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Press Release: New Ballotpedia study ranks accessibility of official voter guides

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Five of the 41 states analyzed receive rating of "Excellent"

Madison - September 11, 2012: Ballotpedia has just released an extensive three-year study of official voter guides for state ballot measures. The comparative study, using data collected from 2009-2011, evaluates official voter guides from the 41 states that featured ballot measures on the ballot.

Each guide was given a numerical rank depending on whether it has the official ballot language, a neutral explanation or analysis, a fiscal impact statement, arguments for and against the measure, a statement of legal changes and is available in multiple languages. Ballotpedia staff then contacted all 41 secretaries of state to gather information about voter guide accessibility, the method of distribution, the cost of mailing the voter guides and whether or not ballot measures and candidates were included in the same publication. This empirical dataset is included for 40 of the 41 secretaries of state; officials from South Carolina did not respond to requests for information.

The data were aggregated and each state was rated on a six-point scale, based on the overall accessibility of its official voter guide. Nine states (21.95%) received a rating of either “Excellent” or “Very Good,” compared with 24 states (58.5%) that received a rating of either “Fair” or “Poor.”

The study found large differences among the states in both the format and content of the official voter guides. 32 states make information about ballot measures available online, while only 20 states mail voter guides to registered voters. Of the 21 states that do not mail voter guides, all but one offer election information via state websites, local newspapers, post offices and/or libraries.

"Of the states that featured measures on the ballot, only 21.95% had complete ballot measure information," explains Bailey Ludlam, the lead researcher of the voter guide study. "But language is also a key part of availability of information. One of the more interesting facts that our online research revealed is the provision of voter guides in languages other than English. Spanish is the second most widely-spoken language after English, according to the U.S. census."

Using that same census data from 2010, the states with the highest population of Spanish-speakers (as a percent of total population) are New Mexico, California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Colorado. Of these states, only Texas and Nevada do not provide ballot measure information to voters in Spanish. In all, 13 states offer online voter information in languages other than English, including Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese, English Audio, Ilocano and Braille.

The five states receiving an excellent rating are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon. The data will be updated every year when new voter guides are released and the rankings will be adjusted accordingly.

The complete analysis is available online.

About the Lucy Burns Institute
Ballotpedia is a project of the Lucy Burns Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. The mission of the Lucy Burns Institute is to empower people to engage in democracy by delivering exceptionally high quality information that is easy to access. Toward that end, LBI publishes Ballotpedia, Judgepedia, and Policypedia, online resources that equip voter with the facts about local, state, and federal politics and policy. Since the organization’s founding in December 2006, LBI’s online articles have received nearly 400 million page views.


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