters and it suggests that lawmakers aren’t doing the job they were elected to do.
“It’s asking a lot of the voters to do their homework on so many issues,” said Peter Woolley, political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
All four proposed ballot questions have to do with amending the New Jersey Constitution for various reasons including dedicating all state revenues from motor fuels and petroleum gross receipts tax to fund the state's transportation system and whether to allow casinos in North Jersey. In addition, voters could be asked if the state should be required to make quarterly pension payments into the public employees' pension system and whether the process for drawing the state's legislative district map should change.
Most of these issues have been floating around Trenton for years, and continue to face controversy. Woolley said it's just too much for the voters to handle.
“The voters simply don’t have the sustained attention to get into all of those issues,” Woolley said, who added that voters could end up leaving by default the ballot questions to special interest groups who will get out the vote for or against the issues.
And while turnout should be good for the 2016 November election thanks to the presidential race, Woolley is doubtful a lot of New Jersey voters would be very interested in four ballot questions.
New Jersey doesn’t have a culture of initiative and referendum, and its residents actually expect lawmakers to tackle important issues, according to Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
“This is like New Jersey legislators asking the voters to do their job for them,” Murray said. “By doing this, the legislators are all but admitting that they don’t know how to run the state. They’ve given up. I think the legislators need to take a cold, hard look in the mirror to ask themselves if they really should be doing this job.”
Murray said if lawmakers can’t do their jobs, maybe the only question they should put on the ballot is one asking for constitutional convention “to blow this whole thing up and start over again.”
A final decision has yet to be reached in the Legislature on whether any of the four proposed ballot questions would go to the voters.