- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) A lengthy homework assignment will soon land with a thud at the door of each of the city's 440,000 registered voters an explanatory guide to November's ballot measures that will run more than 300 pages and could cost as much as $2.8 million.
Some of the 19 ballot questions including $2 billion in new bond measures and policies on the homeless, parental leave and whether the city should grow its own marijuana are so complex or sensitive that politicians have ducked them for years.
Residents and interest groups lined up outside the elections department yesterday to meet a noon deadline, paying a $200 fee and $2 per word to have their opinions included.
The resulting "pamphlet" will be too thick to fit in most mail slots and so heavy that letter carriers will need to make multiple trips.
"It's ridiculous," said Teresa Mathews, a 39-year-old stay-at-home mom watching her boy play in a Pacific Heights playground. "It's going to end up in the garbage and on the streets."
But Linda Johnson, who has missed just one election in 11 years, sees the guides as "an example of how robust the democratic process is in San Francisco."
Voter-information guides commonly average between 100 and 150 pages around the country, said Dane Waters, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Initiative and Referendum Institute.
"Three-hundred pages does seem to be a little on the high side," he said.
San Franciscans also will get a 112-page California-voter guide in the mail with statements for and against eight other measures and candidates for governor and other offices. About 40,000 voters also requested the city guide in Chinese or Spanish.
"It's one of the few places they can go to get reliable information about what both sides say about an issue," said David Binder, a pollster in San Francisco for nearly 20 years.
Mailing expenses could soar from about $600,000 to $1.9 million if the guide weighs more than 20 ounces and needs to be mailed at the $3.95-each catalog rate.

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