The regulations on ballot designations found on the Secretary of State’s website starts with declaring the purpose of the law “is to ensure the accurate designation of the candidate upon the ballot in order that an informed electorate may intelligently elect one of the candidates.” I highlighted the phrase informed electorate because I believe the current regulations often work against more fully informing the electorate about candidates running for office.

The most glaring case in the current crop of candidates is Public Policy Advisor, Antonio Villaraigosa. Public Policy Advisor is a meaningless phrase but the gubernatorial candidate was not allowed to use any of the former positions he held such as Former Assembly Speaker or Former Los Angeles Mayor and he and the voters suffer because of the rule. Either of those titles would give voters more information about candidate Villaraigosa than the ID he chose.

Other candidates running for governor would clearly offer more information to voters if they listed their old jobs. For example, Delaine Eastin ((Educator/Youth Advocate) was the former state Superintendent of Public Instruction. Amanda Renteria (COO, Justice Department) What’s that? was a chief of staff to a U.S. Senator.

Offering this kind of information would help voters and would level the playing field with candidates who currently hold elected positions with easily identifiable positions such as Lieutenant Governor, State Treasurer or California Assemblyman.

Not just former elected officials would benefit if candidates were allowed to use titles they once held to describe their careers. Imagine a retired police chief who spent twenty years on the job then became a lawyer for a year before running for the Assembly. He or she would have to use lawyer as an identification instead of allowing voters to know about his or her lifetime career as a police chief.

The issue of using a “retired” title is perplexing in itself. The regulations declare that you cannot use an abbreviation for the word retired or use the word retired after a title, so “City Attorney, Retired,” is forbidden.

However, if you retired and have not taken on another principal profession, then it is okay to use retired, which is why, I guess, we have Attorney General candidate Steven Baily identified as “Retired California Judge.”

There are other issues with ballot designations that need clarity.

For instance, the regulations specifically state that you are not permitted to use as a vocation “mother” or “father.” But I see Republican Lt. Governor candidate Cole Harris is identified as Father/Entrepreneur/Businessman. Do the additions of the business-type designations allow for the term “father” to be included?

Post the 2018 elections, consideration should be given in how best to help inform the public about candidates through the short ballot designations. The current system leaves a lot to be desired on that score. For some voters, ballot designations may be all a voter learns about a candidate.