One in five American adults struggles to read and write at an elementary level, so when it comes to citizens’ ability to register to vote and read a ballot, how do those with low literacy skills fare in the process? ProPublica reporters Annie Waldman and Aliyya Swaby recently explored the confusion and complexity behind America’s election process, how it impacts voters and what states can do to make the process more accessible.

“The registration process is easy if you can read and write well, but if you don’t, that’s something that can be a roadblock, and that’s just the first step in the process. It can block you from voting at all.” Swaby told One Detroit producer Will Glover in an interview.

Glover sits down with Swaby and Waldman to look at the history of discrimination against voters with low literacy skills, with nationwide literacy tests in place until 1965, and the current challenges voters face when trying to participate in our democracy. They talk about the importance of good ballot designs and language, and how poorly created ballots can shape the outcome of an election.

Plus, they discuss the barriers states face in changing ballot design to make the process more accessible and equitable, and they share where America sits in comparison to other countries based on the complexity of our election process.

This story coincides with One Detroit’s 1-hour election special episode with the Detroit Free Press. Watch “Beyond the Ballot Box: A One Detroit Election Special with the Detroit Free Press” live at 7-8 p.m. ET on Detroit Public TV and One Detroit’s Facebook page.

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