The average reading level needed to digest statewide ballot measures

Welcome to the Monday, October 24, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Our 2022 report on ballot measure readability scores
  2. Here’s what SCOTUS is up to this term 
  3. 74% of legislative seats up for election in Massachusetts do not have major party competition

Our 2022 report on ballot measure readability scores

Since 2017, we’ve released an annual report on ballot measure readability—that is, the level of education voters would need to understand the ballot titles and summaries of statewide ballot measures. We use the Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL) formulas, which take into account factors like the number of syllables, words, and sentences in a text, to calculate a readability score for each ballot measure. 

This year, the language for the 140 statewide measures on the ballot in 38 states is written at an average reading level of 19 (graduate school reading level)—up from 18 in 2021. Additionally, we identified 66 measures with a summary that is set to appear alongside the ballot question on the ballot. The average grade level for those summaries was 18 years of education.

​​Here are some highlights from the annual report:

Title and summary grades

  • The measure with the highest score was Kentucky Amendment 1 with a title grade level of 64. Amendment 1, among other things, would remove specific legislative session end dates from the constitution and provide instead that odd-year sessions are limited to 30 legislative days and even-year sessions are limited to 60 legislative days. The average ballot title grade for all measures in a single state averaged together ranged from 7 in Iowa to 44 in Kentucky.
  • Thirty-six measures had ballot summaries with a grade level score greater than the ballot title, with differences ranging from 1 year to 16 years.
  • Citizen initiatives have an average title grade of 17 years of education, and referred measures have an average title grade of 20 years. The average ballot title grade was highest for ballot titles written by initiative proponents (21) and state boards (20). The three automatically referred constitutional convention questions, which take their ballot titles directly from the state constitution, had the lowest title grade at 9.

Word count

  • The average ballot title word count is 66 words. The ballot measure with the longest ballot title is Tennessee Constitutional Amendment 2, with 456 words. The ballot measure with the shortest title is the five word Florida Amendment 2, which would abolish the state’s Constitution Revision Commission.

Historical readability scores
Click here to read more about our study, including individual ballot measure scores and an explanation of our methodology.
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Here’s what SCOTUS is up to this term 

October brings cooler weather, falling leaves—and a new U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) term. Let’s check in on what SCOTUS is up to.  

The 2022-2023 term began on Oct. 3. and will last until next October. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June. This is Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first term as a member of the court. She succeeded Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who retired on June 30.

The court has returned to allowing the public to attend oral arguments in person. The public hasn’t been permitted to attend arguments in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The court has, however, continued to livestream all oral arguments online. 

The table below shows the cases SCOTUS heard during its October arguments sitting.

The court will begin its November argument sitting on Oct. 31. It is scheduled to hear 10 cases. Click here to see the full list. What follows are some highlights.

On Oct. 31, the court will hear arguments in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard. These cases concern the use of race as a factor in admissions. Plaintiffs in both cases argue the University of North Carolina and Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. On Nov. 7, the court will hear arguments in Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) v. Cochran, which concerns whether U.S. district courts can concurrently hear constitutional challenges to the SEC’s administrative law judges (ALJs) in cases where the agency has yet to issue a final adjudicative order. And on Nov. 9, the court will hear arguments in Haaland v. Brackeen (Consolidated with Cherokee Nation v. Brackeen, Texas v. Haaland, Brackeen v. Haaland). That case concerns the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), governing the removal of out-of-home placement of American Indian children, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

The court has scheduled nine cases for its December sitting. Click here to see the list.

To date, the court has scheduled 27 cases for argument this term. Nine cases have yet to be scheduled. The court has not issued opinions in any argued cases this term.

The court agreed to hear 68 cases in its its 2021-2022 term and 62 during its 2020-2021 term. The court issued decisions in 66 cases. Three cases were decided without argument. Between 2007 and 2021, SCOTUS issued opinions in 1,128 cases, averaging 75 cases per year. 

Click below to learn more about the Court’s 2022-2023 October term. 

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74% of legislative seats up for election in Massachusetts do not have major party competition

Today is the 40th day of our 50 States in 50 Days series, and we’re featuring Massachusetts, the Bay State!

Week One: Pennsylvania, Indiana, South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota
Week Two: California, Georgia, Texas, Montana
Week Three: North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, Illinois, Idaho
Week Four: Kentucky, Michigan, Arkansas, Minnesota, West Virginia
Week Five: Vermont, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, Ohio
Week Six: South Carolina, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, Tennessee
Week Seven: Colorado, New Jersey, Washington, Alabama, Utah
Week Eight: Mississippi, Maryland, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Maine

On the ballot in Massachusetts

At the federal level, Massachusetts voters will elect nine U.S. House Representatives. 

At the state level, the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer are up for election. 

All 40 seats in the state Senate and all 160 seats in the state Assembly are up for election.

None of the U.S. House districts up for election are open. Of the 200 state legislative districts up for election, 24 are open. 

Additionally, Ballotpedia is covering municipal elections in the city of Boston and Suffolk County.

Redistricting highlights

Massachusetts was apportioned nine seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census. 

Congressional and state legislative elections will take place under new district lines following the census. Our side-by-side map comparison tool allows you to immediately see what redistricting looks like in your state. Here are the congressional maps in effect before and after the 2020 redistricting cycle in Massachusetts:  

To use our tool to view Massachusetts’ state legislative maps in effect before and after the 2020 redistricting cycle, visit our Massachusetts redistricting page

Partisan balance

  • Both of Massachusetts’ U.S. Senators–Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren–are Democrats. 
  • Democrats represent all nine of the state’s U.S. House districts. 
  • Republicans hold a 36-3 majority in the state Senate and a 125-27 majority in the state Assembly. The governor–Charlie Baker–is a Republican.
  • As a result, Massachusetts is one of 13 states under divided trifecta control and one of nine states under divided triplex control.

Seats contested by only one major party

This year, 147 state legislative seats in Massachusetts, or 74% of all seats up for election, do not have major party competition. When a candidate from only one of either the Democratic or Republican parties runs for a state legislative seat, the seat is all but guaranteed to be won by that party.

Democrats are running in 90% of all state legislative races. Twenty-one state legislative seats (11% of all state legislative seats) do not feature a Democratic candidate and are likely to be won by a Republican.

Republicans are running in 37% of all state legislative races. 126 seats (63% of all state legislative seats) do not feature a Republican candidate and are likely to be won by a Democrat.

Key races

Ballot measures

Massachusetts voters will decide four statewide ballot measures on Nov. 8, 2022: 

  • Question 1, Tax on Income Above $1 Million for Education and Transportation Amendment: Creates a 4% tax on incomes that exceed $1 million for education and transportation purposes.
  • Question 2, Medical Loss Ratios for Dental Insurance Plans Initiative: Enacts a medical loss ratio of 83% for dental insurance plans beginning on January 1, 2024.
  • Question 3, Changes to Alcohol Retail Licensing Initiative: Changes the number of licenses per establishment granted incrementally from no more than 12 in 2023 to no more than 18 by 2031 and prohibits in-store automated and self-checkout sales of alcohol.
  • Question 4, Remove Proof of Citizenship or Immigration Status for Driver’s License Applications Referendum: Changes who is authorized to receive a driver’s license.

A total of 72 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2020. Of that number, 38 ballot measures were approved, and 34 were defeated.


  • On Election Day, polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. An individual in line at the time polls close must be allowed to vote. 
  • Massachusetts does not require voters to present photo identification at the polls in most cases. For more information about voter ID requirements in Massachusetts, click here
  • Early voting in Massachusetts is available to all voters. Early voting starts on Oct. 22 and ends on Nov. 4.
  • The voting registration deadline in Massachusetts is Oct. 29. Registration can be done online, in person, or by mail. Massachusetts does not allow same-day voter registration.
  • Any voter registered in Massachusetts can vote absentee by mail. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 1. Ballots can be returned in person or by mail. Ballots must be received by Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. 
  • To check the status of your ballot, click here.

Want to learn more about the elections you’ll be voting in this year? Click here to use our Sample Ballot Lookup tool! 

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