Voters with limited English language proficiency are protected by the Voting Rights Act, but some argue that existing provisions may not be enough in the face of complex ballot language. We test the possibility that complex ballot language may serve to hinder less English proficient voters' ability to participate meaningfully in elections. Using data collected through a two-stage panel study, we evaluate the relationship between student participants' English language ability and their voting behavior in a mock election. We find that those who scored lower on English-language ability tests were less able to vote in a manner consistent with their previously stated issue positions when faced with even simple ballot wording in English, and that they were more willing to cast potentially erroneous ballots when confronted with complex ballot language than those with high English proficiency. Our findings can help inform debates about ballot language, voting rights, and representative democracy more generally.
Ulbig, Stacy G. and Reilly, Shauna
"Compounded Confusion? Ballot Language Complexity, English Proficiency, and Minority Language Voter Behavior,"
Journal of Political Science: Vol. 49
, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.coastal.edu/jops/vol49/iss1/2
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