Red Tape, Did You Know?

Ordinary citizens are thoroughly flummoxed by the government red tape imposed on even the most basic grassroots political activity surrounding a ballot issue. On average, the 255 participants in Jeffrey Milyo’s experiment could not complete even half the required tasks correctly.

Several tasks common to grassroots campaigns proved especially challenging. For example, no more than 14 percent of participants managed to correctly report an in-kind donation of t-shirts.

Worse still, most people had no idea they needed to register with the state and file various forms to speak about a ballot issue. Like IJ’s clients in Parker North, they would break the law without even knowing it.

Mistakes like these expose ordinary citizens to fines and other legal penalties, as well as the threat of politically motivated litigation. The overwhelming majority of participants said the red tape and specter of penalties would deter political activity.

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