Ballot wording confuses voters

October 22, 2007

by Roz Kohls

Last year in Missouri, voters approved, with a razor-thin margin, a pro-cloning constitutional amendment that was disguised as an anti-cloning measure and promised treatments and cures.

“Every poll ever taken shows that Missourians don’t want human cloning to be legal in their state,” said attorney Cathy Ruse in “National Review” magazine Oct. 12. She is a senior fellow for legal studies at the Family Research Council.

How were voters in Missouri tricked into voting the opposite of what they wanted? The ballot language Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan issued for Amendment 2 included fine print creating a constitutional right to do somatic cell nuclear transfer. Somatic cell nuclear transfer is the scientific name for cloning. It is the same procedure used to clone Dolly, the sheep, in Scotland.

Dolly’s DNA came from an udder cell, was inserted into an egg from another ewe, and implanted in a surrogate mother.

The average person doesn’t know what somatic cell nuclear transfer is. Most of us don’t even know what a somatic cell is.

To help get Missouri law back to the way Missourians want it, a grass roots group called Cures without Cloning is promoting a measure to give voters in Missouri another chance to ban human cloning. It specifically bans the act of creating cloned human embryos for research.

Carnahan’s not giving up. She is doing it again, this time to stop the Cures without Cloning group. She issued her official ballot summary Oct. 11 that Cures without Cloning is amending the state constitution “to repeal the current ban on human cloning or attempted cloning, and to limit Missouri patients’ access to stem cell research, therapies and cures approved by voters in November 2006.”

Notice how she said, “repeal the ban?” There is no ban. Somatic cell nuclear transfer is a constitutional right in Missouri.

We in Minnesota will be voting on many issues this November. Whoever writes the language on the ballot has a lot of power over how an election turns out.

Before you vote, find out what you will get if you vote “yes.” Find out what you will get if you vote “no.” It might be the opposite of what you expect.

It’s also important that the person you vote in for secretary of state is someone you trust. The secretary of state has more power than what most think.

Our secretary of state is Mark Ritchie. His term expires in January 2011. Other than that he is a Democrat, I don’t know anything about him. There are so many people running for executive offices and judges, I rarely know who they are. From now on, I’m going to scrutinize the secretary of state candidates more closely.

A Missouri appeals court judge ruled last year that Carnahan’s Amendment 2 ballot language would “tend to mislead” voters. As Ruse pointed out, there’s no doubt about it.