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Buying a ballot vote

Prizes for backing a ballot initiative?

That's what some California folks are doing to boost Proposition 38, a measure that would mandate school vouchers throughout the nation's largest, and often-most-trend-setting state.

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To make sure it passes, a few supporters are offering prizes for "team leaders" who get the most people to register their backing for vouchers on the Prop. 38's Web site.

This unusual tactic, while in tune with the country's taste for game shows and big prizes, could be a sign that the campaign itself is having trouble becoming a winner - that not quite enough people are buying into the idealism of school vouchers, with their promise of instantly remaking the education system.

But beyond the merits of vouchers, the sweeping changes they portend should come, if at all, through public discussion and deliberation, not one big blast of the vox populi.

Voting on a ballot issue is a civic duty, not a contest for goodies. People should do it for what they believe, not for a Hawaii vacation, computer equipment, or $2,000 gift certificate.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society