Language on ballot disputed as biased
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
July 04, 2012 01:08 AM | 3709 views | 18 18 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA – In what may be the first step toward a lawsuit, an anti-TSPLOST group recently retained high-profile Atlanta attorney Pitts Carr to challenge what the group believes is biased language that Secretary of State Brian Kemp placed on the July 31 ballot.

Cobb residents likely will remember Carr as lead counsel for such plaintiffs as Butch Thompson in the lawsuit against Cobb EMC, a case that ultimately resulted in the entire replacement of the Cobb EMC board.

The ballot language raising the ire of the anti-tax group is a preamble that says the TSPLOST “provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”

In a June 28 letter to Kemp, Carr asks: who drafted such language, under what authority is it claimed that such language may be placed on the ballot?; were private concerns involved in the preparation and submission of this language?; and who are the private entities involved?

“I think it is very improper for anyone to use a ballot for advocacy, and this is like having a billboard in support of Referendum 1 right on the ballot,” Carr told the Journal on Tuesday.

“It would be like somebody saying, ‘Larry Burke (candidate for Cobb State Court Judge) is a really great guy,’ you know? The ballot is supposed to be completely neutral and fair in every way and to have anybody do some electioneering on the ballot is improper, but I think it’s particularly improper for the state to be the one that’s doing it or appears to be the one that’s doing it.”

Carr believes the language is not permissible under Georgia law.

“I don’t believe it is. I can’t find any basis for it,” he said.

The language is biased in favor of the proposed tax, Carr said, quoting the preamble about how passage of the tax will allegedly “create jobs and reduce traffic congestion.”

“I mean, anybody would say, ‘well hell yeah, where do I sign?’” Carr said. “But to say that the issues are extraordinarily more complicated, and for every positive that’s asserted in this preamble there are multiple negatives, and if we’re going to have preambles then the people that are interested in pointing out to the public the negatives ought to be able to have their own preamble, shouldn’t they?”

Asked if he believes the ballot issue could hold up the July 31 referendum with a possible lawsuit, Carr responded by saying he’s waiting to hear from Kemp.

“What legal options may or may not be available we’ll have to wait for the response of the Secretary of State to our inquiry,” he said.

Ifld Kemp insists on keeping the language on the ballot, then there is another matter worth considering, Carr said.

“If this does pass with this language I think there is a cloud over the result,” Carr said. “I think it’s an issue — I’m not saying that’s one hundred percent right — but I do think that’s a legitimate issue that they should be concerned about. What they ought to do is get it the hell off of there. They’ve got plenty of time to get it off and let it go forward.”

Rarely does the state legislature dictate what language is to be on the ballot, but in the case of the transportation referendum, it did, Carr said.

The legislature approved language that states “Shall Cobb County’s (or whatever Georgia county a resident votes in) transportation system and the transportation system network in this region and the state be improved by providing for a one percent special district transportation sales and use tax for the purpose of transportation projects and programs for a period of ten years?”

The voter is then directed to vote “yes” or “no.”

“The legislature seldom does this but in this case it plainly said this is the language that’s going on the ballot, the language that says ‘shall Cobb County blah, blah,’ and there was nothing in that bill that authorized anybody to fool around with the ballot language,” Carr said.

Carr has filed an Open Records Request with the state to learn who was promoting the language.

The Journal asked Kemp’s spokesman, Jared Thomas, if Kemp planned to respond to Carr’s inquiries. Thomas emailed the following statement from Kemp: “We are in receipt of the letter from Mr. Carr. Should Mr. Carr and his clients move forward with legal action, we look forward to defending our position in court.”

The group that hired Carr is a grassroots, volunteer organization called the Transportation Leadership Coalition chaired by Jack Staver of Woodstock.

“Whether you are for or against the proposed tax increase, we can all agree the ballot is sacred and neither the Secretary of State nor anyone else should be able to turn our ballot into political propaganda,” Staver said in a statement.
Comments
(18)
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cast my vote
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July 06, 2012
I would like to cast my vote for either "recall" or just plain" throw out of office." This is disgusting and when I voted for this man, I thought he had some moral fiber. What is the matter with him? We need him gone soon. He could affect the direction of the election.
CobbCountyRedneck
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July 06, 2012
Ever since the Roundtable got their hands on TIA legislation they have been manipulating it to the advantage of greedy developers and ambitious politicians.

Their concern for the commuting citizens of the metro area and the goal of reducing congestion went out the window once the saw that $7 billion slush fund sitting within their reach.

They are willing to do almost anything to funnel that money into their pockets.

This latest monkey business with the ballot language should alert voters to their real intentions.
Cain's comment
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July 06, 2012
If "they" have to cheat on the ballot to get TSPLOST passed that's sure proof that there is something crooked going on.

If the ARC could make Secretary of State do the cheating, that's even worse, a compromise of two organizations that should know better.

Vote NO on TSPLOST
Kennesaw Voter
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July 06, 2012
The wording matters a great deal; the average working person may not be informed about the issue and will vote based on "how it sounds to them when they read the ballot"...thus a person who would vote NO if they really understood what they were reading...votes yes instead...which is exactly what our elected politicians want. I hope this goes to court, if it does, a fair judge will strike it down.

Keep fighting the good fight!
VFP42
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July 05, 2012
I don't care for the roads projects being termed transportation projects. Nowhere on the ballot does it let the voter they will foot the bill for their own private motor vehicle in order to make ANY use of these "transportation" projects. What a sham!

We can pour countless millions more into our roads, but they still are only hardened ground. Roads don't transport anyone anywhere. Roads just sit there.
Tony Cain
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July 05, 2012
It must be nice to be able to see the future 30 years from now. The truth is, these little tin gods don't know what will happen the next second. No one does. If they know the future, how come no one foresaw the real estate bust?

P.S.-The ARC tells us how many people will come to the metro-Atlanta area in 30 years, but how many people will leave it?
TIC
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July 05, 2012
If you buy the BS that ARC and the other pro TSPLOST proponents are shoveling our way, voting no on the TSPLOST means Atlanta will become another Detroit.

If that happens I guess we won't have to worry an additional 3 million people coming here.

And what about?
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July 05, 2012
We also need to remember Untie Atlanta's Top 30 reasons to vote for this TSPLOST: Reason #30: In 30 years nearly 3 million people will pour into Atlanta....

But wait, they are touting this as a 10 year tax not 30?

I would rather keep Atlanta tied than the noose around my neck....
SG68
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July 05, 2012
The most disgusting part of the obvious pro TSPLOST language proposed for the ballot is the fact that the people who created it would be so arrogant as to believe that it would go unchallenged.

The developer funded pro TSPLOST groups have taken every opportunity to misinform the public and obfuscate the facts surrounding this $7 billion taxpayer scam.

That in and of itself should cause voters to question their real motives.

Now they are stooping to a new low by conceiving ballot language that is so biased it is laughable.

Here is my humble suggestion for the ballot language for the referendum.

“Provides a one percent tax for the funding of local and regional transportation projects with citizen oversight."

“Shall Cobb County’s (or whatever Georgia county a resident votes in) transportation system and the transportation system network in this region and the state be funded by providing for a one percent special district transportation sales and use tax for the purpose of transportation projects and programs for a period of ten years?”

Neutral, unbiased, straight forward.

As long as the
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July 05, 2012
wording is not so distorted that I can't figure out how to vote it down, I don't mind much. It's the "I-don't-put-much-effort-into-voting" voters that I worry might all-too-casually read the slanted verbiage and vote "yes," while remaining unaware of the grander implications of this mishandled tax proposal...
am sorry
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July 05, 2012
I am sorry now that I voted for Brian Kemp and will not do so again.

The wording on the ballot is disgraceful. I feel like the issue should be taken from the ballot altogether, for now, and let the lawyers fight this out. This is not fair to the TAXPAYERS, US, the suckers who get stuck with paying for all of this.
Piney Woods Pete II
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July 04, 2012
Secretary of State Brian Kemp is asked a legitimate question about an upcoming election and his response is to hide under his desk.

How disgraceful.
Cobb resident&voter
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July 04, 2012
If the quote from Mr. Kemp regarding a potential response is the full extent of his response to date, it sounds as if Mr. Kemp is planning to out-wait the citizens' group and force them out of the picture by causing them to run through the funds they have to fight this. That is dirty politics. Mr. Kemp, you work for the citizens of this state and I demand you respond to this letter of inquiry without waiting to defend your "position in court". I have not contributed to any of the opponents of this proposed tax but am considering it now.
Cobb Watcher
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July 04, 2012
How corrupt can it get? This is so wrong! Since this wording went out on the absentee ballots it is

absolutely imperative that the TSPLOST vote be

nullified.
Kennesaw Resident
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July 04, 2012
Absolutely it should be nullified.
Trickery & Deceit
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July 04, 2012
It is amazing that TSPLOST promoters would resort to trickery and deceit on our ballots to pass their sorry tax. Messing with the ballot has to be one of the worst all time examples of politicians that think they are above the law.

Secretary of State Kemp Kemp responded on TV last night that he had consulted with the Roundtable in making his decision - that would be Tim Lee and Mark Mathews.

Most thought Kemp was of better moral fiber. We must vote him out if he is not impeached first.

Vote NO on TSPLOST JULY 31ST.
Square Bug
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July 04, 2012
But how could it be since both members of the

"Roundtable" have square heads?
Kennesaw Resident
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July 04, 2012
I laughed out loud when I saw the language on my absentee ballot - it was blatantly biased. I still voted "NO" for TSPLOST.
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