Hochul signs legislation that ballot measures must be written in plain language

Posted 19 November 2023 at 2:04 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

 Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday signed legislation to make it easier for New Yorkers to understand proposed constitutional amendments and other questions put to voters on ballots in New York State.

Under this legislation, proposed amendments and other ballot measures must be explained in plain and clear language that allows voters to understand the practical impact of adopting or rejecting the measure they are being asked to vote on.

“Generations of Americans have fought for the right to vote, and New York is doing our part to ensure access to the ballot box is fair and equitable,” Hochul said. “I proudly signed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York into law last year, and am pleased to enact this new legislation which will ensure New Yorkers are informed and protected when they cast their vote on proposed constitutional amendments.”

Legislation S.1381A /A.1722B requires questions, including proposed constitutional amendments that are submitted to a public statewide vote to be written in plain language. The bill sets a standard for all ballot language to be written at or below an eighth grade reading level, and to be written in a Yes or No format, so all citizens have a fair opportunity to confidently cast their ballots.

When dense and complicated language is used to explain proposed amendments or other questions on the ballot, it can make voters feel confused about the decision they are being asked to make.

As a result, some voters may decide not to vote on these questions at all, or may wonder if they actually voted in accordance with their preferences. By requiring the use of plain language on such ballot measures, the legislation signed by Hochul will help empower New Yorkers at the ballot box to confidently cast their votes and make their voices heard on important questions impacting their communities and the entire state.