Clear Language Institute Takes On Nation’s Lawmakers; Target is Legislation that Confuses Voters With Poorly Written or Complex Language

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New Public Interest Group Supports Lawsuit to Remove Florida’s Amendment 7; Releases Research Showing 83% of Florida Voters Are Uncertain of Proposed Law’s Impact

The Clear Language Institute's mission is to give voters language they can understand

Whether this disservice to the American electorate is intentional or accidental, we intend to hold lawmakers accountable...

As the initial campaign in its stated mission to ensure that voters nationwide understand all proposed legislation, The Clear Language Institute (CLI) today announced that it intends to support the Florida NAACP, Florida League of Women Voters and Democracia Ahora and former Florida State Comptroller Robert F. Milligan in their lawsuit – recently filed in Tallahassee 2nd Judicial Circuit Court (Case #2010-CA-1803) – seeking removal of Amendment 7 (HJR 7231) from the Florida ballot in November.

Independent market research, conducted on behalf of CLI, showed that the vast majority of Florida voters believe Amendment 7 is unclear or confusing, and do not fully understand its meaning or the impact the law might have on them.

The Clear Language Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, was recently established to promote the use of simple, clear language in all amendments, referenda or other propositions presented to American voters by state and national legislators. To accomplish this goal, CLI intends to apply consumer research, public education and legal means to either change or remove poorly written, vague or confusing propositions from the ballot.

CLI’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Board Includes Former U.S. Federal and Appeals Court Judge

According to Clear Language Institute president Pete Tannen, “For far too long, legislators have proposed laws that are confusing, overly complex or misunderstood by voters. Whether this disservice to the American electorate is intentional or accidental, we intend to hold lawmakers accountable by serving as a public watchdog to ensure honest and clear communication of proposed legislation. Our mission begins with Amendment 7 in Florida, and our efforts will eventually encompass all 50 states and the federal government.”

In addition to Mr. Tannen, the CLI’s non-partisan advisory board includes attorney Nancy Feehan, the State of Maine’s former Assistant Attorney General; educator Samuel Gibbon, Jr., the Founding Producer of Children’s Television Network in New York; retired Colonel Mike Pheneger of U.S. Army Intelligence; the Honorable H. Lee Sarokin, retired judge of the U.S. Federal District Court and U.S. Appeals Court; and Al Sturm, Ed.D., a noted research and marketing consultant.

Market Research on Florida’s Amendment 7 Demonstrates Extent of Voter Confusion

The CLI’s decision to join the lawsuit to remove Amendment 7 from the Florida ballot was based in large measure on research conducted on its behalf by New York City-based Whitman Insight Strategies (http://www.whitmanstrategies.com), a highly regarded market research firm with a blue chip roster of corporate, political and advocacy group clients. The firm’s research on Amendment 7, involving interviews in May with 400 Florida voters, showed that:

  •     83% are uncertain of how the amendment will affect them and their communities
  •     81% think the amendment’s language is not clear
  •     80% believe that the language of the amendment is confusing
  •     72% do not fully understand the meaning of the amendment
  •     60% chose incorrect answers when asked to describe what will become law if the amendment were to pass

Mr. Tannen said, “We believe voter confusion regarding Florida’s Amendment 7 highlights the need for plain language in the legislative process. Unfortunately, Amendment 7 is representative of a great number of past and current proposals that are confusing to voters.” Citing results of Florida’s 2008 general election – in which 8.14 million votes were cast for U.S. President, but only 7.1 million cast for any amendments – Mr. Tannen noted that “this one million vote differential provides tangible evidence of the communication gap between the people who propose laws and the people whose lives will be affected by those laws.”

Complete results of the market research regarding Amendment 7, including details on the survey’s methodology, are available upon request. Additional information regarding The Clear Language Institute can be found at http://www.clearlanguageinstitute.org.

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Gordon G. Andrew
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