How Politicians Deliberately Confuse Voters
I vote in every election when I can. As a registered Independent, I cannot vote in party primaries, but I can vote "Yes" or "No" on Charter amendment questions.
Not this time.
Three questions were on the ballot. I found them so incomprehensible—and I got so pissed off—I banged out an op-ed piece for the Inquirer.
It relates directly to my new book, Write Everything Right! and a quote by the great New York editor, Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936): "Good writing is easier to read than to skip."
I scoured the Inquirer website looking for the address of the op-ed or "letters to the editor" person.
I emailed the piece to a writer I know on the paper and asked him to 1) forward this to the right person or 2) give me the email address so I can send it off.
Never heard back.
Here's the piece that never ran and damn well should have.
Philadelphia Politicians Practicing Discrimination Against All Voters
About the March 20, 2014 Ballot
It is impossible to make an informed decision regarding the three questions on the March 20, 2014 ballot.
To do so, a voter needs a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) in English and a J.D. (Juris Doctor—law degree). No kidding.
Quick Backgrounder on U.S. Literacy
• 44 million adults are now unable to read a simple story to their children
• 50 percent of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level
• 45 million are functionally illiterate and read below a 5th grade level —National Institute for Literacy, National Center for Adult Literacy, The Literacy Company, U.S. Census Bureau
• "Nearly half of all Americans read so poorly that they cannot find a single piece of information when reading a short publication." —UNESCO, Institute for Statistics
Quick Backgrounder on Sentence length
Tests have shown that a sentence of eight words is very easy to read; of 11 words, easy; of 14 words, fairly easy; of 17 words, standard; of 21 words, fairly difficult; of 25 words, difficult; of 29 or more words, very difficult; so this sentence with 54 words, counting numbers, is ranked impossible. —Fairfax, Virginia Times
The Charter amendment questions:
No. 1. Single sentence, length 75 words—ergo, impossible to read
"Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to confirm Council's power to enact provisions Council considers necessary or appropriate to implement a Minimum Wage and Benefits Ordinance, including, but not limited to, provisions mandating that minimum wage and benefits requirements be passed along to subcontractors on City contracts and subrecipients of City financial assistance, and provisions authorizing the granting and revocation of waivers, with debarment as a potential penalty for violation of such provisions?"
No. 2. Single sentence, length 66 words—ergo, impossible to read
"Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended so that effective January 1, 2016, an elected official of the City may become a candidate for nomination or election to a different public office without first resigning from his or her current office, the same as state and federal elected officials, but may not run for re-election to his or her current office in the same election?"
No. 3. Single sentence, length 75 words—ergo, impossible to read
"Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that Council approval is required for certain contracts for one year or less for the purpose of providing legal representation and related services for indigent persons, including but not limited to parents and children who are subjects of dependency proceedings; criminal defendants; persons in juvenile justice proceedings; persons involved in behavioral health proceedings; and indigent persons involved in other proceedings where legal representation is required?"
The Ultimate Question
What are Philadelphia politicians and lawyers trying to hide?
As a registered Independent, I cannot vote in the primaries.
As a registered voter—I will not vote on legalese gibberish.
Denny Hatch's new book is "Write Everything Right!" Charles Gaudet writes, "Once again, Denny Hatch provides us with sage and proven advice from the trenches. The book is chock-full of examples, takeaways, and strategies for making every word more compelling and persuasive. This is easily one of those 'top-shelf' books you'll reference time and time again." Click here to download (opens as a PDF) and read the first three chapters FREE. The title is also available on Kindle. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.