Confusing hotel ballot language: Why yes means no and no means yes

A similar predicament surrounded the Trinity River referendum in November 2007 — a "yes" vote meant a vote against the toll road, and a "no" vote meant a vote in favor of the toll road. This made it all the more tricky for supporters on either side to promote their positions (and made campaign wording even more crucial than usual).

Now we’re looking at another referendum on May 9, this time involving a proposed convention center hotel Downtown, and we’re dealing with the same predicament. On Proposition 1, a "yes" vote is a vote against the hotel, and a "no" vote is a vote in favor of the hotel. So Dallas voters likely will be confused all over again.

I called the city secretary’s office and the city attorney’s office to find out the reasons behind the confusing wording, and here’s what I learned, after the jump:

"Basically, what happens is when we receive a petition by citizens, they will submit the ordinance as they want it presented to the voters," assitant city secretary Rosa Rios explains, so the wording is "dictated by the citizens who signed the peition, and we are required to present it by the way that they determined." And usually a group spearheads the wording of the petition, Rios adds, in this case, the Citizens Against the Taxpayer-Owned Hotel.

In other words, the city is bound by the wording of the petition, which aims to amend the city charter. In this particular case, a "yes" vote is a vote in favor of changing the city charter, which would then kill the hotel (or at least Mayor Tom Leppert thinks it would). If there would have been a way to word the petition that wouldn’t have created in the yes-means-no, no-means-yes confusion, Rios doesn’t know, or at least says "not by the city — that’s not something we have control over."

Someone else in the city attorney’s office (who asked not to be quoted by name so as not to risk seeming in favor of either side) says it this way: "Their [Citizens Against the Taxpayer-Owned Hotel] ballot proposition is to be against something, so if you aren’t against whatever they’re opposed to, then you vote ‘no’ … to vote for their proposition, you have to vote ‘yes’. What they’re doing is a negative, so the only way to do it is a positive to adopt a negative. Anytime you work with a ban or restriction or prohibition, it’s going to be something they’re against, but when you put it on a ballot, then you have to adopt the propostiiton by voting yes.

"A peition to adopt a policy to create more jobs or something like that, then it would be a yes for a yes. it just happens that the things proposed in the petitions, they happened to be bans."

Clear as mud?

 


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  • jasonleonwright

    I find this interesting because about a month ago I received a call asking if I was going to vote yes or no on the hotel vote. I said that I was against our city building the hotel, and the person asked me if I would place a Vote No sign in my yard. I declined the offer, but it’s funny that I was almost duped by a sneaky pollster. I wonder if any of those Vote No signs I see are in the yards of people who don’t really know what they’re supporting.