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June 17, 2019 | 12:16pm
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Letter to the Editor: Less than 10% are able to comprehend state ballot language

According to The Literacy Network of Washington (LNW), 35% of adult citizens in Washington function on the two lowest possible literacy levels, meaning they are unable to perform even the most basic reading and writing tasks. They can sign their names, but little else.

The LNW reports that state funding levels make adult literacy education available to just 5.4 of illiterate adults in Washington have no access to educational services that would help improve their literacy and employability.

LNW also says 51% of Washington State employers complain they cannot fill all their available jobs because they are unable to find enough people to hire who can actually read and write.

In spite of all this, Washington State managed to compile a ballot for the 2018 midterm elections that, according to, has language so obtuse and complicated that it would require both a college degree AND two years of postgraduate study (in other words, a Masters Degree) in order to be able to fully understand it and vote according to your actual preferences. But reports that only 8.72% of the state’s citizens will not be able to fully comprehend the ballot for the all-important midterm elections.

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Initiative 1634, an important ballot measure that would prohibit the levying of a tax intended to reduce consumption of sugary beverages (similar to the Seattle sugary beverage tax), is so badly written that people who believe they are voting for the measure are in fact actually voting against it, and vice versa.

Perhaps some of those jobs employers were not able to fill with literate people were in the Secretary of State’s office, as they are responsible for creating ballots and overseeing elections?

P.B. Smith

Editor’s notes: The writer refers to a 2014 report published by Literacy Network of Washington (Literacy NOW), a division of Tacoma Community House. ranks ballot readability based on the using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula. data on the highest level of education among people aged 25 years and older is based on data from the US Census Bureau.

Letters to the Editor submitted to My Ferndale News are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher of this publication.

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