Does My Ballot Need an “R” Rating?

If you live in LA, you might not want to take your kids with you when you vote this fall.

Because your ballot could be rated R -- or perhaps worse -- if the board that rates motion pictures gave ratings to ballots.

Maybe it should.

Los Angeles County voters will likely be faced with a November ballot initiative that would require adult film actors to wear condoms.

I don't mean to minimize what is a significant issue for people who work in and around the pornography industry, a significant economic force in Southern California. It's a health issue, and unprotected sex sounds like a bad idea in such circumstances. All that said, I still wonder if this is something that I, as a voter, really need to consider. I also am not excited about the idea of a big public debate on that issue -- in newspapers and on TV news programs that young children might encounter.

This seems like the sort of thing that should be considered, and enforced if need be, by people who regulate workplaces and monitor public health. I have no particular expertise in the issues raised by this, nor do I want to develop such expertise. I'm not sure what voters would offer in their judgment on such an issue.

Occasionally, critics of direct democracy have suggested that some topics be barred from the ballot. Civil rights issues, for example, might be kept off the ballot because it's problematic, at best, for the voters to be allowed to cast ballots to deny someone their rights.

Another example: perhaps certain tax and spending matters should be kept off ballots, because voters have a strong tendency to support services without approving the tax money to pay for them.

This measure suggests we have a third category: topics that are simply too sensitive -- and adult-rated -- for the ballot.

But that won't stop this measure from making the ballot. So, in the meantime, keep your kids away from dirty movies, and the local election news.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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