Welcome to the Monday, December 12, Brew.
By: Samuel Wonacott
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- The 15 Days of Ballotpedia!
- The lowest and the highest readability scores for 2017-2022 ballot measures
- Texas holding Dec. 13 local runoff elections
The 15 Days of Ballotpedia!
In honor of our 15th Anniversary, we’re excited to welcome you to the 15 Days of Ballotpedia!
Over the next two weeks, we will celebrate a different part of Ballotpedia each day to showcase the ways we impact our democracy by educating citizens about politics and policy in a neutral, trustworthy way. But our work is not free to produce—and we need your help to raise $100,000 in December so we can give all Americans more of the information they need in 2023.
We hope this display of our work will inspire you to support us before the year’s end so that we can continue to produce this information for all who seek it.
Click below to make your tax deductible contribution and be sure to check out our Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages to see the daily features!
Click here to make your contribution!
The lowest and the highest readability scores for 2017-2022 ballot measures
We’ve been conducting a readability study on ballot measures for several years now. This simple approach uses two formulas—Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL)—that allows us to answer a simple question about each ballot measure: how difficult is the wording to comprehend?
Measurements used in calculating the scores include the number of syllables, words, and sentences in a text. Other factors, such as the complexity of an idea in a text, are not reflected in readability scores.
We were excited that our team recently went back and added data going back to 2017. Now, we have some summary information on all 623 statewide measures during that time period.
There’s a lot of data to dig into! Here are five things our team sent me for this newsletter.
Lowest score: Between 2017 and 2022, the ballot measure with the lowest Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score was 2018’s Florida Amendment 13 with a score of 1, indicating that one year of formal education was needed to understand the ballot title. The ballot title: “Ends dog racing.” It was written by a state board. The measure, which prohibited wagering on live dog races, was approved with 69% of the vote.
Five lowest scores: The following table includes the five measures with the lowest title grade levels between 2017 and 2022. Three were approved, and two were defeated.
Highest score: The ballot measure with the highest title grade level was 2020’s Colorado Proposition EE with a score of 76, indicating that 76 years of formal education was needed to understand the ballot title. A score this high implies a text is very difficult to understand. The title, which the state legislature wrote, was 186 words long.
Here’s half (!) the title:
“Shall state taxes be increased by $294,000,000 annually by imposing a tax on nicotine liquids used in e-cigarettes and other vaping products that is equal to the total state tax on tobacco products when fully phased in, incrementally increasing the tobacco products tax by up to 22% of the manufacturer’s list price, incrementally increasing the cigarette tax by up to 9 cents per cigarette, expanding the existing cigarette and tobacco taxes to apply to sales to consumers from outside of the state, establishing a minimum tax for moist snuff tobacco…”
Proposition EE was approved with 68% of the vote. It created a tax on nicotine products such as e-cigarettes; increased cigarette and tobacco taxes; set minimum cigarette prices; and dedicated revenues to various health and education programs.
Five highest scores: The following table includes the five measures with the highest ballot title grade levels between 2017 and 2022. Two were approved, and three were defeated.
Average title grades: The chart below shows the average ballot title grade from 2017 to 2022.
Learn more about Ballot measure readability below.
Texas holding Dec. 13 local runoff elections
Tomorrow, two cities in Texas will hold some of the country’s last elections of 2022.
In Corpus Christi, three city council seats are on the ballot. Three city council seats are also on the ballot in Austin, along with the mayor (we covered the mayoral election in greater detail in this newsletter last week). These runoff elections are taking place because no candidate received a majority of votes in the general elections that were held on Nov. 8.
- Austin Mayor Stephen Adler did not run for re-election. Voters decided between six candidates in the general election, with Celia Israel and Kirk Watson winning the most.
- The District 3, 5, and 9 seats on the Austin City Council are also holding runoffs. The general elections for those three seats each had at least six candidates competing. Daniela Silva and Jose Velasquez are competing in the District 3 runoff (Silva completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey—click here to read her responses). The District 5 runoff includes Ryan Alter and Stephanie Bazan, and Linda Guerrero and Zohaib Qadri advanced to the District 9 runoff.
Austin is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 11th-largest city in the country.
- The District 1, 2, and 3 seats on the city council are holding runoffs. Three candidates competed for each seat in the general election. Billy Lerma and Everett Roy are running in the District 1 runoff. Sylvia Campos and Mark Scott are competing in the District 2 runoff (Campus completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey—click here to read her responses). Roland Barrera and Eric J. Cantu advanced to the District 3 runoff.
Corpus Christi is the eighth-largest city in Texas and the 58th-largest city in the country.
The cities of El Paso and Laredo will hold city council runoff elections on Dec. 17. Click below to read more about municipal elections.