What The U.S. Can Learn From The Brexit Ballot

Millions of voters have already headed to the polls to determine whether the United Kingdom will remain a part of the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote are expected to be announced tomorrow morning, but right now, we can't stop talking about the ballot.

As Vox points out, the Brexit ballot may look odd to Americans for one very good reason: It's actually easy to understand. Like, ridiculously easy...

Photo: Geoff Pugh/REX/Shutterstock.
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The voter is simply asked to put a cross, or an X, in the box next to their choice. There are only two choices, each of which are written out in simple language to keep from any confusion. Either you vote to remain a member of the European Union or leave. It's that simple.

But easy to understand ballots have never been the United States' strong suit. Vox points out two recent examples: a 2012 Maryland ballot asking locals if they wanted to allow existing casinos to offer table games as well as "video lottery" games, and a 2016 Austin ballot asking locals to decide whether Uber and Lyft should be allowed to operate within city limits.

Both ballots are extremely confusing, with lengthy paragraph descriptions that use jargon instead of plainly stating what voters should decide on. Austin's Uber and Lyft ballot doesn't even bother to mention taxis — you know, the main point of the vote.

A study by Georgia State University looked at the wording of more than a thousand state-level ballot questions between 1997 and 2007 and found that they were written at a "17th-grade level." Meaning you needed more than a standard four-year college degree to understand what you were voting on.

According to Vox, tricky wording on ballots has led to "tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of votes being thrown out without being counted." Confusing ballots also lead to a decline in participation — a "5 percent decrease" to be exact.

So how do we fix this?

Well, we take a page from the Brexit ballot's book and learn to simplify our ballots, which isn't too hard. It just takes writing like an average person instead of a highly educated robot.
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