California voters may feel a little overwhelmed when they open their sample ballots for the Nov. 2 election and find that they have as many as 30 to 60 decisions to make. Voters will be choosing elected representatives ranging from local officials to state executive officers to state and federal legislators. They will also face decisions on judges, nine state propositions, and perhaps some local measures.
To head off voter panic or frustration, it’s good to remind people that they don’t have to vote on everything. Ballots are still counted when some voting choices are left blank. Also, many voters don’t realize they don’t have to rely on TV commercials and political mailers to make voting decisions. There are spin-free sources of information. The League of Women Voters of California Education Fund is committed to helping voters connect with the information they need to sort through the choices and make decisions they can feel good about.
The Official Voter Information Guide produced by the Secretary of State’s office is a great source of nonpartisan information, mostly about state propositions. The Sample Ballot can also contain good information on local measures or candidates. Although those official publications are conveniently mailed to voters, they don’t satisfy all voter needs for election information. To fill some of the information gaps and foster a lifetime of informed voting, the LWVCEF provides additional nonpartisan election information via its Easy Voter Guide and Smart Voter projects.
The Easy Voter Guide provides a good starting point on the state propositions and statewide offices. This guide is designed for new voters and busy voters looking for accessible language and concise information. A copy is included in this issue of the Capitol Weekly. Free printed Easy Voter Guides are also available at many public libraries, and PDFs in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean may be downloaded from www.easyvoter.org. Scores of community organizations throughout the state use the Easy Voter Guide to encourage voting among constituencies that are under-represented among the electorate. The Easy Voter Guide Project also provides many other educational resources like videos on WHY VOTE? and HOW TO VOTE in English and Spanish.
Online orders for 50 or more Easy Voter Guides are shipped free of charge anywhere in the state. It is not too late to order guides for events during the last week before the election. All or part of the Easy Voter Guide may also be reprinted in e-newsletters. See the reprint agreement at www.easyvoter.org for details. Alternatively, anyone may link to www.easyvoter.org via a traditional link or by using the Facebook share feature.
SmartVoter.org provides a one-stop shop for election information. It lists all candidates for federal and state offices, plus candidates for local offices for more than 90 perecent of California voters. You can browse races throughout the state, or put in your address to produce a listing of the offices and measures on your ballot. You can also share Smart Voter with friends or family, and find links to Smart Voter updates on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
Throughout SmartVoter.org, links are given to information from official sources, the LWVCEF, and other nonpartisan sources. You can read candidate statements and proposition analysis that appear in the official publications, read about candidates’ background and views, or explore a wealth of nonpartisan analysis on propositions. You can even follow links to the Free Airtime interviews of statewide candidates or watch videotaped candidate forums. And, if you notice a link to a valuable nonpartisan resource is missing, you can follow the online instructions to suggest that link be added.
Both SmartVoter.org and the Easy Voter Guide invite candidates to participate free of charge. Although candidates had to submit Easy Voter Guide profiles months ago in order to meet print deadlines, they are allowed to revise their information on SmartVoter.org up until Nov. 2. Given the tendency for last-minute online research by voters, there’s still time for candidates to garner additional votes by enhancing their profiles on SmartVoter.org. More than one million Smart Voter visitors are expected this election, with 50 percent of that traffic likely to occur in the last five days leading up to Election Day.
Funding for both the Easy Voter Guide Project and Smart Voter comes from foundations and individual contributions, as well as the League of Women Voters. Major additional support is provided by the California State Library for the Easy Voter Guide Project and by the California Secretary of State’s office and county election offices for Smart Voter. Both projects are managed by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.
In summary, there are many nonpartisan election information resources that can help voters make their voting decisions. The trick is to connect individual voters with the resources that best fit their needs:
A new voter or busy voter, looking for easy-to-read, concise information they can trust will likely appreciate the Easy Voter Guide. Voting advocates who work with new voters will also find lots of useful tools at www.easyvoter.org.
Avid voters who enjoy choosing from a wide range of information every election will appreciate www.smartvoter.org.