Are you smarter than a 5th-grader?



Terry ManningWhen I started in journalism, I was told I needed to write at a 5th-grade level. Not too many big words, and wherever big words were unavoidable, be sure to explain what they meant as soon as possible.

I’m starting to think that advice is outdated. I mean, in our pockets and purses, we all have access to more information than humans have ever had at any point in human history. The meaning of any word, even in other languages, can be found instantly.

Our smartphones can literally bring the world to our breakfast tables.

Writing at a 5th-grade level? It might be time to aim lower.

What else is there to think watching the tumult in the wake of the recent presidential election? All over social media people were protesting against all votes being counted, that all votes might not be counted, that the whole vote-counting process was taking too long, that this was an unprecedented delay in finding out the results of the election. (Has a word ever shot up in usage as much as “unprecedented” the past four years? But I digress.)

President Donald Trump led the charge, alleging the delay was an indicator the election was being “stolen.” Foul play had to be the only answer, he claimed, and I think he was right.

Except he and his accomplices in the Republican Party are the bad actors. They caused the delay, and then pointed to the delay as “proof” their claims were justified.

Months ago, even as Trump was downplaying the threat of the coronavirus, Democrats were telling their supporters to take advantage of early voting and absentee ballots. In theory, early and absentee voters would be able to vote more safely than standing in long lines and sharing breathing room with people who might be carrying the virus. There also were rumblings that there would be mob violence on Election Day to mirror the disruptions seen nationwide through late spring and summer.

With the expected increase in early votes, you might expect someone in charge would have ordered preparations be made to handle it, right?


In May, the U.S. Postal Services’ Board of Governors nominated GOP fundraiser Louis DeJoy to the position of Postmaster General. Who appointed the board? Trump.

Then DeJoy launched a massive “improvement” effort that saw mail sorting machines across the country being taken offline and disassembled, leading to delays that still haven’t been completely resolved. That’s paid off with hundreds of thousands of mailed ballots – typically in Democrat-leaning urban area – failing to be received before deadlines.

Some states with Republican legislatures tried to set rules for mail-in ballots that would have led to higher rejection rates. In some cases, as in South Carolina, that meant trying to change the rules after ballots had already been mailed. Democrats pushed to counter these efforts, but federal judges allowed some to stand. (We’ll have to talk another day about how conservatives have “stacked” the judicial system in their favor.)

GOP-controlled legislatures in some states fought procedural changes that would have let local election boards process mail-in votes before Election Day. Among those states? Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the same ones we all sat and waited while they slowly produced results; the same ones Trump and his lawyers targeted to save his presidency.

On Election Day, states that counted mail-in votes early reported big leads for Joe Biden that shrank as same-day votes were added into the mix. Which makes sense: as we’ve established, Democrats voted early, Republicans voted later. In states that counted same-day votes first, Trump led early and Biden’s numbers grew as mail-in ballots were counted.

Would a 5th-grader understand all that? A lot of adults sure don’t seem to. Where’s Jeff Foxworthy when you need him?

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a graduate of Clemson University with a degree in English and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He also has a Master’s in Business and Technology from the University of Georgia. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.

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