Back to school: Washington ballots require least education to understand

Oct 23, 2019, 11:23 AM
ballots, Washington, ranked choice voting...
(Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)
(Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)

Wading your way through a ballot can be a difficult process, between poorly-explained initiatives, and wordy descriptions. Thankfully, Washington state’s ballots are some of the easiest to read and comprehend in the entire country.

What is preventing voter fraud in Washington state?

According to a recent study from Ballotpedia, the average ballot across eight states requires a voter to have had 15 years of education to fully understand measures. In Washington, though, the state boasts the easiest initiatives to read, needing just nine years of schooling.

As for why that is, that’s largely driven by the author of Washington’s ballot, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

“This has been a trend that we’ve noticed since 2017 – the reading level is often lower on average for an attorney-general-written ballot language than for something by the Legislature,” Ballotpedia’s Josh Altic said in a news release.

The biggest strength of Washington’s ballot questions can be found in their brevity, with 12 of them outlined in 40 words of less. Three others are over 40 words, but also come paired with brief summaries to aid in comprehension.

Ballotpedia looked at ballots in eight total states in its study: Washington, New Jersey, Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Maine, and Pennsylvania. Among those, Colorado’s ballot measures were the hardest to read, requiring voters to have had 27 years of schooling.

‘Tens of thousands’ of attempts daily to hack Washington’s elections

It goes on to cite data from the Census Bureau, stating that just 31 percent of people 25 and over have a bachelor’s degree or higher education level.

This all pairs well with Washington’s push to make its ballots easy to access, and well-protected from hackers. The state Legislature recently voted to include paid postage for ballots in all elections, while Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman spearheaded a new system to fend off attempts to hack the state’s results.

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Back to school: Washington ballots require least education to understand