Marsy’s Law: No need to gloss over the full facts

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Our support for Marsy’s Law — which would enshrine in Kentucky’s Constitution the rights of crime victims to have a voice and representation in the courts — is unwavering.

That said, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate got it right last year when he ruled that a 38-word question on the November ballot was insufficient for voters to make an informed decision on the constitutional amendment.

The Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments on an appeal of Wingate’s ruling. The justices’ decision will determine whether Marsy’s Law goes back before voters, who approved it overwhelmingly on Nov. 6 – and will do so again, we predict, if the Supreme Court requires a “do-over.”

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When dealing with something as important as a two-page amendment to the commonwealth’s founding document, complete transparency should be required. Some states require publication of the full text of constitutional amendments in newspapers or on independent websites and to be made available at polling places for inspection by voters. In Kentucky, voters who didn’t independently seek out the text of the amendment before going to vote had only the following to go by:

“Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and to have a voice in the judicial process.”

Wingate determined, correctly in our view, that the wording was a grossly insufficient summary of a multifaceted change in state law. To his credit, he allowed the election to proceed but required the State Board of Elections to hold on certifying the result — 63 percent approval — until an appeal of his decision could be heard.

If the Supreme Court agrees, we hope lawmakers send it right back to voters in November — but this time with all of the facts on full display. On legislation as important and needed as Marsy’s Law, there’s no reason to cut corners on transparency.

The State Journal, Frankfort