Benjamin Barr

Of Commas, Periods, and Decimal Points

Posted on November 15, 2006 | Author: Benjamin Barr
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First Things First, this falls popular tobacco tax, may be up for a challenge. It centers on whether the initiatives proposed tax on cigarettes is 80 cents a pack, as advertised, or .80 cents a pack as written in the already-voted-on-ballot.

As reported by the Arizona Republic, First Things First supporters claim this is a typo and think it is very clear and voters understand and read that it is an 80 cents tax on tobacco.

Of course, assuming what people think ignores what the ballot actually states. The ballot language for Proposition 203 read .80 cents, not 80 cents. How does the state know whether a voter intended to vote for 80 or .80 cents? My suggestion: read the ballot. ­

There are no shortages of technicalities in the law. In a recent case in Canada, the validity of a million dollar contract hinged on the correct placement of a comma and the rule of the last antecedent. That brings us to those nasty decimal points.

In Arizona, its very clear what supporters of First Things First meant. Its equally clear what the ballot stated. As a friend of mine often says, it is what it is. The language is plain as day and the court should rule accordingly.

Benjamin Barr is a constitutional policy analyst with the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Studies.

Key Links:

-Arizona Republic: Tiny typo, big effect on ballot
-East Valley Tribune: Prop 203 may not be able to raise enough revenue
-Tucson Citizen: Oops! ­ Ballot typo slashes tobacco tax
-Goldwater Institute: First Things First tries to replace parental influence

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