In MJD's blog today, he recommends the Idle Words post on Bilingual Ballots. While the pro-bilingual ballots piece starts off as a good rebuttal of George Will's original commentary, as soon as one point is made, the remainder falls victim to muddled thinking.

If you claim that reading ballots in English is difficult because they are written in legalese, then claiming that we should translate them into Spanish just means translating them into Spanish legalese. Although we hate it, Legalese has the benefit of using extremely narrowly defined meanings ("Sexual Relations", anyone?).

But translation from one narrowly-defined language to another only works for the phrases that are exactly the same. Good luck. We already have enough arguments over what Legalese means, without compounding problems by having two or more versions of what the legislators were proposing.

Of course, we could come up with a translation service for all the languages that we somehow deemed useful enough and an alert system to inform registered alternative language speakers of translation issues and a re-voting system if translation issues are detected post-vote, OR we could just publish the ballots in advance and people could be free to look up the legal definitions at their local libraries.

Which solution do you like?

I vote for better access before the election, it's nearly impossible to find out exactly what will be on your local ballot before election day. - Nathan
So, is that a good indicator of voter apathy? Or voter powerlessness?
I guess we'll find out tonight....
As I pointed out to Nate when he first mentioned this in IRC, if he had google'd "pa state ballot" he would have found exactly who and what issues were going to appear on the ballot. For those PA residents too lazy to use google, try http://www.ElectionReturns.State.PA.US/ and click on "List of Ballot Questions". The ballot I saw today matched what I saw on that site two weeks ago, with the exception of a "Home Rule" referendum. Even when I've lived in backwoods Arkansas, they published the ballots in advance -- were you not aware of them? - Mark A. Hershberger